The way David L. Hall sees it, his campaign for the Ward 6 seat on the D.C. City Council would be rolling along in high gear right now if it weren't for the fact that since March 31 he has been serving time in the D.C. Jail for writing bad checks.
Sure, the conviction on a misdemeanor charge does not bar him from running in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary or taking office if ultimately elected. As a matter of fact, being in carcerated won't even affect his eligibility for the Ward 6 seat.
Before he was imprisoned, Hall lived at 1338 K St. SE, near Potamac Gardens housing project. For the time being his new residence is at the jail, 19th and D Streets SE. Fortunately for Hall, both addresses are in the 6th Ward.
Still, being No. 171880 has cramped his political style, Hall complains. He can't go door-knocking. He can't carry on the kind of personalized campaign he says he would like to run. "This has kept me from meeting the people I should meet. I haven't been able to attend any forums as of yet. It has limited my freedom of getting around to talk to people," Hall said.
He leans back and holds his head high when he talks, a short, thin man with a mustache whose blue cotton workshirt is a bit oversized and whose bell-bottomed blue denims are neatly pressed.
David Hall talks like a politician, smoothly and confidently, occasionally gesturing with his hands and looking around to all corners of his imaginary audience in an upstairs jailhouse office. It's as if somehow he senses his words will pierce the half dozen heavy ironbar gates and thick steel doors, the spiked and wire-topped fences and that man with the rifle in the tower outside that separate him from the majority of his would-be constituents.
"I don't regret being here," he said. "I've learned a lot. I know what I can do for my constituents."
Hall is in jail because during one three-month period last year he wrote 38 rubber checks totalling about $1,200. He pleaded guilty to four counts of "false pretense" and was sentenced to a year in jail by D.C. Superior Court Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio. That put the brakes on Hall's then two-month-old candidacy for the Ward 6 council seat.
"I signed my name to them," Hall volunteers about the checks. "But I was not aware that the money was not there."
Over a three-month period, and with monthly bank statements, a visitor asks?
"It's a personal problem. It's a family problem," he responds, refusing to discuss details any more.
Hall, 33, is an ordained Baptist minister, the pastor of a church he refuses to name and executive director of what he described as a community self-help organization that operates out of his home. The organization is the Christian Concern for Community Action and it provides referral service to people with problems, according to Hall.
He says he has worked in the past with numerous civil rights groups and volunteer organizations - as a public relations man for the NAACP, regional director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, chaplain for the National Black Women's Political Caucus and a volunteer for the Red Cross. He worked in local political campaigns and ran unsuccessfully in 1975 for the D.C. school board seat from Ward 4.
As a matter of fact, Hall said, he sometimes considers himself one of those hundreds or thousands of political prisoners that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young was talking about.
"Maybe I am (a political prisoner) because of the circumstances of these organizations," he said. That, plus, he said, the poor legal advice he got from "one of those 5th Street attorneys" has led to his imprisonment.
One thing Hall has going for him on the outside is his uncle, Raymond Hall, who is running the imprisoned Hall's campaign. Thanks to Raymond's efforts, candidate Hall had more signatures (1,113) on his qualifying petitions filed July 5 than any of the other five contendors for the Ward 6 Democratic nomination, including incumbent Nadine P. Winter (662) and Patricia R. Press, who had the second highest number of signatures (849).
Samuel Rosser, administrator of the jail, is allowing Hall as much leeway as possible to interact with his campaign organization and to be a candidate as long as, Rosser said, it doesn't create extra problems for the institution or interfere with the rights of other inmates.
So Hall has been talking regularly with his uncle, signing campaign correspondence and making his pitch to the other 460-odd residents of the jail. He talks a lot about housing jobs and job training, poor people, energy conservation, better bus service and self-determination.
"Actually, I like home-rule, but I'm not very much for home-rule," he said. "I'm for statehood."
Some of the things Hall says have impressed at least one guard at the facility, who said privately that Hall often makes more sense on the issues than many other public spokesmen who have done worse things than Hall but have never gotten caught.
Hall anticipates being out of jail on personal recognizance by next week or shortly thereafter. He intends to change his plea to innocent and seek a new trial. He says there is still enough time to win the election.
He faces 12 counts of false representation in Prince George's County. But he's not worried about that. "It's an old one (stemming from 1971). It's illegal," he said.
And he hopes his conviction here, which resulted from what he considers a mistake, won't become an issue in the campaign. "Don't judge me on my prior community activities."
His is only a misdemeanor, Hall contends. "There are members of the council now,"who have been convicted of serious crimes."