Beverly J. Schwarz, a loser in her bid this month to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, returned home to Fairfax County yesterday to find a letter from the president of the United States.
Schwarz, who'd been traveling in the Gulf of Mexico, sat down in her living room with the letter.
"Congratulations on your election!," it began.
"I look forward to working with you in the years ahead and send my best wishes to you and those who helped you achieve this great victory.
"With best regards,
And then the president signed his name. Jimmy Carter.
"I grinned," said Schwarz yesterday. "Then I laughed. I think I probably giggled."
Schwarz is one of at least eight losing Democratic legislative candidates in Northern Virginia who have received letters from President Carter in the last two weeks congratulating them on their "great victory."
"Oh, god, He (the president) sent me one too, poor man, said Kenneth R. Plum, who lost his seat in the House of Delegates to a Republican. "I wasn't going to put out the word on him because I feel very strongly that the president has more on his mind than to worry about sending a letter to me."
But, Plum said, since the other losers have admitted they got similar letters he would, too.
Associate White House Press Secretary Claudia Townsend said yesterday, "obviously we got a bad list." She said she didn't know where it came from and observed: "Maybe it was wishful thinking on the part of the person who made it up."
The eight defeated Democrats, who are from legislative districts covering the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax and Fairfax County, said yesterday they considered their letters collectors items and would treat them accordingly.
Jane King, a Mount Vernon-area candidate and a loser, said she planned to frame her letter and hang it in the bathroom.
Gary P. Eklund, a Democrat who bitterly attacked Republican incumbent Del. Martin H. Perper before losing to him, said he is going to make a copy of the letter and send it to "Perper and tell him to get the hell out of my seat."
The letter that went to Barbara W. Weiss of Vienna has become something of a joke at the Government Finance Research Center on K Street in Washington where Weiss works as a reserach assistant. Weiss, who had suffered her second consecutive defeat in the delegate race, posted the letter on a bulletin board there.
"I was a little sad that the White House couldn't have gotten these lists straight," Weiss said.
Those Democrats yesterday who weren't chuckling over the letters said they thought the mistake typical of the Carter presidency, which, they said, hasn't paid much attention to Virginia.
"I think that this is pretty sad," said Del. Dorothy S. McDiarmid (D-Fairfax), the only Democrat in the 18th House District who was reelected and who deservedly received one of the congratulatory letters.
"(These letters) show how closely Carter is in touch with what's happening in Virginia," McDiarmid said. She said the White House has been tardy in responding to her letters about the needs of her constituents in northern Fairfax.
The letter graffe in Northern Virginia is the most recent of several goofs involving White House communications.
A man who sent his war medals to the White House to protest Carter's pardon of Vietnam war draft evaders was mailed a letter thanking him for his "thoughtfulness."
Carter in 1976 called the wrong Milton Friedman to congratulate him on winning the Nobel Prize for economics. The president-elect had intended to call Milton Friedman, the economist, but instead reached Milton Friedman, a speechwriter for former president Gerald Ford.
Yesterday, defeated Democrat Charles E. Kaufman, of northern Fairfax, said the letter mixup appears "typical of what has been going on down there at the White House. It's one of those things where you sorta shake your head."