Many residents of Ward 4 are well-educated and upper-income. There are doctors, lawyers, dentists and school administrators of independent mind. It is a ward of stable neighborhoods with lots of homeowners, from the upper crust bastions of Shepherd Park and the Gold Coast to the middle-income backbone communities of Petworth and Brightwood.
Ward 4, the upper tip of Northwest Washington, is perhaps the last place where one would expect to find a political machine. Big city machines, such as those in places like Chicago, New York and Baltimore, have often been strongest in moderate-income and blue collar wards.
Still, bossism and machine politics -- the "in" accusations of the current phase of District politics -- have become the war cry of a coalition of Ward 4 Democrats scrambling for power in next week's neighborhood elections. They have formed a united front in their latest effort to end their own recurring political losses and pluck a jewel from the crown of City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, whom they perceive to be the king of Ward 4 politics.
In many respects, Tuesday's elections for officers of the Ward 4 Democrats and a seat on the D. C. Democratic State Committee are a sequel to the May 1 special election for the Ward 4 seat on the City Council. That contest was won by psychologist Charlene Drew Jarvis, the candidate endorsed by Dixon.
The present alliance consists largely of persons who ran against Jarvis and lost. Their major opposition is a pair of candidates running with Jarvis's backing.
It is a confrontation that epitomizes Mayor Marion Barry's characterization of the ward as a place of "all chiefs and no Indians," where with every election there is a veritable tribal warfare to snatch the meager political spoils of a city with limited home rule and a few prestigious offices available.
One group of Democrats is squaring off against another, and each side includes some of the best-known politicians and would-be politicians in the ward.
One winner will hold a seat on the 70-member state committee, which sets policy and fills interim City Council vacancies created by the departure of Democratic incumbents. The other will be president of the ward Democratic club, which some see as a potentially powerful force in District politics. Washington is an overwhelmingly Democratic town, and Ward 4 has more registered and regularly voting Democrats than any other ward in the city.
And don't count Barry out of this one. Some political operatives in the ward think the mayor, ever-anxious to expand his own political base, is trying to take advantage of the divisions -- if not in fact make them wider -- and thereby enhance his own fragile position in this politically important ward.
Here's how the sides line up for the elections, which are to be held at the Peoples Congregational Church.
Jarvis has endorsed history teacher Janette Harris for the state committee seat and Doris Mccannon for reelection as Democratic club president. Because Jarvis is a political ally of Dixon, Harris and McCannon have been labeled as agents of a Dixon-Jarvis axis out to dominate politics in the ward.
Their head-on opponents are former mayoral candidate Dorothy M. Maultsby, who is running for the state committee seat, and former Dixon aide Barry Campbell, who is seeking the club presidency. Maultsby and Campbell were among the 13 candidates who vied with Jarvis in the May 1 contest to replace Dixon on the council.
Five more Jarvis foes from that election -- Richard Clark, Norman Neverson, William Revely, Nathaniel Simms and Mary Prahinski -- have joined Maultsby and Campbell as a slate of "Ward 4 Democrats for Community Involvement." They are seeking other, lower offices in the club.
Also part of the slate are two of Barry's most prominent workers in the ward, Garfinckel's vice-president Joseph B. Carter and city school administrator Ethel D. Lee, giving the slate a certain Barryesque flavor.
"We're against the bossims and cronyism on the part of some of our politicans," said Maultsby. (Jarvis, Dixon and Dixon's wife Sharon, the Democratic National Committee-woman, are the major politicians in the ward.) "It was not organized as a defense against Arrington Dixon," she said. "But it is against bossism. We don't need a machine in Ward 4."
Dixon had no comment.Jarvis said she is not trying to "take over anything" and is not "spoiling for a fight." Phil Pannell, an active member of the ward club who is supporting the same two supported by Jarvis, called it a case of sour grapes.
"We have a group of losers who are deeply resentful of the fact that Charlene won because she was more organized," Pannell said, "and a group that feels Arrington has to be taught a lesson."
Beyond the names and accusatory rhetoric, several of the candidates have tangled political pasts, exemplifying the axiom that in politics some of the best friendships are formed among people with common enemies.
Maultsby, for example, ran against Barry for mayor in last year's Democratic primary campaign. Campbell, her slate mate in this election, supported Barry in that same election and prtly because of that was a loose from his job as manager of Dixon's then campaign for City Council chairman. Dixon endorsed one of Barry's other opponents.
Harris, who is opposing Maultsby for the state committee slot, was one of Maultsby's hardest workers earlier this year when Maultsby ran against Jarvis, Campbell and the others for the Ward 4 City Council seat. McCannon, who is opposing the Maulsby-headed slate, also worked for Maultsby during the May 1 campaign.
Tuesday's elections are only the latest chapter in a continuing Ward 4 political saga that seems to feature the same repertory company interchanging roles.
The next reprise is likely to come this fall, when Victoria T. Street's term expires and Ward 4 voters have to select a school board representative. Look for Pannell as one of the returning stars. He's already picked up his petitions to be a candidate in that race.