Beyond the well-publicized campaign of the front-runners, the contest to win an at-large seat on the City Coungil in Tuesday's special election is a montage of frustration, disappointment, self-proclaimed grass roots rebellion and folksy humor:
Employment specialist Richard Blanks Sr. has discovered that he has the perfect name for a candidate in this race. "Fill the Empty Seat with Blanks" is his political refrain, punctuated by Blanks' acknowlegement that, "I believe in mircales.
Planner Hector Rodriguez says his is a campaign for racial unity in the city. One argument Rodriguez makes as to why he should become the first Latino ever elected to the council: "If another black brother is elected," he said recently, "what difference will it make?"
Warren A. Hemphill Sr., a city parole officer running as an independent, thinks politics under home rule has become a closed corporation of political chums and cronies who have turned their backs as the poor are being evicted from the city. "This may be the last time around," he warned a Southeast Washington audience, "unless you're making $60,000 a year or better."
U.S. Labor Party candidate Stuart D. Rosenblatt is a hard-line prophet of doom. "The problem is all of you out there," Rosenblatt told one audience last week. "You're the problem to the extent that you've sat back and not put the U.S. Labor Party in office.
There are nine candidates besides lawyer John Ray and former council member Douglas E. Moore, the acknowledged front-runners, vying to fill the at-large vacancy created by Marion Barry's election as mayor last year.
Besides Blanks, Hemphill, Rosenblatt and Rodriguez, they are real estate saleswoman Frannie Goldman, security consultant Lin Covington, retired Air Force sergeant H. Chris Brown, administrator David G. Harris and businessman Jackson R. Champion.
Their campaign chests are small. Few have campaign staffs or offices, media advertising or the endorsement of big-name politicians. By most traditional barometers of political strength, they are given little chance of winning.
But with a small turnout-less than 20 percent of the city's 250,750 registered votes-expected to take part in the election, the scattered votes given the other candidates could afffect the outcome and make the winning plurality small.
Four of the candidates have sought office before, including Rodriguez, a 36-year-old Puerto Rican, who ran in last year's Democratic primary for an at-large councel seat. He has been endorsed this time by the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gay Men and groups representing Spanish-speaking contractors and ministers.
Rodriguez is pitching his campaign to "consumer-taxpayers" in the city, and has strongly criticized as ineffective the operations of the D.C. Office of Consumer Affairs. He has called for the resignation of its director, Bettie J. Robinson.
Rodriguez also proposes doubling the budget for the school system, putting more stress on private businesses rather than the government to create additional jobs and free hot meals and Metro transportation for the elderly.
Hemphill, 43, ran as an independent in last fall's elections and is running as an independent again, he said, because the Democrat-dominated District has become a city under "one-party rule."
"We have a machine," he said, and criticized the City Council for its failure to place a moratorium on the conversion of apartments to condominiums. As an independent, said Hemphill, associate pastor of Bunton Institutional Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, he is "unbought, unbossed and unbiased."
Rosenblatt, 28, is director of the Labor Party's Washington office and has run unsuccessfully in the past for school board and City Council. His basic political pitch is a campaign against drugs and an effort to turn around the national economy.
Champion, 56, has run for mayor and City Council before. He has run as a Repblican and is now running as an independent. "Jack Champion has not won an election but Jach Champion has brought forth the issues," he told a recent candidates' forum.
"My bottom line is money. If you don't have no money, you can't provide no jobs, you can't provide no housing," he said. Champion is in favor of legalized gambling, decriminalization of marijuana and "whatever it takes to give our youth an opportunity to participate."
Among the newcomers is Frannie Goldman, 38, a real estate broker who lives in the Dupont Circle area. Her campaign literature underscores the fact that she is a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago with two children attending D.C. public schools.
Much of Goldman's platform is aimed at solving nagging city problems, such as improving the water billing system, changing the real estate tax assessment system, phasing out rent control and increasing rent subsidies to low income and elderly tenants.
She also wants to stop pollution of Rock Creek and the Potomac River, adopt stronger auto emission controls and expand the use of public transportation.
Lin Covington, 43, thinks much of the grass-roots consciousness of the former community activists now on the City Council vanished behind the clink of cocktail glasses in corporate board rooms.
"I was a 9th-grade dropout until I was 36," he told one audience, "and I've worked every community groups in this country . . . You're going to have to have someone who has suffered all the wounds of this city in order to get to the problems of the city."
His is a "people's agenda," Covington says, and would include setting up a record pressing plant in Anacostia to provide jobs for persons in that area.
When Blanks, 35, is out on the campaign trail, he holds his outstretched palm to his vest sometimes and asks all those in the audience who believe in miracles to raise their hands. Some do.
For him, employment and education are the key issues in the campaign. If elected, he said, he would be a "predictable" legislator.
Brown's full name is Christopher Hosea Brown, but he will appear on the ballot as H. Chris Brown. volunteer worker for the National Air and Space Museum since retiring, Brown approach to solving the city's problems.
Like many of the candidates, he has a catchy campaign slogan-PASS-which he said stands for Progressing, Advancing, Serving and Success. Brown is 60.
Harris, 40, is directing most of the political fire in his campaign at the city's bureaucracy, which he contends is woefully inefficient and unresponsive. "They sit down there and smoke cigarettes and drink office," he said of some city workers.
Promising to investigate the government rather than legislate if he is elected, his campaign slogan is "Harris Them."
"I'm not a radical by any means," Harris told an audience last week. "The reason I joined this campaign is because I'm tired of hearing all this rhetoric."