H. R. Crawford, the apparent winner in Tuesday's Ward 7 Democratic primary, came before the enthusiastic crowd of supporters at his victor party in the company of an unlikely group of political winners.
There was his campaign manager, former D.C. Human Rights Director James W. Baldwin, who had been criticized as inefficient in his enforcement of the city's antidiscriminatgion laws. There was Joseph J. Yeldell, one-time director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, whose stormy stewardship left the District's largest agency in turmoil.
There was Howard F. Gasaway Sr., recently resigned from the D.C. Department of Recreation, after being convicted of misusing government funds. And there was Crawford, fired from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1976 and long-known as a strict, and sometimes gun-toting landlord who rose to economic security during a controversial career in real estate management.
Crawford's apparent victory in this moderate-minded, mostly black ward of church-going Middle Washington is explained by his campaign supporters and others as a triumph for a diverse group of District residents who greatly fear becoming outsiders in the city's emerging power politics.
They resented the up-and-coming young black professionals, recently moved to the city -- and to ward -- like lawyer Johnny Barnes, the man Crawford defeated in the primary by a mere 143 votes, according to incomplete returns. They held a deep-seated distrust of what they collectively refer to as "the white establishment" -- meaning the city's powerful and predominantly white business community, including the news media -- that they see backing young black politicians like Barnes, whom they considered a virtual enemy.
"Johnny Barnes and these young professionals are guys who have done nothing," said Edward Hancock, former school board member from Ward 7 and U. S. Navy toolsuker, "They want to start off at the top. They don't want to cut their teeth like we had to do."
"He (Crawford) came up through the old established line," Hancock said. "He had to work for what he got. (D.C. Del.) Walter Fauntroy, (Mayor) Marion Barry -- these guys never held a nine-to-five job in their life.
"They lived off government subsidies and government programs."
"If this 140-some votes stands up," Hancock said, "It's going to be a new day in this city. H. R. Crawford is the embodiment of black people in this city, and we finally got one through."
Many blacks in this ward, which makes up the far eastern corner of the city, perceived Crawford as a self-made businessman who succeed -- in spite of system -- and that was an image Crawford proudly wore on his sleeve.
Crawford was apparently able to capitalized on a perception that he had been victimized by a monolithic white establishment much the same as Yeldell. Crawford often evoked Yeldell's name while campaigning, according to Baldwin. "That was one of the planks in the Crawford campaign," Baldwin said, "That he was running for Joe Yeldell."
Despite the fact that nearly all of the District's highest elected officials are black, a broad slice of black Washington residents -- from lawyers, doctors and goverment bureaucrats to clerks, construction workers and the jobless -- contend that their recent gains in political and economic power are largely illusory.
High housing costs, deteriorating public schools and worsening public services are driving blacks out of Washington. They point to the arrival of white "urban pioneers" who are filling the housing vacuum in once-black neighborhoods and altering the balance of power.
Many of these blacks talk of a white-orchestrated "master plan," with persons like Crawford as the main targets. The plan, they suspect, is orchestrated through pitting whites against blacks, and blacks against other blacks by exploiting the vestiges of prejudices that have existed for generations.
"H. R. Crawford is a dark-skinned black person," said Herbert Barksdale, head of United Voters of D.C. Inc., a voter education group. "You can't mistake H. R. for being black, and he is a successful business. Look at a guy like Joe Yeldell. You can tell in no uncertain terms that Joe Yeldell is a black man, and he projects an image of success."
The Rev. A. Knighton Stanley of People's Congressional Church in Northwest Washington agreed. "Both of them (Crawford and Yeldell) are, in terms of skin color, very black -- and they are very mean and very arrogant," he said. "Stokley Carmichael said in the '60s that this society is out to castrate every arrogant black. I believe that."
Privately, the Ward 7 residents often voice resentment of the fact that a generally young group of blacks -- first the former community activists and later, young professionals supported by whites -- have gained a better foothold than they in the half dozen years that the city has had elected politics.
That was part of the case in the Barnes camp, where the chief campaign strategists, like the candidate, were 30ish black lawyers from Georgetown Law School.
Barnes campaign sources privately concede that belief that he was the "master plan" candidate hurt him at the polls. The perception was furthered by the endorsements Barnes received -- from The Washington Post, from Council Chairman Arrington Dixon (who lives in Ward 4), and from the white members of the council -- Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) and Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3).
Barnes sought to indirectly make an issue of Crawford's past highlighting "honesty" and "integrity" his campaign literature and at public forums. But apparently, that tactic failed to have the desired impact.
Crawford got a big boost from organzed labor, especially the Greater Washington Central Labor Council, which endorsed him, ran telephone banks for the campaign and manned the polls for Crawford on election day. Joslyn Williams, who heads the labor council's political arm, said his union took advantage of the "white issue" in their appeal to voters.
"We used it out there," he said, "We used the fact that Barnes had been endorsed by all these people who did not live in the ward and may represent the white affluent class that rules this city."
Another union leader, Geraldine Boykin -- whose union represents 16,000 city workers -- said, "Most leaders in this city who happen to be born black and plan to stay that way are afraid to be leaders, because they know that eventually something will be let out."
"The media is part of big business. It's going to destroy that back leadership," said Boykin, chairman of District Council 20 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes.
Labor, which has suffered a series of political setbacks since endorsing former mayor Walter E. Washington in the 1978 mayor's race, is now reveling in Crawford's apparent victory.
"I think we can now say with certainty to members of the City Council that we have a means to make a difference in this city," Williams said. "What happened to Johnny Barnes could happen to any council member in 1982." "
Crawford was the apparent winner over Barnes and Emily Y. Washington when city election officials completed their count of regular ballots late Tuesday night. However, 344 special ballots and 20 absentees ballots remain to be counted. That counting is expected to begin Tuesday and be completed shortly afterwards.
The number of uncounted votes is larger than the 143-vote difference separating the top two finishers -- Washington was far behind -- but in the past, the special ballots have generally mirrored those counted on election night. Still, Barnes has not yet conceded defeat, and Crawford has maintained a slight reservation about claiming victory.