Sara Blunt is tall, blond and lithesome, the wife of a Yale University and Harvard Law School graduate and the daughter of "a member of the board of a large corporation." She went first to Pine Manor College in Wellesley, Mass., then to New York University, where she helped set up day care programs in a Bronx public housing project in her spare time.
That was 10 years ago. Now she's a Georgetowner, 36, with two children, a gold acorn dangling from her necklace along with a big red clay heart on a piece of yarn. She wears a huge gold bracelet, the ends of which are two leopard's heads. It blends with the pastel gold color of her blouse and highlights the yellowish tones in the flower print pattern oif her long red Pakistani peasant skirt.
Sara Blunt did not vote for Mayor Walter E. Washington in last month's Democratic primary.
"He was a benevolent ribbon cutter, a benevolent figurehead who was out of touch with the problels of the city," she says.
Nor did she vote for City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker.
"Sterling would not have been dynamic," she says. "He reminded me of (Richard) Nixon. He ran his campaign that way. He wasn't open. He wasn't down with the people. He was too removed."
So Sara supported, worked and raised money for Marion Barry, the man who won.
"He's very sophisticated and bright. He has a sophisticated style and a sophisticated way of dealing with the problems of the city," she said. "He's straightforward and he projects strong feelings about the things he believes in."
It is the Sara Blunts of the city, many believe, who won the election for Barry. They are young, liberal-minded, well-educated and financially well-off. Like Marion Barry, they have come to this city in the last 10 to 15 years, are under 45 and live in wards 1, 2, 3 or 6. Unlike Barry - but most importantly - these people are while.
To be sure, not all of Barry's votes came from whites. But he ran best in those wards where the white population is either large or growing. White voters were and are a significant portion of his political base. He was the least favored candidate in the largest Democratic wards of the city, all of which have overwhelmingly black populations.
Barry's close and unconventional victory over Washington and Tucker has raised fears in the minds of some blacks that the day is fast approaching when blacks will no longer be at the head of city government. It does not matter that Barry is black, nor is it important to these people that Barry won a respectable portion of the votes in the major black wards of the city.
Marion Barry is being tagged as "the white folks" candidate and his nomination is seen as an ominous sign that black power here, still in its infancy, is already on the wane.
"The grab for power (among black politicians) in this election struck a blow for the master plan," columnist Lillian Wiggins wrote in teh Washington Afro-American. "It was as if all concerned took to heart the idea that this may very well be the last time that a black will occupy the office of mayor."
Ronald Walters, an associate professor of political science at Howard University, doesn't believe Barry can be viewed simply as "the white candidate." But, Walters said, it is "a flexing of white voter power."
Walters sees parallels in Barry's victory and that of a white school board member Betty Ann Kane, in the contest for the Democratic nomination for an at-large seat on the City Council. Kane, like Barry, won by taking wards 1, 2, 3 and 6.
"Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6 are coterminous." Walters said, "with the inner belt of the city, which is synonomous with teh expansion of the white population in the city."
"The thing that put Marion over is he was able to maintain 27 percent in the other wards. So it's not as bald as him being the white candidate.What it does indicate is that you has some blacks who wanted change and voted for Marion.
"But the numbers also indicated that if you have a white person running in the election and you have two black people running of equal status, it would be possible to elect a white mayor."
Barry's image as "the white candidate" is privately cited by some Democrats as their reason for being reluctant to join the Barry camp in the wake of his narrow victory in the primary election.
During the primary, Barry strategists were worried about their candidate being photographed too often with whites and even fretted that black-and-white photos of Barry's wife Effi, a black woman of fair complexion, made it appear as if Barry were married to a white woman - a potential political liability in a town whose bellwether voters are black women.
Barry campaign manager Ivanhoe Donaldson maintains now that he does not see the white label as a major problem for his candidate in the general election. Rather, Donaldson said, that image is primarily a product of news media coverage.
Phil Watson, a Barry supporter who also supported Douglas E. Moore (a black) for City Council chairman and Marie S. Nahikian (a white) for council member at-large, believes an analysis of Barry's victory must be based on more than race. Moreover, he says, the "motley crew" that put Barry on top should be looked at in more detail.
"Marion represents a new, emerging middle-clas that is issue-conscious and would be on the left side of center rather than the right side," Watson said."It's the folks who are saying let's at least consider a (legal) lottery, and are saying let's deal with the gays. (Barry supports gay rights).
"It's the returning whites who are younger, who are taking family money and investing in black areas, who have infiltrated the four wards that Marion won and who are looking forward to moving into (wards) 4, 5 and 7.
"They're cointrmporary city folk. You can't deal with them in the old way. marion's winning means that this new Washington has gained sufficient strength to be reckoned with and not taken for granted."
Another thing about Marion Barry that scares some blacks is his endorsement during the primary by the editorial page of The Washington Post. On Aug. 30, The Post endorsed Barry and followed that endorsement with six more editorials on behalf oif his candidacy during the crucial final days of the campaign.
Barry's supporters credit the editorials with winning support from some undecided voters, primarily middle-class whites and blacks. Yet others cannot help butsee The Post editorials as advocacy journalism on the part of an institution which some blacks have long associated with the established business community and wich they rconsider a bastion of the old pre-home rule order.Moreover, they say, The Post seemed determined to pick the next mayor.
"They almost became his public relations agency and lost a lot of objectivity," Republican nominee Arthur A. Fletcher said after the primary campaign. "I'm delighted to debate and campaign against Mr. Barry. But I just don't want to campaign against that whole cadre of writers at The Washington Post."
There were even some concerns voiced or implied that Barry was the least competent of the candidates and that The Post felt his selection was likely to further embarrass teh city government under black home rule and thereby encourage the return of whites to city hall.
Fletcher, for example, said shortly after the primary, "I wonder if The Washington Post would recommend that Barry become the chief executive officer of The Washington Post with the kind of experience he has?"
Wiggins wrote, "Should candidate Barry be the victor in November, he too will feel the sting of the master plan. . .no matter how good he is. Of course if he falls instead of stumbles. . .that's even better for the master plan.
"The same people who claim to have been responsible for his victory will turn like snakes to see that the last phase of the master plan is implemented.
In the two weeks following the premary, it appeared that such concerns about Barry could hinder his ability to unite city Democrats. But as the feelings of many Democrats have slowly mellowed, there appears to be a new optimism.
"I think Marion is going to be a lot more humane than a lot of people expected," said Herbert Barksdale, co-host of the WOL and and ardent supporter of Mayor Walter E. Washington.
Still, there is a feeling among some political observers that a certain quiet resentment of Barry - what he stands for, what he is and what he is not - could be a significant factor in the solitude of the voting booths on Nov. 7.