he mood was glum and somber. Heads were shaking from side to side in reluctant belief. More than half a dozen copies of the morning newspaper were stacked on a table, and one by one, as close friends and aides of City Councilman Douglas E. Moore came into his city hall office, each picked up a paper and opened to the story headlined, "School Job in Michigan Is Offered to Sizemore."
It wasn't so bad that former D.C. School Superintendent Barbara A. Sizemore had been offered the chance to run the school system in Benton Harbor, Mich. The real sorrow was that it seem likely that Sizemore might take the job, and with that, Moore's most promising political protege would disappear from local politics.
"What a waste of good political capital," one Moore stalwart had complained privately the night before.
The diappointment in Moore's inner circle was not shared by Sizemore, howere, at least not when a reporter called her a few nights later.
She had no regrets, she said, about giving up an inside track in this fall's race for the Democratic nomination for an at-large City Council seat. Nor was she ashamed to be headed toward a school system one-twelfth the size of the District, where Sizemore was superintendent from 1973-1975.
As a matter of fact, she said, she is looking forward to the Michigan job, for which she is to begin contract negotiations later this week.
"I'm not a politician. I'm an educator. That's what I'm trained to do. That's what I want to do," she said.
"I just hope that in Benton Harbor I'll get a chance to do what I have not been able to do since I left Chicago (in 1973) - to teach children who happen to be poor. I really have been unable to do that. That's what I wanted to do in Washington, but the political (situation) would not allow it."
Sizemore had done very well in her last poliotical outing, the July 19 special City Council election. She came within 683 votes of a major political upset, the caller reminded her.
"But I lost," Sizemore reminded back.
"Well . . ." the caller tried to continue.
"There's no substitute for winning," she said.
The eight months between her narrow loss to Hilda Mason in that election and the Michigan offer appear to have made a difference in the way Barbara Sizemore talks about Washington and some of her experiences here. Now she is more pragmatic; she admits errors in judgment and some naivete on her own part.
But she still believes that her removal as superintendent was "unjust and unfair." She believes that no one had a better plan for educating poor children in the city than she did.
"I don't think anybody's ever going to educate anyone in Washington," she said. "Middle-class children are going to come back into the school system and, as they do, test scores are going to improve. People are going to think education's improved. But all they will have done is displaced poor children in the city's schools."
The idea of running for City Council last summer was not entirely her own, Sizemore said.
"I ran because Doug Moore convinced me that I was needed on the City Council because some one had to speak out on behalf of poor people and argue that case," she said. "I no longer think that's a valid argument. The rest of the Council has been bought over wholesale."
Even last summer, she had realized that her ability to change things would be limited because she would be so outnumbered on the council. But then, she argue that effectiveness could not be measured solely on which bills were passed.
Rather, said Sizemore, she could "heighten the contracdictions;" she could use her positions and platform as a legislator to educate poor people that their interests were, in her view, not being addressed by those in power. Now, Sizemore is of a different mind.
"I don't want to heighten the contradictions. I want to educate these children in Benton Harbor. That's a negative approach, heightening the contradictions. Here I can heighten the contradictions and educate these children, too. That's positive."
There were other lessons to be learned. The Sizemore campaign, scoffing at donations from businessmen who are usually the prime contributors to political efforts in this city, chugged along on mostly small donations and a makeshift political organization. Mason's war chest swelled, largely because Mason put in $14,000 of her own money. As the election drew near, frantic Sizemore staffers worried privately that there was no election day organization - no way to get the many who had so loudly cheered Sizemore's speeches in a position to vote Sizemore in power. Mason's political machine, meanwhile, was well-oiled and geared up for election day.
That, Sizemore said, taught her a double-barreled lesson. "Politics works against poor people. If you're poor, you have to raise the money," she said. "And even after you spend all your money, there's no assurance people are going to vote for you."
So Barbara Sizemore accepted defeat. Moore and others continue to dangle the possibility of another Sizemore candidacy. She moved from Ward 1, where she had lost miserably, to Ward 5, where she had run strong.
She switched her registration from independent back to Democrat, which gave her an entree into the crucial Democratic primary.
At the same time, howere, Sizemore now says, she realized that Mason, once on the Council, had taken many of the same positions that Sizemore herself would have taken.
Moore had said, Sizemore recalls, that Mason had to be defeated because Mason would probably become an ally of those people on the Council that Moore accuses of being puppets of the Board of Trade. But on such key issues as rent control, the proposed down-town convention center, an anti-speculation tax and higher funding for the city's school system, Mason has voted pretty much with Moore.
"Hilda turned out great. I wouldn't run against her this time," Sizemore said. "That left me in the Democratic Party, and I don't want to do that."
She did little to discourage talk of a possible candidacy, Sizemore said, but her heart has not been in it. "Doug wants me to run, but I'm not going to run," she said. "I told everybody that the night we were defeated, but nobody believed me.
"But then I'm used to that in Washington. Nobody ever believed me."