Candidates haven't exactly gone on a spending binge in the crowded Ward 5 City Council race, but campaign money has trickled in for most of the 10 office seekers in the Sept. 12 primary. Nine of the candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination. The 10th is a Statehood Party candidate.
With few exceptions, the candidates are relying on small contributions and borrowed funds to finance their vote-getting efforts among the more than 27,000 Democrats and 200 Statehood Party members in the ward.
In a contest that was so close four years ago that fewer than 100 votes would have changed the outcome, many of the candidates are relying on hard, personal campaigning.
"In 78, don't make it 78," said Robert Artisst, using a campaign slogan that refers to the 78 votes he says would have assured his victory in 1974 over William Spaulding, a Democrat who is the incumbent.
Artisst, 42, and seven other Democrats are all trying to oust Spaulding from the Ward 5 seat in the largely Northeast area west of the Anacostia River.
Although he failed last week to file the latest in a series of campaign financial reports required by city law, Artisst said in an earlier interview that he has raised $2,000 to $3,000 in campaign contributions. This figure includes about $700 he has loaned to his campaign committee.
He has spent the money on radio ads, campaign posters, rental of a campaign office in the ward, brochures and bumper stickers.
A commerical artist and a teacher at the University of the District of Columbia, Artisst began official leave from work this week and is spending much of his time campaigning at bus and Metrorail stops and going into residential areas with his mobile trailer and sound equipment. He is a longtime community activist.
Spaulding, 52, a former mechanical engineer and teacher, said he has been spending "considerable time" campaigning and has been receiving donations and holding fundraising receptions since his reelection announcement.
"It's never easy to raise money," not even for an incumbent, Spaulding said. He had "no idea" how much had been raised when asked, but said he had been receiving contributions in small amounts and up to the legal limit of $200 from individuals and $400 from corporations.
Spaulding referred all questions about campaign finances to Frank Braxton, his finanical secretary. Braxton said Spaulding has collected about $2,000 to date, mainly in small contributions throughout the ward.
Although Spaulding was among many candidates who failed to submit up-to-date campaign finance reports to election officials last week, a report filed in late July showed that he had raised about $1,683, with no expenditures listed.
Among his largest campaign contributors were the National Hotel Corporation, which donated $300, and J.C. Associates, a management and real estate investment firm, which contributed $200.
National Hotel did not return a reporter's telephone calls to discuss its contributions. However, Stu Bloch, managing partner of J.C. Associates, said his firm "makes political contributions to a number of candidates we think are competent and have integrity. We don't want anything (in return)."
Bloch said, "It's difficult to judge these things" when choosing candidates for political contributions. He said he had never met Spaulding, but that his investment group felt that he had "worked reasonably well on the council." In a reference to the behavior of some other candidates outside the ward race, he noted Spaulding is "not accused of anything, he hasn't hit anybody with a chair, he hasn't hit anybody."
Robert King, 38, said he is relying on two groups, the 14th Street Project Area Committee (PAC) Ministerial Association and the 14th Street Business Association, to help raise campaign funds. He is on leave of absence from his job as director of social planning for the 14th Street PAC.
His latest finance report showed that he has collected $1,100 so far and spent about $928, but King said the business association has pledged $3,500 and the ministerial association, $2,000.
King said he has contributed about $900 of his own money and expects to receive donations of $1 to $5 from nearly 300 solicitations mailed to supporters around the city.
"I think the race will be very exciting and competitive," said King, who has opened up an office in the ward and is campaigning "seven days a week. Most of the people have made up their minds, and that's the way it's going to be right up until the election."
Bernice Just said she has not projected "an elaborate budget" for her campaign and has not actively solicited contributions from people who know her.
An attorney and a member of the D.C. Law Revision Commission, Just, 57, said she has received small contributions totaling about $695 and doesn't expect to spend more than $1,000.
Just is on leave from her job with the American Friends Serivce Committee. She said that when not "inundated with questionnaires from various special interest groups," she is "going all over the ward" in a door-to-door effort to get votes.
To save rental costs, Just has not opened a campaign office in the ward.
Juanita Kennedy Morgan, 63, is making her second try for the Ward 5 seat. A former elementary school teacher, she failed to file an August campaign report but she has said her campaign has collected under $300 to date.
"Pennies, just pennies," is how Morgan described her fundraising success. "We're not among the big folks. We're getting contributions from friends, just little people with their pennies."
Morgan said she has spent about $2,000 on her campaign so far, much of that loaned to her campaign committee from her own pocket. She said she is going door-to-door and "just hoping the record I've had in the community (as a neighborhood organizer) and the work I've done will bring me through."
Virgil Thompson, 32, said most of the $1,674 he has spent on his campaign has come from a loan, his own savings and members of his campaign committee.
He said he has not solicited any funds from members of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, an organization he described as being clouded with "too much controversy."
Thompson resigned as a security guard for the D.C. Department of Corrections to run for the Ward 5 seat. His major expense has been for printing campaign literature, and his one fundraiser at the Ambassador Hotel "lost money."
He said he has been campaigning hard among the people of his ward and was considering some radio advertising in addition to public service exposure he has had on television.
Roland Rier, 33, has not filed a campaign finance report since June, but the report showed that he had raised about $457 and spent about $968.
A public high school teacher, Rier said he is getting contributions from unions, including the Washington Teachers Union, and private citizens. He was one of nine candidates four years ago for the ward seat.
Since school let out for the summer, Rier said he has spent most of his time in the streets - "campaigning from 6 a.m. in the morning until it gets so dark people won't let me in."
John M. (Jack) Thornton, 64, did not file an August campaign report. A report filed in June showed he had neither collected nor spent any campaign funds.
"My costs are not that large," said Thornton, who ran for the Ward 5 seat in 1974 and has long been active in attempts to roll back utility costs. "If I'm not well enough known by that, I never will be."
Thornton said he has found "a great deal of indifference" among voters about the election but plans to "spend from now until election day" trying to win their support.
Ervin E. Phelps, 27, said in report filed last week that he had collected $50 for his campaign. Out of that he has spent $20.96 to buy a staple gun and staples for putting up election literature and posters.
An employe of the Judd & Detweiler printing firm, Phelps said the company donated $300 worth of printing services for his campaign and that he has contributed $250 of his own money.
"I'm relying on small contributions from people I know," said Phelps, who works as a program developer for the D.C. Public Defender Service and is the pastor and founder of the Universal Congregation of the Meek, an evangelical organization.
Abel said he does not think candidates "have to spend all that money . . . too often there is abuse."
At this point in the campaign, Abel said, "I don't even have a treasurer. I may not get one. And I haven't put out any flyers because I've put myself out there."