In the often intense competition for the ear of Walter Washington, two persons have the most success: Bennetta Bullock Washington, his wife of 37 years, and Julian R. Dugas, Washington's city administrator and former Howard University schoolmate.
Bennetta Washington's biography in "Who's Who in America" is longer than that of the mayor. She is the former principal of Cardozo High School and one of eight children of a prominent black Washington family. She currently is special assistant to the assistant secretary for employment and training at the federal Department of Labor.
Dr. Washington, as many of her admirers refer to the imposing woman with the PhD from Catholic University, is cut from the cloth of strong-willed and independent black women who have fought to overcome racial and sexual discrimination in the professional world.
"If God were a woman," an acquaintance was once quoted as saying, "she'd probably be Bennetta Washington."
It is Mrs. Washington, friends say, who insists that her husband be referred to as "the mayor." She often does so herself, even in his presence. By the mayor's admission, it is also she who is concerned when newspapers quote her husband, holder of 17 honorary degrees, speaking in dialect, as he often does when he lapses into the oratical style of a Baptist preacher.
But Bennetta Washington is more than simply a tutor on social graces for her husband. Those who know him well say she is instrumental in shaping his political and policy outlook.
"It's Bennetta at night," one former acquaintance said, "and Julian during the day."
Dugas, 61, is the sharp-tongued, abrasive and reclusive city administrator, who according to one source, handles "the politics of the bureaucracy" for the mayor and also maintains iron-handed control over city agencies from which businessmen must obtain licenses and permits to operate in the city.
He has forged a tight relationship with the old-line, white money barons of Washington - Leonard B. Doggett Jr., Dominic F. Antonelli Jr., and John W. Stadler, to name a few. That connection has been invaluable to the major in financing campaigns or when making inroads to the business community is essential.
Dugas is considered a political bungler by some in the mayor's inner circle. Yet, he retains Washington's respect, insiders say, because he is not too awed by the mayor's position to speak his mind to him.
James L. Hudson, 38, a southernly urbane lawyer and Morehouse College graduate, is one of a number of younger men cropping up around the mayor in advisory roles.
Hudson was vice chairman of the mayor's 1974 campaign. After the election, his firm, Hudson, Leftwich and Davenpport (now Hudson and Leftwich), was given the coveted contract as the city's bond counsel.
That and his success in dealing with other agencies in the mayor's bureaucracy is establishing his firm as one with good connections to city hall. What he wants out of both the mayor and the city is to see blacks receive a greater part of the action on the city's current building boom.
Six years ago, William Lucy, 45, national secretary of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, fell out with Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.), one of the mayor's arch critics. Now Lucy has established himself as a centterpiece in the mayor's cadre of political advisers.
He was chairman of the 1974 campaign, Washington's unsuccessful candidatcy for Democratic national committeeman in 1976 and is raising money for this year's campaign. Washington has appointed Lucy to a seat on the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission, which recommends judges for city courts.
If Washington wins Tuesday's primary, he will owe much of his success to an old friend from the days of the Alley Dwelling Authority - J.C. Turner, the man many view as "Mr. Labor" in the city. Labor is running a $30,000 separate campaign on the mayor's behalf.
Turner, 62, is general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers and former head of the Greater Washington Central Labor Council.He is credited with being the mayor's mentor on how to deal with organized labor. And organized labor believes Walter Washington has been very good to it.
Ben W. Gilbert's relationship with the mayor dates more than a decade to the days when Gilbert was city editor of The Washington Post. Now 60, he is director of the Municipal Planning Office, and his role as protector of the mayor continues.
The same cannot be said of Joseph P. Yeldell, once the mayor's principal link with neighborhood and community groups and, according to one source, "the best political mind" in Washington's administration. Yeldell, former director of the Department of Human Resources, has faded in influence flowing his indictment by a federal grand jury in April on bribery and conspiracy charges.
Sam Eastman, the mayor's press secretary, also plays an increasingly important political role as a confidant.