The political action arm of the influential Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, the region's dominant business group, yesterday endorsed D.C. City Council member Arrington Dixon for council chairman and real estate executive H. R. Crawford for an at-large seat on the council.
The business group's political action committee immediately sent $1,500 to Dixon's campaign and $1,000 to Crawford 's, the maximum allowed for their respective races, and said that a Board of Trade advertising campaign may be started promoting the two candidates.
Aside from the donations, the endorsements lend an establishment stamp to Dixon's and Crawford's candidacies.The Board of Trade for decades has been the chief spokesman for the city's powerful business community.
The endorsements were the first ever in the 88-year history of the Board of Trade, and reflect the group's continuing attempt to portray itself as an activist in communtiy and political affairs.
Board of Trade president R. Robert Linowes said Dixon and Crawford were endorsed by the group's 11-member political action committee because "in these two races we felt there was a clear difference" between them and their opponents.
Dixon, the Ward 4 representative on the council, is chiefly opposed in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary by Councilman Douglas E. Moore (D-At Large), a longtime antagonist of the city's business community and particularly the Board of Trade. He has tried in his campaign to paint Dixon as a functionary of the board while at the same time telling voters that he is "unbought and unbossed."
Nonetheless, Marsh Marshall, president of the office supply firm M. S. Ginn & Co., and head of the board's D.C. political action committee, said that the endorsement of Dixon was not unanimous.
Asked by one reporter at a press conference if Dixon was "owned " by the Board of Trade, Marshall replied: "everybody knows it's not true."
He said Dixon was endorsed becaude of "his keen sense of the problems of the city" and because he had been "open-minded in his judgements rather than one-sided." He also cited Dixon's sponsorship of the bill now in the council altering the regulations for city workers and a bill now awaiting congressional approval that would make it easier for business executives and others to lobby before the council without registering as lobbyists.
Marshall said that some members of the political action committee supported other candidates in the nine-way at large race, particularly school board member Betty Anne Kane. But he said the majority supported Crawford, largely because of his past experience as an assistant secretary for housing management in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and his continuing involvement in the housing industry in a city where housing is a persistent and pervasive problem.
Dixon'x campaign manager, Vivien Cunningham, said that Dixon welcomes all endorsements. "It just shows that responsible candidate," she said. "That's what endorsements are for."
Moore coulc not be reached for comment.
Crawford said the board's endorsement of him "merely complements the others," such as one given him last week by the Coalition of Black Trade Unions.
"To me it appears to be a group-swell of support," he said. "I had wanted that."
Marshall said the political action committee has not decided whether to endorse any candidate for mayor in the September primary but expects to interview the mayoral contenders and then make a decision. The committee also may endorse candidates in the ward council races, he said.
The committee has raised $11,000 from Board of Trade members for its political action committee so far, including the $2,500 it has sent to Dixon and Crawford.
In addition, however, some members of the Board of Trade have funneled their individual contributions through the political action committee and designated the donations for specific candidates.
Marshall said that under this method a total of $9,500 has been contributed to City Council chairman Sterling Tucker, $6,775 to Mayor Walter E. Washington, and $2,550 to City Councilman Marion Barry, the chief contenders in the mayoral primary.
In addition $7,600 has been sent to Crawford's, $50 to Kane's and $250 to Democratic Council member Nadine P. Winter, who is running for reflection in Ward 6.