"Are you kidding?" one leading city politician said the other day, when a reporter asked if race would be a factor in the July 19 special election to fill the City Council vacancy created by the death of Julius Hobson. "It's a factor in every election in this city."
The field of candidates for the special election will not be known until after petitions are filed later this month. But some of those trying to get their names on the ballot are taking into consideration how the vote might be distributed along racial lines as they assess their chances of winning the election.
The first hint of racial overtones in the campaign to fill Hobson's at-large seat came from his widow, Tina. She accused the central committee of the Statehood Party of not naming her to succeed her husband because she is white and, some believed, would have difficulty getting elected in a predominantly black city.
Last month, Richard R. Clark, a black, criticized the Republican Party Central Committee when it endorsed Paul Hays, a white, instead of him. Clark said only a black could appeal to the majority of city voters, and is now trying to run as an independent.
And now high ranking members of the Democratic State Central Committee, who cannot run a Democratic candidate because that party already holds the maximum number of at-large seats allowed any one party on the council, are interested in their own "independent." Several whites are among those who have been sought out.
Well-placed party sources said some members of the Unity '76 coalition, which controls the central committee, think it would be a good idea for racial harmony in the city if a white were elected to a key at-large position. Of the 13 seats on the council, only two are held by whites, neither of whom is an at-large representative.
One of the whites already seeking enough signatures to get on the ballot got a boost in responses last week after it was reported that former School Superintendent Barbara Sizemore, an extremely outspoken black, was contemplating entering the race.
Sizemore's entrance in the race could have a double impact on the election, city political observers noted. It could spilt the black vote with Hilda Mason, who is also black. And it could also bring out a strong anti-Sizemore vote from whites who might otherwise pass up the special election. Strong animosity developed toward Sizemore among some whites during the battle over her firing in 1975.
Douglas Moore thinks it's time the city did something extra for Mack Cantrell, the 45-year-old security guard who was wounded by a shotgun blast when Hanafi Muslims took over the fifth floor of the District Building March 9.
Moore proposed last week that Cantrell, who returned to work last month and is now working the midnight shift, be promoted from private to lieutenant and asked his colleagues on the Council for $5,000 to finance the difference in pay.
The proposal ran into the city's civil service system and never came to a vote. But some Council members think it's a plausible idea, since Cantrell has to date received no bonuses, no promotion nor any awards or commendations for his actions.
The Council is also expected to be asked soon for another special appropriation bill to help Robert Pierce with his medical bills. Pierce, 51, is the legal intern on David Clarke's staff who was shot in the back while being held hostage. He has been in the hospital for more than two months and is paralyzed from the waist down.
To the victors go the spoils and that's just what Wilhelmina Rolark has gotten her share of since her blitzkrieg takeover two weeks ago of the office space vacated when Nadine Winter moved to the first floor of the District Building.
Rolark has extra space for her employment and economic development committee staff and instead of being three floors away, it's right next door to Rolark's office. But then it better be, because the committee staff has no phones.
Rolark's colleagues who serve on the council's administration and personnel committee were so upset with her end-run tactics that they have twice refused to authorize the $33 per line to install telephones in the committee staff's new location.
What were the hottest items of dicussion last week when the D.C. Democratic State Central Committee had its monthly meeting? Well, there was the gigantic picnic that's in the works for September and a $100-a-plate fund-raiser scheduled for next month.
Then there were complaints about how expensive it was going to be to have the union bug on the newsletter. "Can we get the union bug without paying union printing costs," one member asked in vain.
And there was a half hour presentation on a $299 package deal for eight days and seven nights in Jamaica. If the central committee can round up 300 people or so, it could actually make more than $10,000 on the deal, members were told.
Ah, the problems of building a party.