Mayor Marion Barry may be fighting a tough reelection battle this year, but money doesn't even come close to being one of his problems.
Last night, Barry added $100,000 to his brimming campaign coffers at a Georgetown fund-raiser sponsored primarily by Washington's minority business leaders. The 60 sponsors of the event paid $1,000 a ticket, while others contributed $500 each.
"They called me and asked me to stop by for a drink," said Ed Murray of E.J. Murray Co., a contracting firm.
An expensive drink? he was asked.
"An expensive drink," agreed Murray. "The call came a few days after they awarded me a good contract--but that's the way it goes. That's politics."
Murray said that 30 percent of his business comes from city contracts, and added that the billing and paperwork for those contracts has been greatly expedited since Barry defeated Walter Washington three years ago for the mayor's job. "Before, it wasn't worth my effort to deal with the city," said Murray.
Victor Labat, another contractor who was one of the $1,000 sponsors of the Pisces Club reception, said his business with the city has also increased significantly under Barry.
"He has been a tremendous help to me," said Labat. "Ten percent of my business comes from the city. That's 10 percent more than I was doing before. In terms of the minority business community, he has tried to assist us to get more business out of the city."
Barry, in turn, told the contributors that he's "not one to forget who my friends are. All of you are here early, and I'm not going to forget that," he said.
Barry, involved in a six-way race, is expected to receive his stiffest competition from former Carter Cabinet member Patricia Roberts Harris. Just last week, the mayor hired heavyweight political consultant John Marttila of Boston, who has worked in the successful campaigns of Boston Mayor Kevin White and Sen. John Biden (D-Del.). Marttila would not comment on the race except to say that "it's going to be very interesting."
Barry, who worked the room, crowded with about 200 people, for two hours wouldn't comment on his opposition.
"The more that run, the better," said Barry. "They're the ones that are all out running . . . I'm not worried about what they're doing. Everybody's trying to beat me. I'm supposed to be the beatable, vulnerable mayor. Eventually, they're going to have to stop attacking me and come forward with what they have to propose."
The fund-raiser is the first cohesive effort by the minority business community on behalf of Barry. "It's unusual to get this kind of financial commitment in one night, so I think its very significant," said Barry.
Barry's campaign treasurer, Ann Kinney, estimated his campaign chest to be around $500,000, with a goal of $800,000. " "We're planning a lot of small events where maybe we'll break even. But they're important. People that just go for the big money are not going to make it."
One of the organizers of last night's event was Bill Fitzgerald, president of Independent Federal Savings and Loan, a minority-controlled S&L.
"He's the best mayor we've ever had and the best we're gonna get," Fitzgerald told the group. "I don't suggest that he's perfect, but that's the nature of government--it's run by people, and people are not perfect."
Barry then said that he wasn't going to leave until he shook every hand in the room. And that he did.