The Rev. Douglas E. Moore was in the pulpit, shouting and whispering, praying and appealing to Christ, the congregation and the memory of the late Adam Clayton Powell to deliver him from his enemies, to place him in the loving arms of righteousness and to make him chairman of the D.C. City Council.
Moore raised his hands and reached out to let the good people of the church know he fears no evil from his opposition in the Democratic primary, Arrington Dixon. In the eyes of God, Moore asked, what does it matter if Dixon is hinting that he is "unstable" and prodding voters to remember that Moore is the man under court order to see a psychiatrist for biting a tow truck driver? Douglas Moore need not worry, he told the congregation in a soothing voice, because "they said Christ was crazy, too . . ."
"Amen" said the middle-aged man in the front row.
As Moore stood in the pulpit of Saint John Baptist Church in far Southeast - a tiny wood-frame church where plastic-covered kitchen-table chairs are used to seat the choir - he was in communion with Washingtonians who love him dearly; those who have come here with their fiery pride in God and country and a love for the good preacher or politician who can shake the devil from their souls and show them the way.
"We made more progress in education and racial rights when Adam Clayton Powell was alive than at any other time," Moore told his audience. "But all they say about Adam Clayton Powell is that he had two wives, smoked cigarettes and drank wine. I call that majoring in minors."
One of the gospel singers began waving her large arms in the air and rocking, singing out, "talk to them, Reverend."
The preacher turned prophet: "I'm telling you, you'd better watch out, because one day you'll wake up and your son will walk in with a man and say, 'Mama, this is my wife.' . . . That's what could happen under a bill my opponent proposed."
Everyone was standing now, clapping and slapping the wooden benches in an ecstasy of appreciation. Douglas Moore, candidate, was touching the right political issues for his audiences the damnation of gay rights, gambling and marijuana.
Indications in a June Washington Post poll are that Moore is trailing by more than 2-to-1 in the race to be head of the city council even though his opponent is not as well known as he is and may be wide open to attack as a candidate financially supported by the affluent and the white in a solidly middle-class black town.
Moore's poor showing in the poll comes in the wake of his much-publicized behavior that included biting a two truck driver, driving a car with illegal license tags, throwing a rock through a woman's window, and defaulting on a loan.
"Arrington [Dixon] couldn't come near Doug if it wasn't for the anti-Doug Moore feeling in town," said Phil Watson, one of Moore's political advisers and the man who managed Moore's 1974 race for a city council at-large seat. Moore won that race with more votes than any of the other 16 candidates, including Marion Berry.
But since the 1974 pace and the unusual incidents that have prompted questions about Moore's mental health, even Watson has called Moore "an embarassment to himself." According to the Post poll, Moore has blacks and whites, rich and poor, young and old unhappy with his behavior.
But Moore has not given up. He calls the Post poll unreliable and argues that the Post is part of a big business conspiracy to get him out of city politics. He is campaigning on an "I'll-take-my-case-to-the-people" platform, attending 'every barbecue, house party, every gathering, sporting a new three-piece suit, and a serious manner and making it clear to everyone he talks to that he is another persecuted black leader, like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr., being vilified by the big-money powers and the press.
And Moore is seeking to make it clear to audiences across the city that he is the candidate for the small, struggling black man.
The Dixon-Moore race has become, in some respects, a fight among two black candidates pitting one stratum of Washington blacks against another for the chairmanship of the city council. Both candidates are seeking to use class identity to get votes for themselves.
Dixon and his wife, Sharon, say that the Dixon campaign is focused on over-40ish blacks who are embarrassed by Moore's behavior; they remember the humiliation of segregation and are anxious to prove that blacks are first-class citizens. By way of illustration, Sharon Dixon says her grandmother will not vote for anyone whose behavior embarasses her.
Moore identifies himself with less affluent blacks who, he says are having their homes threatened by real estate companies - some of whom support Dixon - and by the influx of young whites looking for homes to restore.
At the same time, Moore compares himself favorably with Dixon in terms of social caste by pointing out that his father was a high school principal with a college degree while Dixon's was a Southeast janitor, that he has a theological degree from Boston University while Dixon supposedly won his law degree at night school with poor grades and never was admittedly to the bar.
"We (the Moore family) are aristocracy not bushee bourgeois)," Moore said, leaving the listener to imagine who he might be comparing himself with. "Aristocracy has got nothing to do with money. It is class, understanding and commitment."
As Moore talked, he scooped crumpled bits of cornbread out of a glass of buttermilk.
"Now a bushee would be ashamed to let you see him eating this," he said, "but my daddy liked it, he ate it and I eat it."
Moore tells voters that Dixon is the candidate of the real estate speculators and the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, both of whom want to turn 'all of Washington into a Georgetown" and "push us out of our houses." He charges that Dixon's campaign coffers are being filled with money largely from the Board of Trade and real estate interests.
If he is elected, Moore promises a rent control plan that limits rent increases to once a year, tied to the inflation rate; a mortorium on condominium conversions to stablilize the rental market; and laws that make it more difficult for speculators to make money in the city housing market.
His ultimate goal, Moore said, is to eliminate landlords through cooperative ownership of apartment buildings by tenants and tax breaks that encourage home ownership.
Moore constantly refers to documentation in his book, "The Buying and Selling of the D.C. City Council," a compendium of council bills, private memos, and newspaper articles that the offers as proof that the city council serves the interests of big business and not the ordinary citizen.
Using the book, which he claims "sold out" its first printing of 2,000 copies, and other documents he is quick to produce, Moore projects himself as a man who has studied the DIC government inside and out with what he frequently calls his "analytical mind."
Advertising himself as the "unbossed and unbought," candidate, Moore hopes voters will come to see him as the indispensable guardian of the little man's "self-interest" in Washington.
It is a constituency according to campaign strategist Watson, that Moore has been building since 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and Moore decided that being a French-speaking theologian was less important than being a self-proclaimed crusader for the rights of low-income urban blacks.
The constituency grew as Moore, dressed in black leather coats, dashikis and sunglasses, became a well-known Washington activist, staging public protests against increases in bus fares, battling for a higher wage for laundry workers, fighting for H Street stores to keep their membership in a credit card group and using the United Black front, which Moore headed, to get more blacks hired by television stations.
It is a constituency, Watson said, based in churches, black fraternal organizations, and labor unions.
But that constituency, Watson added, cannot be counted out to vote in large enough numbers to assure a Moore victory in any campaign.
To firm up his support for the September election Moore has been seeking to attract a slightly different constituency - middle-class, church-going blacks, many of whom are Walter Washington supporters - with fundamentalist stances on such issues as oppostion to gun control, abortion, gay rights and decrimination of marijuana.
"You have to understand that blacks who have come up to D.C. from the South are very patriotic people, it is ingrained in them, they are all mom-and-apple-pie," said Watson. "The fringe militants aren't voting and the back-to-Africa people are abstaining as a protest. So when you get an issue like gays, you have to understand that there are no gays in the black community, there are only sissies and fags. And black people don't want them out of the closet."
Although Moore is not running on a unified slate with Washington, both candidates share the endorsements of the Central Labor Council and often appear together. Moore describes the mayor as the only one of the three major mayoral candidates with "integrity."
And despite what is often seen as a racist undercurrent in Moore's statements, he said he is expecting support from whites, such as the residents of McLean Gardens whom he helped to obtain a 90-day respite from an eviction order issued by a developer who is turning the apartment complex into a condominium.
One day last week as he was walking out of the District Building, Moore met a woman who turned out to be a supporter. Dressed in bedroom slippers and with three small children running ahead of her, she started telling Doug Moore what he'd better do: "Don't you be getting up there and letting the white man tell you what to do like some of those other ones," she said. "You better use you nappy head 'cause the rest of them forget about everybody but themselves once they get somewhere . . "
"You give me the chance," said Moore.