Once upon a time, in a strange and unenchanted land, there lived a political party.
It refused to endorse most of the candidates running for election under its banner. One of the candidates said he didn't want the party's support anyway. He ended up on the ballot for two offices in the same election.
Another candidate won his party primary on the strength of a single write-in vote. Five other people had all received more votes, but they belonged to the wrong party and were disqualified.
A fairy tale? No. This is the true story of the District of Columbia Republican Party and its bizzare (mis)fortunes as it moves toward Tuesday's general election.
Outnumbered 9 to 1 by registered Democrats in the city, the Republicans' small size has contributed to its own electoral oddness in this already politically odd, federally dominated jurisdiction.
Jackson R. Champion, 55, a book publisher and former wig importer, for example, was defeated by former Nixon administration official Arthur Fletcher in the party's Sept. 12 primary for the mayoral nomination. But Champion somehow found himself the leading Republican write-in candidate for three other offices he had not sought - D.C. delegate, City Council chairman and at-large City Council member.
Actually, in all three races several well-known Republicans and Democrats received more write-in votes than Champion did. (He ranked 13th in the at-large Council race behind Fletcher, incumbent Republican City Council member Jerry Moore and 10 Democrats including D.C. school board member Betty Ann Kane, who received 237 write-in votes, according to D.C. Elections Board records. Champion received 13 write-in votes.)
The Democrats, however, were disqualified because of their party affiliation, and the Republicans declined the dominations, leaving Champion at the head of the remaining pack.
Under District law, he could not run for two City Council seats simultaneously. He dropped the council chairmanship nomination but became the official GOP candidate for both the D.C. delegate seat in the House and the large council position.
In the Ward 1 race, Republican David Patten Russell, a 26-year-old office clerk for a law firm, won the GOP nomination with a single write-in vote. Asked if he voted for himself, Russell said, "I'd rather not say."
Ward 1 incumbent David A. Clarke, Democrat, received 66 write-in votes in the same primary. Four other Democrats also received more votes than Russell.
Another 23 persons received one write-in vote each, like Russell, but all were either disqualified as non-Republicans or non-Ward 1 residents or declined the nomination.
Incumbent Clarke, who is seeking reelection calls the situation "ridiculous" and went into court earlier this week seeking an order designating him the nominee of both parties since he was the leading vote getter in both primaries. The Board of Elections contends that Clarke, like all non-Republicans, must be disqualified from consideration in a closed Republican primary. The D.C. Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the issue later this week.
In yet another race, the Ward 6 council contest, Republican Julie Servaites won a ballot position with three write-in votes, while Nadine Winter, the Democratic incumbent who is seeking reelection, received 37 write-in votes in the Republican primary.
The D.C. Republican Committee has refused to support Servaites, Russell or Champion and has formally endorsed only Fletcher and ALexander Cartner, the GOP's Ward 3 City Council candidate.
"We endorsed Fletcher and Cartner because they're the only ones who filed (nominating) petitions to get on the ballot,? committee chairman Paul Hays said yesterday. ". . . The others got on with just a couple of write-in votes."
Champion says he doesn't want party support, either moral or financial. "I don't believe that kind of party campaign funding is necessary," he said. ". . . I'm not spending any money. When people give you money, they're asking for favors."
The Republican Party membership in the District is small and shrinking and receives scant attention from many of the wealthy, nationally known Republicans who live in the city but who have written off the District as a Democratic fiefdom.
The GOP currently has about 21,500 registered voters compared to the Democrats' 195,000. The number of Republicans has dwindled since 1974, in large part, party officials said, because of Watergate. Even registered independents with 27,465 voters on the election rolls, now outnumber Republicans.