D.C. Council Chairman Sterling Tucker formally kicked off his campaign for mayor yesterday by attacking Mayor Walter E. Washington's administration as inefficient, outdated and an obstacle to greater home rule in the city.
"We are in a crucial transition period from colonialism to full freedom.But poor management has brought us to a standstill," Tucker told 300 yelling and sign-waving supporters at the WUST Radio Music Hall at Ninth and W Streets NW.
"We are still being governed by the same tired, lackluster, inefficient, business-as-usual bureaucracy; we still foot the bills for commuters' services; we still fall in the shadow of the federal government: we still rattle a tin cup on Capitol Hill for our money," he said.
"I am the only announced or unannounced candiddate with the experience. competence and guts to usher out chaos and bring in the kind of government that you ought to have so the city can be run right." he said. Later, he added. "Sterling Tucker as mayor will make the District of Columbia number one."
Tucker's well-planned campaign kickoff put the stamp of officialdom on a candidacy that has been expected for more than a year and was informally announced in January. According to high level campaign planners, yesterday's formal announcement was as much a media event and pep rally for the candidaate's workers as it was an attempt to appeal directly to the votes.
There were hundreds of multicolored ballons floating in the air, straw hats flopped atop campaign workers' heads, deafening chants of "We want Tucker" that began just before he entered the hall and a 150-car motorcade along the mile-long trek of Seventh Street NW from the music hall to the campaign office near Mount Vernon SquareG.
In his kickoff speech, the 53-year-old council chairman stressed his two decades of experience in public and semipublic jobs in the city and promised more than a dozen programs governmental reforms and expanded home-rule measures. For many of these, he set specific timetables, and he punctuated most of them by pointing his finger at the audience and declaring, "Remember that."
Tucker said he could get the city's long-sought commuter tax from the Congress within three years and "full self-determination" and full congressional wrong representation for the city in five years. He said he could restore the city's riot corridors within four years and complete a comprehensive city land-use plan by 1981.
He also pledged to end job discrimination, governmental inefficiency and drug traffic in the city; committed himself to "full employment" and promised more jobs in the city; promised to halt runaway assessments" on taxable property and to crack down on pornography.
After the rally and motorcade, as supporters listened to a jazz combo and children watched a magic show at the campaign headquarters. Tucker told reproters that specific plans on how these objectives would be met would be made later in the campaign.
But, he said, "I belive every time-table I've set is realistic . . . I'm not trying to do that which is obviously possible. I'm trying to do that which with hard work and leadership, can be done."
D.C. Congressional Del. Walter E. Fauntory, who has adopted Tucker as his personal political protege and tried unsuccessfully to keep council member Marion Barry out of the mayor's race to improve Tucker's chances, was one the candidate's most fervent cheerleaders at the rally.
Fauntory sat with Tucker's family and City Council member Willie J. Hardy (D. Ward 7), and shrieked with delight after some of Tucker's stronger verbal attacks on Mayor Washington and virtually led the applause for himself when Tucker introduced him at the beginning of the rally.
D.C. Democratic State Committee Chairman Robert B. Washington Jr., who is chairman of the executive committee of the Tucker organization, was also on hand, along with the local party's national committeeman. John W. Hechinger, and national committeewoman Sharon Pratt Dixon Council member Nadine P. Winter (D. Ward 6) also stopped by the campaign office.
Tucker acknowledges that in this campaign there appear to be few - if any - hard issues now separating him from the two major candidates in the race, Mayor Washington and council member Barry.
Everybody's going to try to reduce unemployment: everybody's going to try to solve the housing problem; everybody's goint to want better schools," he said in an interview last week.
Barry and Tucker both seem to be battling mostly at this point over image and identification in an attempt to isolate themselves from the closely entwined political pasts they have shared with one another and the mayor.
In 1974, for example, Washington and Tucker endorsed one another and ran parallel campaigns. Both also held ranking offices in the pre-home rule city government, Tucker as vice president of the appointed City Council and Washington as mayor-commissioner.
In addition, many citizens critical of city government, have not drawn a distinction between the executive branch, headed by the mayor, the legislative branch, headed by Tucker, and other members of the legislative branch, among whom is Barry.
Morever, in 1976, both Barry and Tucker joined with Fauntroy in a united effort to wrest control of the local Democratic organization. Running a largely anti-Walter Washington campaign, they succeeded, but in so doing formed a common political base that is now being split by the Tucker-Barry rivalry for mayor.
Tucker's strategy, as evidence in both the message and events of yesterday's campaign kickoff is to place political distance between himself and the mayor. At the same time Tucker is bidding for the support of those who are against Washington, arguing that he (Tucker) is more experienced and qualified than Barry.
"The bottom line is going to be who is going to be able to do it (implement programs) best," he said. "In that regard, myself and Marion have the edge. Between Marion Barry and Sterling Tucker, who will be best able to implement sound programs? Walter Washington already has a bad record there."
In the three months since informally announcing his candidancy Jan. 18. Tucker has spent much of his time in more than 100 small meetings, trying to develop an organization and making face-to-face contact with potential voters, contributors and campaign volunteers.
One suchmeeting was held last week at the Beelman Place town house of Dorothy Mann, whose siter-in-law, Mazie Holland, has given several such gatherings for Tucker. It is those kinds of small and more intimate affairs that are often the back-bone of political campaigns.
About two dozen persons were on hand, sipping wine, sitting around the oriental rugs, when Tucker arrived, shaking each and every hand and then touting his own candidacy for more than half an hour.
Later in the week, Tucker was at Sousa Junior High in Southeast to present membership certificates to new inductees into the Sousa Junior High chapter of the National Junior Honor Society.
None of the children were old enough to vote, but their parents were. Some were on hand to see Tucker, and others would see him in the more than a dozen snapshots that were taken as the council chairman gave certificates to each honoree.
After the program , J.J. Elliott, the school's assistant principal, asked the seventh graders to stay afterward for a lesson in city government from Tucker. "You're going to see Mr. Tucker's name in the newspapers a lot between now and next fall," she said. "I want you to be able to say 'I saw him,' because one day depending on how your parents vote, Mr. Tucker may be the next mayor of the city and you can say you saw him."
Then Tucker gave his lesson on D.C. city government and home rule. "It's important for your parents and your older brothers and sisters to vote," he said at its end. "On Sept. 12, there is going to be a very important election and you ought to encourage your parents to get registered and vote."
In addition to Tucker, Barry and Washington (who has yet to announce his candidancy), the other candidates in the Democratic primary are John L. Ray. Dorothy Maultsby, Charles S. (Turmmie) Cain and Richard A. Jackson.