Candidates vying for the Ward 1 City Council seat appear to have divided into two groups. Those who have accelerated their campaign activities and those who are running in neutral.
Incumbent David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) and Democratic challengers Frank Smith Jr. and Calvin O. Wingfield have each increased their personal appearances, telephone work, fundraisers and mailing activity in a last ditch appeal for votes.
Democrat Samuel B. Wallace IV said he has also increased his public apperances.
The dominant issue throughout the ward remains housing. However unemployment, senior citizen needs, crime and drug control have emerged as secondary issues frequently discussed by the candidates.
Antonio Grillo, the Socialist Workers Party candidate, said his campaign activity is now centered around answering questioned from various community groups.
Suzanne Klebe, the U.S. Labor Party candidate could not be reached for comment.
In recent weeks the candidates have met in public forums and privately with labor and civic interest groups to present their platforms.
If elected, they have each pledged their support for rent control, expanded home ownership opportunities, real estate speculation controls, property tax reliefs, jobs, and crime control. Although their ultimate goals are similar their methods on how they would achieve them differ. Their opinions on social issues, such as legalized gambling and drug control, separate them further.
In housing, Clarke supports the idea of a Housing Finance Agency to guarantee loans to low and moderate-income persons who would not otherwise be able to obtain financing. He said the city should provide downpayment money through an Home Purchase Assistance Fund. Clarke also said he favors a different tax rate for businesses and residences so that the commercial property pays at a higher rate.
In the Aug. 24 issue of the Rock Creek Monitor, a community newspaper, the councilmember said he favored eliminating a warranty exemption from the antispeculation tax bill he supported. The warranty exempts from the law anyone who agrees to a two-year warranty on the general good condition of the property.
In the same article, Smith said he favored the warranty to protect the consumer against shoddy renovation work, but recognizes that it could be used to get around the law.
Smith has also said he supports expanding home ownership opportunities by having the city put more of its vacant properties on the market. The homes could then be renovated with federal monies if the city declared more community development (CD) neighborhoods, like the CD area running along 14th Street.
Smith said he favors creating financal programs that encourage low and moderate income cooperative housing under what he calls a "sweat equity" program. Strong tenant associations and neighborhoods development corporations would then advise residents on how to enact these programs, he said.
Wallace said he supports the creation of new public and private housing and stronger rent control amendments to keep landlords from drastically increasing rents after renovations are made.
"No one in the private sector is willing to invest in low-income housing for the poor," he said explaining why government subsidized housing is needed.
Wingfield, said the theme of his campaign is "TECCH": T for lowering taxes, by bringing income producing businesses into the city, such as the Convention Center or legalized gambling; E for revised public education programs; C for closer community involvement between government and civic groups; C for revising the criminal code to provide stricter enforcement, and H for affordable rental and owner occupied housing.
Not everyone wants to, or can, own a home, said Wingfield.
"Some people (in the ward) regard Clarke as a speculator," said Wingfield explaining that ward residents know the councilmember owns two homes in Mount Pleasant. Clarke lives in one and rents the other one.
And "Smith's going through the ward talking about we'll make blacks homeowners. But how many banks will finance a 30-year loan for people over 55 years old? Or a welfare recipient? Or someone who's on social security?People say, who is the man (Smith) fooling," Wingfield said.
Smith has been equally unrelenting in his criticism that his opponents support legalizing gambling and marijuana. He has said he believes their legalization would enhance criminal use among some people.
Clarke clarified his position by explaining he opposes casino gambling but would abide by a public referendum on a lottery. He said he does not support legalizing marijuana but he does favor easing the penalities for personal use of small amounts of marijuana. He said he favors the revision of the city's Uniform Narcotics Act to allow the penalty to reflect the seriousness of the crime.
Wingfield said he supports legalizing marijuana and he believes a state controlled lottery would create more revenue and jobs for unskilled laborers.
"I find a lot of despondency in the community. I don't think there's anyone who really campaigned in this ward," said Smith explaining why he is confident about winning.
In recent weeks he said he and 20 "hardcore" workers out of 70 volunteers have knocked on doors, and campaigned on the streets from 6:30 a.m. until late at night. Accompanying him in many cases has been his 5-year-old son Tarik and his wife Jean, a medical student at George Washington University Medical School.
"We ask (registered voters) if they're supporting me. I'm finding more yesses than no's. And more maybes than anything else.
"There's an easy way and a hard way to win in an election," he continued. "And I'm going to have to do it (win) the hard way."
Before the City Council ended its summer session. Clarke said office responsibilities had encumbered him from personally campaigning often. Now "I'm making more personal appearances, we're putting up posters, and I'm preparing for my election day operations," he said.
In many cases, volunteers begin arriving at the campaign headquarters in Clarke's home before 8 AM, said Jerry Cooper, chairman of the Ward 1 Democrats and a stalwart Clarke volunteer and supporter. Volunteers have mailed out campaign literature, canvass cards, called registered voters, distributed posters and bumper stickers.
Wingfield has attended candidate forums, held block parties, street rallies, fundraisers, and rode through the ward in a sound truck. He said he has about 50 volunteers on the streets and working the telephones.
Wingfield, who is a civil servant and part-time cab driver, said a crew of cabdrivers at Union Station has supported him financially and has agreed to transport voters to the polls on Sept. 12.