The Rev. John Martin was the man-in-the-middle, between Arrington Dixon and the Rev. Douglas Moore on the stage of Ira Aldridge Theater at Howard University. Martin did not move or smile as his opponents for the city council chairmanship debated and ignored him.
But Martin's temper flared when Moore, trying to point at Dixon while looking at the audience, mistakenly began shaking his finger in Martin's face and talking about an opponent who supports homsexual marriages.
Martin tried to grab the microphone from Moore, then started to shout over Moore's tirades against Dixon. But Moore went on, Martin pushed back his chair stood to his full 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and strode toward the moderator, newscaster Paul Berry.
"You tell him to stop pointing at me," said Martin, now pointing at Moore, as Berry shouted for Martin to sit down. "He can't be talking about me, I have nothing to do with homosexuals. I'm not on the council.
Although Martin objected to being caught between Moore and Dixon, It was one of the few times in the race for council chairman that Martin has been the focus of the campaign at all. His two opponents rarely acknowledge him and they almost never attack his political positions or aim barbs at him.
"They don't want to mess with me," Martin said. "They know me and they know (that) I know them. They don't want me to start talking about them. I'm a street fighter . . ."
Martin, who has a deep resonant voice is using his church, Holy Comforter Baptist, as his political base. Rogers Gueory, chairman of the Martin campaign, said 90 percent of the Martin campaign staff belongs to the congregation.
Martin, who has a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry and a master's degree in divinity, mixes his scientific and religious traning intending to his congregation. He claims that through control of the gastrointestinal tract and the will of God he has cured over 4,000 persons of pain within 10 minutes. Martin keeps no medicine in his home and claims to have delivered one of his two children without use of drugs.
Martin has run for public office only once before this race, in 1976 when he was defeated by almost a 3-to-2 margin as he attempted to unseat Marion Barry from an at-large city council position.
Martins's politics are apparently aimed at attracting lower-income voters, many of whom Douglas Moore considers to be his supporters. Martin's message to voters is that over half half of Washington's residents make less than $15,000 yearly and the city government must help them educate their children find housing and pay utility bills.
"You see, you have to look at an overall picture of what is really going on," Martin said at a forum, "165,000 people making less than zero, 200,000 making less than $10,000 . . . what kind of house can you rent in this city making that kind of money, how many children can you educate?"
"Gueory said Martin expects to attract many of the voters who would have backed Moore in a two-way Moore Sixon race.
"Doug isn't the poor man's candidate anymore," said Gueory. "They are laughing at Doug Moore too. Doug is fooling himself by thinking he is deluding people with the rhteoric he's using. I don't think they're going to go for it."
Martin has no strategy for attracting upper-in-come voters, according to Gueory. But Martin is attacking Dixon, who is being supported by many business interests and affluent Washingtonians. Martin tells audiences that Dixon does not have the "organizational," experience to be council chairman.
When Moore and Dixon do deem Martin worthy of mention they dismiss him as politically imexperienced.
"President Carter didn't have experience as president until he was elected," Martin said above charges of being inexperienced. " . . . the central issue I see in this campaign is to find a man worthy of the trust of the masses and with the wisdom and concern to run the government effectively."
To convince voters that he is worthy of trust, Martin often begins speeches by reading sections of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He also reads them a description of the job of council chairman, labeling it "to initiate and moderate."
To deal with other issuse in the campaign, Martin asks voters to trust in what he calls his "total population" approach. Under that plan the city government would run the city with the aim of providing housing, education and better employment for the more than half of the popluation that does not earn more than $15,000.
Martin has no major media campaign. He is running for office on the $400 or so he has collected. He has received no endorsements. Martin is counting on leaflets, posters and being in the top position on the ballot for council chairman to being him to voters" attention.
And John Martin is counting on his deep voice and the fear of God.
" . . . Don't be swayed by the godly rhetoric of my opponent on the left and the noise of my opponent on the right. Vote forJohn G. Martin," he said referring to Dixon and Moore, respectively.