When Julius Hobson Jr. was elected in 1973 to the D.C. school board as the representative from Ward 8 - Anacostia - he received 593 votes to his nearest rival's 497. A total of 1,196 people in Ward 8 voted in that election, a turnout of less than 5 per cent.
Of the 94,000 persons living in Anacostia, 57,000 are eligible to register to vote. In 1973 there were 26,792 registered voters, and by 1976 the registration figure had dropped further to 21,078. Hobson, who is not running for reelection, sees another small voter turnout this year.
"There just aren't any issues that are going to draw people to the polls," said Hobson. "There's nothing that the candidates are going to fight over."
In fact, more than anything, the three candidates appear to be fighting to get people to vote.
The three - R. Cavin Lockridge, Genevieve B. Artis and Wilbert Williams - all Democrats, all with similar sounding platforms, predict a larger turnout this year because of their campaign efforts and because of increased community interest in the school system.
Anacostia has had its own community school board and local boards at each school since 1968. According to Hobson, the community board has been instrumental in improving conditions in Anacostia schools. Yet, despite a number of new schools in the ward, the dropout and truancy rates remain among the highest in the city.
This is one reason that an increased voter turnout, which the candidates say would reflect an increase in community interest in schools, is important.
Lockridge, who is an education consultant and a former director of the community school board in Anacostia, has planned a get-out-the-vote-rally for Nov. 3, five days before the election. He has also received the endorsement of Ward 8 councilwoman Wilhelmina Rolark.
Artis, who works in social services at the Anacostia pre-school, says she feels the community board has increased interest in the schools enough that the vote will be greatly increased this year. She has been endorsed by Hobson.
Hobson's claim that there are no issues to fight over is reflected by the candidates. With the exception of the subject of the community board - which Lockridge and Artis favor and Williams questions - the three appear to be more or less in the same corner on the issues.
Lockridge, who moved here from Chicago in 1973, says that schools have tried to play too many roles.
"They have gotten away from what school is about first of all," he said. He refused however to say he wanted schools to get back to basics. "That's a cliche. The basics today are different than they used to be. There's more to it than the old three Rs."
Williams, who is an equal opportunity specialist with the Department of Agriculture, said what Lockridge wouldn't.
"We do have to get back to basics, that's all there is to it. Reading, writing and arithmetic are the only way you can prepare children. You have to start there," he said. Artis also said she saw classroom basics as the number one priority.
"We have to prepare our kids. If they're not college material we have to see to it that they graduate with a marketable job skill. That starts in the classroom. We can't just turn them loose in April of their senior year and say 'find a job,'" she said.
The one point of conflict was the community board, which works with both the central city board and local boards in the Anacostia schools in governing War 8 schools.
Williams, who ran for the D.C. delegate seat in Congress in 1971, said he saw the community board as "adding to the bureaucracy. The intentions are good but it seems we're losing something in the process in going from the central board to the community board."
Lockridge and Artis both see it as a necessary tool in administering Anacostia schools. Hobson, who has worked with the board for four years, agreed with them.
"The things I've been able to accomplish in this job, I've accomplished because of the board," Hobson said. "Its existence makes dealing with the community a much easier job."
All three candidates predict victory on Nov. 8. But Hobson sees Lockridge as the man to beat "because Calvin is a professional campaigner."
Lockridge was involved in several political battles in Chicago before coming to Washington and, as a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee last June was a leader in demanding an investigation of Councilman Sterling Tucker's teaching job at Howard University. He is known to be in Mayor Walter Washington's political corner and was elected to the state committee with his support.
Williams' main plunge into politics came in the 1971 delegate election, while Artis has never run for office outside Anacostia, running as an at-large candidate for the community board seat she now holds.
"Whoever gets out and works to get people to polls should win this election," Hobson said. "Popularity will probably be the deciding factor."