Schwartz Hits Mayoral Trail With Zest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 17, 1998; Page B1
Carol Schwartz had just pulled up in front of One Judiciary Square in her red Chrysler convertible yesterday when Mayor Marion Barry strolled over to say hello.
"Don't even try to talk to me, Marion. You picked a stranger over a friend," Schwartz said, needling Barry about his endorsement of Democratic nominee Anthony A. Williams.
Barry protested that Schwartz couldn't possibly expect him to support her, a Republican.
"Oh, you mean it's better to pick an outsider who tried to take away your powers?" she quipped.
The exchange between the two, who have twice faced each other in mayoral contests, reveals much about Schwartz's campaign strategy as she prepares for an uphill battle against Williams in the Nov. 3 general election: Having competed against the best-known political figure in the city, Schwartz says she is hardly afraid to take on Williams. Besides, Schwartz, 54, an at-large member of the D.C. Council who has lived in the District for more than 30 years, considers herself something of a homegirl.
"I have a lot of friends in this town. A lot of people recognize my courage and commitment," Schwartz said.
Schwartz, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, said that unlike Williams, she opposes a gross receipts tax. "I'm against new taxes; I'm for lowering the ones we have. We've already, because of high taxes, driven out many residents and businesses. Why would we continue on that failing course."
She also credits her whistle-blower legislation, which passed the council last year, for encouraging employees to come forward with information in the council's investigation of alleged waste and corruption in the city's police department.
Yet a recent Washington Post poll showed Schwartz enjoys high name recognition and a 55 percent favorable rating among Democratic voters, which was equal to Williams's. She is an enthusiastic campaigner. At this year's annual Democratic dinner, she worked the room harder than any of the Democratic candidates for mayor.
Four years ago, Schwartz snared 42 percent of the vote against Barry, whose return to politics after his imprisonment excited some city voters and horrified others. The 1994 results showed Schwartz, who is white, getting most of her support from white residents and upper-income African Americans.
Schwartz received more than 90 percent of the ballots cast in Ward 3, which takes in most of the city's upper Northwest. In Ward 2, the only other ward Schwartz won in 1994, she got 65 percent of the vote. Barry took the city's other six wards, although he beat Schwartz by only about 100 votes in racially diverse Ward 1.
Among black voters, Schwartz did best in middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods. She got 28 percent of the vote in Ward 4 and 21 percent in Ward 5. In Wards 7 and 8, where Barry focused his comeback effort, Schwartz mustered about 11 percent of the vote.
Tom Ochs, a Democratic consultant who is working for Schwartz, said that the racial polarization that divided the city in 1994 should be less evident this year.
"This election, I think, is completely up for grabs," Ochs said yesterday. "It's well documented how strong Williams appears to be in Ward 3 and other areas of the city and how he's got some problems east of the [Anacostia] river."
Lawrence Guyot, a well-known black activist, already has pledged his support for Schwartz Guyot said he will argue that Williams would be detrimental to the home rule cause.
"This man is a federal candidate," Guyot said of Williams. "If we elect him, we would be using the ballot, for the first time in my [recollection] of American history, as a method to validate occupation. That's what we will have done.
"Thank God we have an opportunity to stop this, and I'm simply going to do everything I can to see that Carol Schwartz is elected."
Guyot, a longtime ally of Barry's who shares his storied history in the civil rights movement, doubts the mayor will be able to persuade his followers to back Williams.
"Marion Barry's break with his whole life history in supporting Tony Williams is a choice he has made for his own reasons, and I see no reason for those of us who have followed him throughout his career to follow him on this tilting at the windmills," Guyot said.
Julie Finley, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee, said the party intends to fight Williams, 47, for the seat.
"The party is going to do every single thing it could think of doing that's legal in order to see that we have Carol Schwartz as mayor," Finley said. Like Schwartz, she unabashedly argues that Schwartz has earned the job and Williams has not.
"Mr. Williams appears to be very nice and able, but . . . this city does not know this man," Finley said.
Finley also said the party would not allow Williams to take all of the credit for efforts to reform the city. "There are all kinds of forces the control board, the Republican Congress, the mayor himself, different department heads involved."
Schwartz served one term on the council from 1985 to 1989, giving up her seat after her husband committed suicide during the last year of her term.
In 1986, she challenged Barry for mayor, getting 36 percent of the vote. Two years ago, when Schwartz returned to the D.C. Council, she garnered the second at-large seat with 39 percent of the vote, behind Democrat Harold Brazil, who got 57 percent of the vote.
Schwartz and her supporters argue that her strong showing in 1994 should not be attributed solely to the presence of a politically weakened Barry on the ballot. Schwartz prefers instead to look at her contests with the mayor as evidence of her toughness.
"I don't think any of the people [who ran] in the Democratic primary, as much as I like them personally, have Marion Barry's charisma and political skills. I mean, he was the master of that game, and I was the person who had the courage to take on the master, not once, but twice, twice!
Bring on Williams.
"Oh, I am ready," Schwartz said yesterday. "I am so ready, I'm itching."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company