Ward 6, the portion of the city that stretches from the $150,000 restored Victorian townhouses standing in the shadows of the Capitol to the projects of the poor in Southeast, is living up to its image as one of the city's most diverse areas with the crop of candidates seeking this year's Democratic nomination for the ward's City Council seat.
One candidate, George Gurley, is a self-described rebel and community activist who believes that there is a plan being carried out to move low-income people out of Washington - and he wants it stopped. Another, the Rev. David Hall, is directing his campaign as the "people's candidate" from a jail cell, where he is serving time for writing bad checks.
The incumbent, Nadine P. Winter, who has a highly visible role as chairwoman of the Council's Committee on Housing and Urban Development, prides herself on her housing record and the services she has helped provide for the ward - and it is precisely that record which her opponents are quickest to attack.
The fourth candidate, Patricia Rice Press, stresses her business and management skills, and says one of the first things she would do if elected would be to establish a working relationship with other council members and the executive branch-relationships she says Winter hasn't bother to develop.
Press seems to be attracting the support of many of the "new," more affluent Ward 6 residents who don't like Winter's record or political style. Press opponents frequently characterize her as a speculator, a label that holds negative connotations in a ward where many longtime residents are being evicted and displaced. It is a label that Press denies.
The candidates do share some similarities. All four are black in a ward that has experiencing a change in racial balance during this decade. According to city estimates, the population of Ward 6 has decreased 9 to 10 percent - down to about 85,700 - since 1970, as restoration fever has spread. Most of the candidates interviewed agreed that residents of Ward 6, which has more rowhouses than any other ward, have great concerns about housing problems, high unemployments, poor schools, a lack of city services and the economic and social mix of their neighborhoods.
"Anacostia has always been the dumping ground," explained the Rev. George Stallings, pastor of St. Teresa's. "People here are very despondent, very doubtful. They see the political system as not serving their needs and have become apathetic. But the only way we're going to change conditions is by working through the system."
Stallings said he is leaning toward supporting Winter for reelection. "She's a working council person, and faithful to her office. She's a fighter, a strongly convicted woman. I feel she's provided services to the ward," he said. "She has a good public image, though she's suffered over the job that her son, Alan, got. But she'll get over that."
Winter's son, Alan, became embroiled in the controversy over the alleged abuses of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). Alan was working as a computer specialist on the council's administrative staff, paid with CETA funds. A Department of Labor report last month said the job was a violation of the nepotism rules, although he didn't work under his mother's supervision. Alan is still on the city payroll as an employe of the council's legislative services unit, but no longer receives CETA funds.
Winter said the accusations were "unfair," and that she had nothing to do with her son's hiring. "Alan does not work for me. There is no violation of law," she said.
James E. Nutall, chairman of ANC 6C and recording secretary for the D.C. Democratic Committee, also is supporting Winter for reelection and said most commissioners seem to be doing the same.
Winter is thought by most political observers to be very strong in her bid for reelection, though Press is expected to present a strong challenge. Press seems to be the most active campaigner at this point. Press says she plans to "walk the ward," and her smiling posters have been put up all over the ward. Both women are attending numerous coffees and fundraisers, while Gurley said he is concentrating on campaigning from door-to-door, at bus stops and local grocery stores and has held two major fundraisers.
At a luncheon for about 35 small business executives in the ward given by Press last week, one businessman explained that though he isn't yet committed to any candidate, he is leaning toward Press. He said he felt that she has the sensitivity to deal with impoverished persons as well as the business acumen to help a city that has begun to be revitalized.
Over a plate of cold roast beef and fruit, in a chic Capitol Hill restaurant with hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, James A. Davis said, "Nadine has done as admirable job. She's a fighter from way back ... But D.C. is in another era now. We have to cope with the inner city with problems, but we also have to pragmatically rebuild the city. Pat is in tune to that." Davis, a 10-year Ward 6 resident, owns an advertising firm and is co-owner of a children's clothing store.
Press said in an interview that she considers the ward to be represented by the least respected person on the council - a person "who points out the constant diversity of the ward with no attempt to build on the resources of the ward." Press has promised to aid small businessmen, particularly those in the ward's depressed commercial strips. Press owns a laundromat and operates a real estate firm. Most of her large contributions have come from real estate-related firms or contacts. Winter also lists contributions from the business and real estate industry.
Press, wearing a "Press On" button, said she would help lower-income persons remain in the ward through programs that would enable them to purchase their homes from landlords and through the use of rent supplement programs. Press has been endorsed by the Greater Washington Central Labor Council.
Winter, who won the Democratic primary four years ago with 46 percent of the vote in a field of eight candidates, lists endorsements from the teachers' union, a group of 32 ministers, a group of nurses, businessmen along Good Hope Road SE, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, an association of minority contractors, a medical association political action committee and a group of beauticians that works with youth, called Youth Follies Inc. Among Ward 6 candidates, Winter also received the highest rating by the Gay Activists Alliance, a 10 out of 10. Press received a 7, and Gurley and Hall and received zeroes.
The D. C. Coalition of Black Gay Women and Men endorsed Winter for reelection, but said found Press an acceptable candidate.
Winter, interviewed at her campaign headquarters and surrounded by her magenta-colored posters, said she is "running on my record." She said that during her four years on the council, her office has responded to 4,000 constituent complaints. One of her proudest achievements, she said, has been to get landlord and tenant representative groups "sitting around the table working on bills. If I've done nothing else, I've done that."
Her strength, she said, is that she's an expert on knowing where to go for city services.
George Gurley is retired from the Air Force and is a twice-elected ANC commissioner. Gurley, a tenant who lives in an apartment in a small brick building on 12th Place NE, supported Winter four years ago.
Gurley said that for years he has fought against "people removal," speculation and redlining. Last year, he participated in a demonstration outside Winter's home, carrying a sign saying "Evict Nadine Winter," part of a City Wide Housing Coalition protest of weak rent-control legislation.
Gurley said he experts to win the election because he identifies with residents' problems. "I feel the rats and roaches and high utility bills, the same things they feel," Gurley said."I chose to live here."
Gurley has been endorsed by the Metro Coalition, an organization composed of 31 groups taht are fighting to reduce or remove utility service charges.
Hall has been serving time in jail since March 31. He pleaded guilty last winter to writing about $1,200 in bad checks. Hall said his uncle and campaign secretary are running his campaign for him until he is released.
If elected, Hall said he would propose strong speculators' tax legislation, stronger rent-control measures, would help set up training programs to enable D.C. residents to get building jobs in Washington and would lobby Congress for more funds for the D.C. school system.
At the moment, he has no campaign literature nor fliers or endorsements.
Meanwhile, Anton Wood, a Statehood Party candidate, will be on his party's primary ballot.
Wood, 29, works as a consumer education counselor for the D.C. Office of consumer protection and is a former ANC commissioner in Ward 6. Wood said that he plans to spend about $230 of his won money on the primary election and will focus on getting Statehood Party members to the polls. Since 1972 Wood has been one of the leading critics of the proposal to put a convention center downtown, he said, and has helped represent the consumer interest in utility rate cases before the Public Service Commission.
Wood said he is seeking the Ward 6 seat because he doesn't think Winter has been an effective council member and that he record "lacks good old fashioned imagination" in terms of unemployment, transportation, environmental and housing issues.
Although Wood is unopposed, by law his name must appear on the primary ballot, allowing a challenge by write-in candidates.