Former D.C. School Supt. Barbara A. Sizemore's narrow loss in the July 19 special City Council election may have been just the beginning of her career in local politics. The latest suggestion of that came last week when Sizemore walked into the city's election headquarters to change her registration from independent to Democrat and her place of residence from the first to the fifth ward.
It was in Ward 5, most of northeast Washington west of the Anacostia River, that Sizemore got some of her strongest support in the special election, beating the victor, D.C. Statehood Party candidate Hilda Mason, by a 5-3 margin. Sizemore used to live in the Adams-Morgan community, in Ward 1, where Mason defeated her by nearly a 3-2 margin.
Ward 5 is the home ward of at-large City Councilman Douglas E. Moore, who was one of Sizemore's principle campaign strategists. What's more, it is a ward that is becoming increasingly important in the citys embryonic political arena.
There are nearly 25,000 registered Democrats in Ward 5, more than in any other ward in city except Ward 4. In the July 19 election, Democrats were forbidden from running to fill the at-large vacancy created by the death March 23 of Julius Hobson Sr. (S-At large). But next year's City Council elections are expected by many to be primarily contests among the city's Democrats, who account for more than 75 per cent of the registered D.C. voters.
Thus, Sizemore gains more than one advantage by becoming a Ward 5 Democrat. She could, for example, run on the same ticket with Moore, the maverick Democrat who has already announced he is a candidate for Council chairman.
She gets her pick of at least two - and possibly three - at large seats that will be up, and considering the relative Democratic strength of Ward 5, it would make a good base for a citywide contest.
Or she could run for the ward seat itself. Several of the city's regular Democrats - who are not inclined to support Sizemore - have been quietly trying for months to find an alternative to endorsing incumbent William R. Spaulding for reelection. Whatever candidate they produce, Sizemore is likely to have the greater name recognition.
Sizemore would not say, as she emerged from the voter registration office last week, which seat she plans to seek. But some Moore supporters were saying privately that for the time being an at-large candidacy seems most likely.
It was largely a misleading voice inflection and a play on words - which D.C. Democratic State Committee Chairman Robert B. Washington Jr. says were unintentional - that left so many people confused about the outcome of last week's controversial vote to add 12 new ex-officio members to the state committee's ranks.
The first time the vote was taken, in a standing vote fashion, 20 persons voted to pass the proposal and 17 voted against it. Washington, who had sponsored the plan, announced: "The vote is 20 for 17 against the Washington amendment." Many of the opponents of the measure thought he had said "twenty-four, seventeen (as in 24-17) against the Washington amendment."
Washington did not go on to immediately state the winner and thus the opponents mistakenly felt they had won. Shortly afterwards, a roll call vote was taken and the vote was 19 for 18 against and one abstention. Even though the scales had ostensibly tipped the other way, opponents still felt they had won mainly because most of them had misunderstood a previous ruling by Washington on how many votes were necessary to pass the amendment.
About 50 high school journalism students from the Lemuel A. Penn Center for Career Development got an introduction to covering the City Council last week. And it got off to a somewhat usual District Building start with a press conference that began about 15 minutes late.
Four Council members were on hand: William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), Hilda Mason (S-At large) and John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), who also somewhat true to form arrived half an hour late and still wearing his trenchcoat.
The student reporters were up on most of the usual issues: decriminalizing marijuana, funding elective abortions for poor women, rent control, school bus tokens, the downtown convention center, fuel adjustment costs, careers for women in politics and rats and rodents, the last of which a student survey had found to be a significant problem in Spaulding's ward.
The Council members were up on most of the usual answers: Each took time to state his or her position, and to logically outline how they had arrived at the stance. And at one point, the legislators assumed their civic responsibility of reminding all those at or near the age of 18 to vote in next year's elections.
An hour into the press conference, nevertheless, a credibility gap had developed in the mind of one student reporter who apparently felt all of the answers seemed a bit too smooth. "Are you being objective to us because you think most of us can vote, or are you giving us the real thing?" she asked.
"I'm not objective on anything," Wilson said.
Spaulding was of a different mind. "I have the reputation," he said, "of being the member on the Council."