Challenger Joel Joseph has mounted a spirited attack against Ward 3 City Council member Polly Shackleton and has drawn some sharp comments in reply.
After a slow summer start, Joseph, a 30-year-old lawyer, has berated Shackleton for trying to get free parking near the District Building, supporting a proposed pay raise for council members and not being vigorous enough in getting things accomplished for her ward.
He has also made Shackleton's age, 68, an issue in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
In reply, Shackleton has belittled Joseph's experience and knowledge about city government and derided his campaign slogan - "Joel Joseph Gets Results."
"Like what?" Shackleton said in an interview. "Every law suit he's been involved in has been thrown out of court except for the one where he got the street car tracks covered up in Georgetown after he fell off his bicycle . . .
"I think he got 4 percent of the vote last time he ran against me," she added. "Maybe he'll do a little better this time around."
Shackleton and Joseph are the only two candidates in the ward's Democratic primary in contrast to the five-way race for the same seat in 1974. Shackleton won then with 49 percent of the vote, twice as much as her closest opponent.
Among Republicans, who make up about a quarter of Ward 3 registered voters, there is only one primary candidate, Alexander Cartner, an IBM service representative campaigning for less government spending and lower taxes. Cartner will face the Democratic nominee in the November general election.
Shackleton, long active in liberal Democratic politics and civic groups, was a member of Washington's first appointed City Council in 1967. During her term on the city's first elected council, she has been part of the majority on most major issues, and has headed the council Committee on Human Resources and Aging.
When she decided to run for re-election this year, she got off to a fast start, filing petitions with 4,193 signatures, collecting a campaign fund of about $5,000 and setting up a support committee with about 250 names, including her two closest rivals in the 1974 primary - Kay McGrath and Mary Lela Sherburne.
Joseph, who finished fourth in that primary, didn't pick up nominating petitions until one week before the July 5 deadline; he submitted only 312 signatures.His leaflets and posters were not printed until mid-August, while Shackleton was away on vacation in Vermont.
Since then, Joseph has campaigned energetically, talking to voters at bus stops and supermarkets and starting a direct mail effort in which he hopes to send literature to all 24,000 Democrats registered in the ward.
Joseph said that the mailing is being done in stages with every letter containing a reply envelope for contributions that he hopes will pay for the next wave of mail. The total cost, he said, will be about $4,000. So far, he said, he has raised about $1,000.
The leaflet describes Joseph as a public interest lawyer and emphasizes his proposals to limit property assessment increases to 2 percent a year, impose strict controls on development and require approval by a majority of tenants before an apartment building can be converted to condominiums. Although the leaflet makes no direct mention of Shackleton, it charges that problems in the ward have "either been neglected or dealt with in an outmoded fashion for far too long. The times have changed. It's time for a change."
In an interview, Joseph was harsher. He said that Shackleton's age is "a big issue" in the election because "she's getting less active. A lot of people are telling me it's time that Polly step aside and let the next generation take over . . . A lot of the concepts she's dealing with are stale."
"I'd like him to document that," Shackleton said later. "It just won't fly. Ask all the people I've helped, they'll tell you I'm active . . . A lot of people in the ward are interested in having somebody (on the council) who has experience."
Last week Joseph criticized Shackleton for accumulating a debt of $1,050 for her parking space on city-owned land near the District Building.
Shackleton said she thought the space was free after the City Council voted to provide free parking for its members two years ago. But last week acting Corporation Counsel Louis Robbins said the measure was invalid because the council passed it as a resolution exempt from veto by either the mayor or Congress.
Joseph said council members should not try to give themselves free parking spaces anyway. "I take the bus to work," he said. "If members of the City Council say they believe in mass transit, they should use it. They should set a good example, not carve out little privileges for themselves."
Shackleton described the corporation counsel's opinion as "just a cheap political trick," but she added, "if legally we should pay, of course, I would be happy to do it."
City Council members ought to have free parking spaces, she said, "just like Congress," because they often use their cars for business. For an office holder to ride the bus "is fine," Shackleton said. "It's a nice PR type of thing. But frankly I don't have the time to do it, and it's perfectly obvious that he (Joseph) has no understanding of how council members work."
Joseph said that he also strongly opposes a measure before a council committee to raise the pay of council members from $27,000 to $37,000 a year. The measure is part of a proposal to implement a new civil service system.
"It's high enough already," he said. Shackleton said council members should be paid well enough so that "we don't just get people who can't make money any other way." A $37,000 salary would be "too high," she said, but Shackleton said she "might support a smaller increase."
In her campaign leaflets Shackleton says she's running on her record and emphasizes her support for "equitable tax policies," the commuter parking ban, limiting condominium conversions and keeping massage parlors, pornographic book stores and foreign chanceries out of residential neighborhoods. Shackleton's leaflets describe her as an "implacable foe of shoddy hj-practices and of waste and misgovernment" and an official who has given "scrupulous attention to constituent problems and requests" such as water bills, zoning violations and clogged drains.
Since her petition drive, Shackleton's campaign has included distributing leaflets in shopping centers, local newspaper advertisements and putting up scores of posters. She also is organizing a major effort on election day.
There have been no forums where the candidates have appeared together. Joseph said he has challenged Shackleton to a debate. Last week Shackleton said she hasn't heard from him yet, and even if she does, she won't agree to debate him.
"It's a little late now," she said.
Most of the Democratic activists in Ward 3 are supporting Shackleton and expect her to win by a wide margin.
But Joseph said he has a good chance and thinks his position is strengthened because he is Shackleton's only opponent.