What? Me Worry? Barry Shrugs Off Polls
By Vanessa Williams and Hamil R. Harris
Mayor Marion Barry (D) has yet to break a sweat over a recent Washington Post poll in which a majority of city residents who were questioned said they disapproved of the job he was doing and nearly 80 percent said he should not run for reelection next year.
Barry said he was not surprised at the numbers because he expects residents to be upset over cuts and disruptions in city services that have occurred since he took office. Besides, he said, all of the government entities that have been engaged in trying to reform the city's finances and management got low marks.
Indeed, he noted that 51 percent of those polled disapproved of the job the D.C. Council was doing. As for the D.C. financial control board, residents were divided -- 46 percent said they approved of the efforts of the federally appointed panel, and 40 percent disapproved. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
"It shows very clearly that people are unsatisfied with all segments of the government," Barry said. "I'm not surprised."
Barry would not share his thoughts on the poll findings that discussed his political future. Seventy-eight percent said Barry should not seek a fifth term next year. But the mayor did manage a smile when told that in interviews, few city residents could name a potential alternative.
"So, if city residents say they can't find another alternative to you, what is the city to do?" a reporter asked.
"Draft me," the mayor teased.
And just to make certain that his jest was not misunderstood, Barry called a reporter later and said, "You know I was just joking, right?"
Sure, Mr. Mayor.
Schwartz Feels Confident
Bolstered by a recent poll, D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) is convinced that she, not Barry, is the person to beat in the 1998 mayoral race. And Schwartz is not wasting time picking a fight with the mayor.
In a recent WUSA-TV (Channel 9) poll of 800 registered Washington voters, 52 percent said they would vote for Schwartz, compared with 37 percent who said they would vote for Barry.
"In 1994, our community was willing to share in the mayor's redemption and give him another chance in office," Schwartz said. "This poll shows that [Barry] did not live up to their expectations."
Bullet*Poll conducted the WUSA poll May 13, two days after The Post poll on Barry's popularity was published. While it didn't prompt Schwartz to put an inaugural gown on lay-away, she is probably feeling much better than Barry and some of the Democratic lawmakers who did poorly in the poll.
If the September 1998 Democratic primary were held now, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton would get 34 percent of the vote, Barry 22 percent, Jesse L. Jackson 11 percent, D.C. Council member Harold Brazil (At Large) 10 percent, D.C. school Chief Executive Julius W. Becton Jr. 5 percent, D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (Ward 7) 5 percent and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (Ward 2) 4 percent.
The fact that 7 percent of the people polled want "someone else" doesn't bode well for Chavous and Evans, who worked hard to get higher profiles on the council, which so far has not translated into a larger base of support.
The mayor's race would be less important if D.C. financial control board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer successfully pursues the idea of a city manager form of government for the District. Barry trashed the proposal in an interview, calling Brimmer "anti-District, anti-Democratic, anti-American."
There is a lot of talk in this town about racial polarization when it comes to politics. Some folks in Ward 3 still are mad at Barry for telling them to "get over it" after he returned to the mayor's office.
But Schwartz says the polls show that she is now attracting black and white voters. According to the poll, while Barry got 52 percent of the black vote and 11 percent of the white vote, Schwartz pulled 85 percent of the white vote and 35 percent of the black vote in a match between the two.
Barry always has been strong with the senior citizens, but according to the poll, the mayor is losing support even with that group. Schwartz got 59 percent among people 55 and older, compared with Barry's 29 percent, in a two-way race.
When people were asked to choose between Schwartz and Barry, Schwartz got 56 percent of the vote of people ages 35 to 54, compared with Barry's 35 percent, and with people 18 to 34, she got 46 percent, compared with Barry's 44 percent. When it came to women and men, Schwartz got 48 percent of the female vote, compared with Barry's 44 percent, and she got 57 percent of the male vote, compared with Barry's 35 percent.
Schwartz said she was "thrilled" that so many residents indicated that they would vote for her. Schwartz said that while she plans to run for mayor, "it is too early to declare."
Give That Man a Badge
In an attempt to get a grip on the city's crime problem, D.C. officials in recent months have commissioned consultants' studies and shuffled personnel. But they apparently overlooked a formidable crime-fighting tool right under their noses: the mayor himself.
Responding to pleas from residents of the crime-plagued Bloomingdale neighborhood of Northwest Washington, Barry paid a visit to the area last Friday night and walked shoulder-to-shoulder with residents who say they have become virtual hostages to drug-related violence and crime.
A news release from the mayor's office even said: "It is anticipated that Mayor Barry will observe several instances of crime in progress."
But when the mayor showed up, Bloomingdale was crime-free -- unless you count a star-struck motorist running a yellow light in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Barry mingling with a group of about two dozen local activists, a dozen reporters and a handful of patrol officers.
The drug-peddling thugs who residents say normally populate the streets near Rhode Island Avenue and North Capitol Street were nowhere to be found. Barry said residents expected him to get a glimpse of the problems they experience every day, but the mayor said he knows from other such walks that the bad guys seldom hang around for photo ops.
"When they see us coming, they disappear," Barry said. "They're real slick."
Staff writer Brian Mooar contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company