District of Columbia mayoral candidate John L. Ray began a press conference yesterday by holding up a newspaper clipping that reported a feud of sorts in city hall. According to the report, Council member Douglas E. Moore was upset with Council Chairman Sterling Tucker because it appeared that the prestigious automobile license tag No. 4 would be reissued to Moore's wife.
"This argument over tag No. 4 is an indication of what's wrong with our political leaders," Ray said. "When you stop to think that there are people out of work, people without heat and our chairman of the City Council and one of our at-large council members spend their time arguing about who's going to have tag No. 4. It is that kind of nonsense that the citizens of this city are fed up with."
Playing up his own position as a man not linked to the short local political traditions of the city over the past four months, telling church groups and community organizations that he can bring a change.
"Most of the citizens feel that the city is worse off since we have had an elected government thatn it was when we had three commissioners" Ray said. "And that feeling is more prevalent among the blacks than among the whites."
"The key issue that divides me from them," he says of his race against Tucker, Council member Marion Barry and perhaps Mayor Walter E. Washington, "is that I'm a new face."
"I have new ideas about solving the problems of the city, I'm not tied to any special interests downtown. I'm free from the politics and the policies of the past and I will provide this city with thoughtful, competent and energetic leadership."
Ray's is the longest running official campaign for the Democratic mayoral nomination in the Sept. 12 primary election. He declared his candidacy at Lincoln Park on Capitol Hillon Oct. 10.
His efforts have been largely ignored by the media, but like most overlooked candidates he has worked that into his campaign pitch. "Most of the names I will call off you will not recognize because they are not the movers and shakers whose names are on the front page of The Washington Post," he said yesterday, introducing his campaign staff and committee officials. "But they are recognized in the community because they are community leaders."
Ray, a 34-year-old lawyer who quit his job as a lawyer for the Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee to run for mayor, originally is from Tom Creek, Ga., a small town in the south central part of the state that no longer exists.
He was once a clerk for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson II of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a lawyer in the firm headed by former Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas and at one time a lawyer for the Justice Department.
His is a self-described come-from-no-where campaign that is premised on an early start, hard work and grass roots support.
Ray said he will present position papers on most of the major issues in the city. That, he said, will come sometime in May. All he says now is that he will offer a coordinated policy touching on housing, unemployment, education, crime and expanded industries and job markets in the city.
One of the principal persons behind Ray's candidacy is the Rev. Hosea Browne, president of the John F. Kennedy League for Universal Justice and Goodwill, a group of black ministers who are part of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Washington, D.C. and Vicinity.
Browne has accompanied Ray to various churches in the city to speak before small audiences of church members, including some church officers. It is from these meetings that Ray hopes to draw the backbone of his campaign organization.
Ray scored his first victory of sorts last month at a meeting of the 300-member Baptist Ministers Conference of Washington, D.C. and Vicinity. After a well-received and sermon-like speech by Mayor Washington, the group almost approved a resolution drafting the mayor for another term.
Because of efforts of Browne and other league members, who make up one faction in the ministers group, the endorsement did not come to a vote.
Some of Ray's supporters acknowledge that they are former backers of Mahor Washington who have become disenchanted with the mayor's past four years in office. For example, John W. Sutton, Ray's campaign finance chairman, said he had invited the mayor to the Park Road Community Church to speak at a men's day meeting in 1974 when Washington was running for office. The mayor came.
A year later, Sutton said, when the church, where Sutton is chairman of the board of trustees, hosted a national meeting, Washington declined to offer welcoming remarks on behalf of the city. Asked yesterday it he would invite the mayor back, Sutton said, "hell no."