"Mo!" shouts the kid from his car. "Hey, Mo!" The candidate turns and waves, then wades again into the early morning crowd. He's a big man, serious of mien like you'd expect from an ex-cop, with his hair cut high and tight, ears sticking out, the expression on his face almost grim until he bursts out laughing at a remark by a young voter about "how old" he must be. What you notice is that almost everybody on the downtown street -- commuters, bums, shopkeepers -- seems immediately to recognize Maurice T. Turner Jr., whether they're going to vote for him or not.

After Turner had decided many months ago to become a Republican and run for mayor, the Republican National Committee sent in James King to take a look. A savvy political gunslinger with 32 campaigns under his belt, King spent a day driving around Washington with Turner and returned stunned. "People were shouting at him from the street corners, 'Hey chief, you gonna run?' What I saw that day was this guy had name recognition that most candidates would kill for."

All that was needed to make Turner a viable candidate, it was thought, was a little polish. Forget that the 55-year-old former police chief and former Democrat was taking one huge gamble by running as a Republican in the District of Columbia, where the GOP is outnumbered 9 to 1 by Democrats.

Accordingly, Turner shed 35 pounds (he's a gourmet cook) and had knocked off booze when he retired as chief July 31, 1989. ("I've never lost a day's work because of drinking," he says. "I just decided to quit.") King was installed as campaign manager, and public relations counselor E. Bruce Harrison was brought in to scrub out what he calls that "certain awkwardness." After a few lessons, Harrison pronounced Turner "a real natural, an integrated person with a wonderful empathy," and The Chief -- everyone still calls him that -- sallied forth to wow the folks with new panache.

"He's at ease with the little guy," says King. "He's smiling, he's shaking hands, he's just a regular down-home boy. This is a populist campaign run by a populist candidate." Says Turner's pal from his 32 years on the police force, Carl V. Profater: "This guy can walk into a crowd of men who are down on their luck and they'll hug him like a brother. I don't think Dixon can do that."

Politically, he seems content to present himself as Lumbering Neanderthal to Democratic candidate Sharon Pratt Dixon's Bright Ms. Smarty, betting that families across the city are "conservative" enough, and frightened enough, to buy a heavy law-and-order pitch. She's "soft on crime," he tells audiences, and her notion of curing the "root causes" of violence is fine, "but the first thing you got to do is lock up those violators... . The black community wants stringent enforcement, they want people arrested." All "law-abiding citizens" should be allowed to have handguns. And then this gem, repeated to perfection: "Somebody busts you in the head, you want him down in Lorton busting some rocks!"

Dixon, he charges, is the "silver spoon" candidate who made lots of money as a Pepco executive. "I came from the other side of the tracks," he tells a small and sympathetic group of mothers late one night in a Northeast public housing project. "Nobody gave me nothing. I used to shoot pool up at Morgan's poolroom. I know what happens when people get down and out."

Man of the People.

A Family of Supporters

The Turner family is huge. A third-generation Washingtonian, Maurice Turner figures he has more than 300 relatives living in the area, and RNC officials were amazed when, before the announcement of his candidacy April 3, he produced 340 friends and relatives eager to form an instant, citywide political organization. Most of these people are Democrats, and Turner says he remembers how his grandfather would take each grandchild and cousin down to register when he or she came of voting age, "and lecture us on the evils of Republicanism."

The family is a lively crew, and its swirl of relationships, though little publicized, has nourished Turner and in an important sense defined who he is. His brother Karl is a member of the D.C. police force; his youngest sister, Linda, a Superior Court judge. One of his aunts owns that last private house amid the new high-rises on L Street NW near 23rd Street (when he told her she could get $500,000 for it, she shot back, "Sell your own damn house!"), and great-aunt Genevieve N. Johnson ("I'm 91 now") is actively spearheading his bid for the senior vote.

To these family members and friends, Turner is not "Mo" but "Joe" -- a moniker bestowed by his father, who was a fan of boxer Joe Louis, whom he thought his burly infant resembled.

Beneath Turner's gruff exterior, according to family members and friends, lies a warm heart -- a concerned father of three ("He calls me up all the time," says daughter Andree, 30, " 'Are you saving money? Did you pay your house note? What did you have for breakfast, dinner?' "), a supportive ex-husband ("It's a very good friendship," says ex-wife Andree Taylor Turner; "he's called me almost every day in the 14 years of my divorce") and a born leader ("He guided me on how to paper cases when I joined the force 30 years ago," says Profater, now a campaign aide, "and later searched me out and followed up to see how I'd done").

If anything, Turner was known around the police department as being so chummy with everyone that he sometimes had trouble cracking the whip of command. "I believe in participatory management and management by objectives," Turner counters mildly when confronted with this criticism during a relaxed interview in the large brick house on 16th Street NW that he shares with his 27-year-old daughter, Jeannine. "I don't think you have to crack down on people, just get them involved in the decision-making process."

His affect during the interview is, for the most part, flat, his face inscrutable, almost blank. It's tough squeezing information out of him. Does he have hobbies? "I like to garden." What does he read? "I read encyclopedias." What did he want to be when he was a kid? "I didn't have any particular dream." But it's late on a Sunday, he's tired, and as his ex-wife says, "he has to maintain his macho image."

Andree Taylor Turner divorced him, she says, not because he fathered a son, Eric -- now 19 and a D.C. police cadet -- by another woman, but because "he worked all the time. He was crazy about the police department. I was the father and mother. I stayed alone ... in raising the kids. He was a strong-type man who really didn't understand, but all I could see was my life zooming by, without that mate. I would go to a lot of family and social affairs, just me and the kids. So it just sort of drifted away, I guess. I still love him. I was married to him for 20 years."

After the split, which she says he "really fought against," Turner gave her their house in Kettering in Prince George's County, and moved into an apartment. She says she has "enjoyed my divorce. I learned to ride a motorcycle, a big one, and went on many trips. I wasn't sitting home grieving, you know." Now she supports his candidacy and appears to be sincere. For one thing, "he has an excellent head for business and finances. He's still my business adviser. I used to send him grocery shopping {when they were married} because he got so much more for the money." If she weren't a federal employee and if it weren't for the Hatch Act, she says, "I'd be in there stuffing envelopes for him today."

Turner says: "My wife and I are friends. We talk. We help one another."

The reasons for the divorce are "personal." Eric, he notes, was raised by Turner's brother Karl and Karl's now ex-wife until, when the youth was in the sixth grade, he moved into the 16th Street house with his dad. "He's a Turner," he says. "He's been raised by the Turner family. He's my son and I've never denied it." To underline the point, he pulls a family photo album from a cabinet and points out Eric in several pictures -- smiling, front and center. Says Andree Taylor Turner: "Eric calls me 'Mom.' "

Veronica "Ronnie" Randall, the former police officer and current nursing assistant who's been Turner's steady companion for the past decade (she is not Eric's mother), says that although Turner "doesn't show his emotions that much," he is "really good with children" and in 1988 met Jermaine Daniel, then 13, the streetwise youth he informally adopted and sought to help when he was police chief -- a highly publicized bit of philanthropy -- at her house on Alabama Avenue SE.

"My niece's husband is Jermaine's cousin," says Randall, by way of explicating the Byzantine ins and outs of extended-family life in Washington. "Joe's met quite a few kids that come around, and he talks to them. There was another guy from the projects, another teenager, he came over for dinner and Joe went out and bought him tennis shoes. Jermaine comes and spends the night here for Christmas. Joe bought him a Nintendo last Christmas." Turner says he's sad about Jermaine now, because he was "arrested for selling drugs. It pains me. There's no need for it." He still speaks with his young friend, but hasn't seen him for some time because of the pressures of the campaign.

According to Randall, "We're one great big happy family together." Jeannine Turner says that her family and Eric's mother are "all good friends. Ronnie is just like a mother. She has a daughter one year younger than me, and we have this great big huge family. I had a party last year and I invited my Mom and Ronnie and {Eric's mother} ... And they get along. Sometimes I don't expect them to, but they surprise me."

Turner takes a swig from a small bottle of Quibell mineral water. "I don't know why Jeannine wants to talk about all this," he says with a scowl that looks a little forced, like it could almost be a smile.

What would he be smiling about? Consider the following complexities:

Randall on marrying Turner: "We may eventually do that. We've got plenty of time. We're all very close, it's just wonderful... . It's almost like being married."

Turner on marrying Randall: "Oh, I'm not speculating on that, but who knows? She's part of the family. I think we've got a very good working relationship."

Jeannine on Mom and Dad: "My mother says she'll remarry Dad. I say, 'No, that would be crazy.' He just laughs at a lot of this stuff."

Andree Taylor Turner on remarrying her ex: "I have been asked to many a time over the last 14 years, by him. Before he decided to run, he told me he was going to win me back. I said I didn't think he knows how... . He sort of respects my opinion now. I got his attention, where I didn't have it during marriage."

Turner: "She's going to be at my victory celebration. Sure she'll be there!"

Growing Up

Turner doesn't know much about his early family history except that his ancestors migrated north from Virginia at some point. His grandfather, who worked for a news distribution company, was born in Washington and moved from Southwest to 753 Girard St. NW in 1913, becoming the first black to settle in the neighborhood. When Turner's father married, he and his wife lived in that house, and Turner grew up there as the first of six children. Karl still lives in the house.

Turner attended Dunbar High School. "I wasn't an outstanding student," he says. "I did what you had to do to get by." His siblings and friends paint a more flattering portrait. "He was like the shining star, the leader of the family," says Karl. "He was always working and striving for something that he wanted -- going to school, then coming in after dark from a job, sitting down doing his homework, and raving about his accomplishments for the day."

His sister Doris Thorne, three years younger than Turner, recalls with a laugh that her brother "liked to give orders. We always had chores when we came home from school, and he'd say 'Doris, do this,' and 'Frank, do that.' He really made the decisions as to what we should do in the house. He wasn't a threat in any way, he was a person we just looked up to. He wasn't bossy, he's not high-strung. As a child, I can't remember him losing his temper."

Turner had, says Karl, a kind of quiet authority, a natural quality of leadership. "He's a silent individual, but he just sort of radiates how he thinks. He gives a sense of knowing and doing the right thing, and through being around him it makes you automatically strive to greater achievement."

In Turner's laconic formulation: "I was the oldest of the kids, and I had to look out for them."

"I would call him a street leader," says Florence Booker, a retired schoolteacher who lived near the Turners, took Joe to Sunday school as a child and is now honorary chair of the campaign. "He always had a gang of boys following him. They had those wagons with no rubber tires, and my mother would call over and say, 'Isn't it time to stop riding?' and Joe's father, all he would say is 'Joe, it's time to stop, come sit on the porch.' And Joe would sit on the high step and his subjects would be underneath him. You got the picture?"

Turner's parents, who died a few years ago, were federal workers who retired at the GS-7 level, and he has made much in the campaign about how he went to work at a "watermelon stand" on Georgia Avenue when he was 13. But the family was by no means down and out. It was a typical American family in many ways, rich in love and governed by somewhat strict, caring parents. For the children, there were wood-burning sets and go-carts, piano lessons and summer Bible camp. One Christmas, Turner says, "My mother and father bought me a bicycle, a Schwinn. I was proud of that Schwinn."

"In the evenings during the summer," recalls Doris, "we'd stay on the porch and play games with Mom and Dad and everyone. We'd play Monopoly. We didn't have a lot of problems. Dad was warm and friendly. He knew everybody and they called him 'the mayor of Girard Street.' He really liked Lionel train sets, and he bought one for Joe, and we'd have a lot of fun. And I can remember the smell, that funny smell when you'd hook the tracks up and they'd spark." Every year Turner senior would give Joe a new train car to add to the set, "and Mom and Dad would always give us books at Christmas too."

In the late afternoons after school, says Doris, the children "would go up the street to Georgia Avenue and sit on the step of a house and wait for our parents to get off the streetcar, and that was such joy!"

She laughs, sitting in Turner's campaign headquarters high in the Investment Building on K Street downtown, and her eyes tear up. In later years, when life's disappointments set in, Doris always found her brother "very kind. When I need to talk to him, he's there to give comfort, give advice. To his friends, he always extends his hand. I'm divorced, and he'd be there when things were rough. I'd call during the holidays, and he'd tell me, 'Hang in there, you can make it.' He'd say, 'Come on up to the house, you won't be lonely.' "

Turner went directly from high school into the Marines in 1954, spending three years and doing a tour in Korea. He bought a Buick Roadmaster and left it at home for his family to use -- their first car, and much has been made of this in his speeches. He had once dreamed of being a dentist, "but I guess I just wasn't motivated at that time." Also, he'd seen Marines in dress blue around town and "I liked the uniform." Karl adds that Joe thought all red-blooded Americans should serve, and Doris says the family couldn't afford to send him to college anyway.

He returned, having refused to reenlist because the Marines wouldn't give him embassy duty in Paris. Linda, the judge, was just a toddler, and Turner sat down with her daily, doggedly teaching her to read. He converted from Baptist to Roman Catholic and married Andree on Aug. 24, 1957. A month later he joined the D.C. police force, beginning the 32-year career that would take him to the top of his profession.

Black officers at the time weren't allowed in squad cars, so he started out walking a beat in the old 4th Precinct in Southwest. "Walking the Beat" is now his campaign slogan, and during a recent 15-hour day of campaigning, The Chief several times held detailed conversations with voters about problems and changes in their specific neighborhoods. It seemed he must know every block in the city, intimately.

Turner labored fiercely in his work. He read books on how to write reports. He read books on management. He attended the demanding FBI Academy at Quantico. As he says simply, "I think I prepared myself." He maintained a relentlessly positive attitude. And, friends say, he seemed laid-back, almost relaxed. "I've learned in this life that there are peaks and valleys," he says. "Sometimes everything doesn't go your way, but I think you're going to have more pleasant days than sad, and there's never a cloud that doesn't blow away."

At first the Turners lived with her aunt, then in an apartment, and finally they bought what Andree Taylor Turner calls their "first little house" at 636 Burns St. SE, which Turner still owns. They moved out to Kettering in the early 1970s and, she says, "for a long time we lived a typical married life... . I lost three babies. Jeannine is the fifth," and Andree was a fragile, premature baby.

"We went through a lot. There was a lot of sadness, then the divorce."

In his "silver spoon" attacks on Dixon, some feel he might have gone too far. "He was on TV and said his family was 'poor,' " says Booker. "Doris called me and said, 'Florence, Joe said we were poor. We weren't poor, were we?' I said, 'Doris, poverty is expressed in many ways. If you compare yourself to the homeless people of today, no, you weren't, because there was a house and food on the table. But you weren't rich either, honey.' And she said, 'But just tell me we weren't poor.' So I said, 'You weren't in the poverty pocket as we see it today,' and she said, 'Call Joe and tell him.'

"I called and said, 'Joe, Doris is very upset because you called your family poor.' He said, 'Florence, should I issue a retraction?' And I said, 'No, it isn't necessary. People are aware, who lived in our time, of the circumstances of most people. The important thing is that you lived in a family where there was a whole lot of love.' "

In the GOP Camp

The Republicans could scarcely believe their good fortune. Turner not only appeared with President Bush in the White House July 27, 1989, to announce he was changing his registration, but also proceeded, with increasing vehemence, to trash the Democrats for having wrecked the city.

"Win or lose, the party is better for having him," says RNC Political Director Norman Cummings.

No doubt. But is Turner better for having the party?

The president's veto of the civil rights bill last week was a stunning blow, and Turner had rushed to the White House to make a personal protest to top aides. The week before, he'd remarked during a campaign swing that a veto "would kill me."

It had all looked pretty good back in July of '89, when it seemed he might face a weakened Marion Barry in a general election. The Democratic field was crowded, and he could avoid that mess. Plus the Republicans were supposed to be good at raising money.

Which they did, but not nearly the $2 million he had hoped for. "We expect to have raised $850,000 to 900,000" by election day," says campaign finance chairman Wally Ganzi, owner of the Palm restaurant and a friend of the Bushes' who served as the president's finance co-chairman in the last campaign.

It's been nice for Turner to have Ganzi to socialize with, and guys like Wyatt Stewart, director of finance for the National Republican Congressional Committee, hanging around campaign headquarters saying things like, "He's a neat guy... . He's a humble man."

But it doesn't look quite as good as it once did, and according to Howard University political scientist Alvin Thornton, there may be a downside to "the Republican thing, because the switch suggests opportunism. It's coming off as taking advantage of a party label without necessarily, over an extended period of time, being willing to associate with that party, or even to carry and defend the basic tenets of the Republican Party."

Says Turner simply: "I made a bold change. I was a lifelong Democrat. I became frustrated. I got tired of being taken for granted... . I think that blacks in this town need to become a part of the mainstream Republican Party." He has disagreed with Bush and other Republicans on several key issues, including abortion and statehood for the District, saying that "You don't sell your soul when you join a party."

In the heat of campaigning, Turner repeatedly makes it clear that he's seeking support for his candidacy despite the GOP rather than because of it. "When you go into that booth," he tells voters, "nobody knows you voted for Maurice Turner but you and the Lord."

When Booker first heard the news of his switch, she exploded, " 'Why the hell did you do that, Joe?' He gave me that speech about the need for two parties." Since then, she's been seated next to Bush at a fund-raising breakfast and appears to be somewhat mollified.

"Who'd have thought," she muses now, "that Girard Street would be hobnobbing with the president?"