School Board member R. Calvin Lockridge, the sharp-tongued, bearded man who once proposed closing most of the predominantly white schools in the city, is an anathema to many Washington voters -- especially those in Ward 3, the affluent, predominantly white section where voter turnout usually is the highest in the city.
The only people who can vote Lockridge out of office in Tuesday's election are those on the other side of town, in Ward 8 in far Southeast Washington, which Lockridge represents on the board. And when he's on the campaign trail, his constituents see mostly a softspoken man in three-piece suits who claims that during the year that he was board president the area had more clout than ever before.
It is an argument that plays well in that often-neglected part of the city with the worst record of voter registration and turnout, and helps to better the odds that Lockridge can be reelected.
This school board campaign has been painted by some as a crusade to "throw-the-rascals-out," and the 25 challengers and many key endorsers have aimed most of their shots at the four incumbents seeking reelection -- Lockridge, at-large member Barbara Lett Simmons and Frank Shaffer-Corona and Ward 2 representative Alaire B. Rieffel. (Ward 3 Board Member Carol L. Schwartz is not running for another term.)
None of the incumbents are quite sitting ducks. Lockridge and Simmons have political savvy and demonstrated caches of support. Simmons was the top vote getter in 1977. Shaffer-Corona has received far more publicity than any other current board member -- though most of the notices have been negative -- and at least has the kind of visibility and name recognition that no challenger can ignore.
Rieffel has the support of the leading politician in her ward, Council member John A. Wilson, and of the ward's gay activists, considered the key voting bloc in some of Ward 2's most important precincts.
The result is an uncertain outcome for the election, the second since 1979's 23-day teacher strike. The strike spotlighted deep-seated factionalism on the 11-member school board and brought many to the conclusion that the board itself was the major impediment to better education in Washington.
In the next election, four new board members were elected. If only three of the five seats on the line in Tuesday's election are filled by newcomers, the board would have a clear majority of people who were not members at the time of the strike.
If all the incumbents are turned out of office, only two members would remain from the school strike board.
Incumbency is still a major issue in the campaign, but in the closing days of the campaign candidates are becoming more specific in the campaign pitches they offer to audiences throughout the city and are sharpening their verbal attacks on their opponents -- incumbents and fellow challengers alike.
In the at-large race, where the top two vote-getters will be elected, incumbent Simmons has aimed her criticism at the challengers she views as her biggest threats -- Frank P. Bolden, the former public schools athletic director and close friend of former Superintendent Vincent E. Reed; Phyllis Young, a founder of the lobbying group Parents United for Full Funding; and the Rev. David H. Eaton, senior minister of All Soul's Church and a close friend of Mayor Marion Barry.
At-large challenger Manuel B. Lopez, chairman of the Adams-Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission, has poked the most at Shaffer-Corona, a fellow Hispanic.
At one recent forum, Lopez, a training coordinator for the U.S. Navy, told the audience he intends to "take international politics out of the realm of the school board," an apparent reference to Shaffer-Corona, who has been criticized for occasional activities involving Cuba and the Middle East -- some of which have been paid for with school board funds.
Sending some of the current board members into the private sector to seek financial support for the schools, Lopez said, "would be like sending Dracula to solicit for the Red Cross."
Lopez has his own problems among many Hispanic leaders, who say he refuses to speak Spanish with them and his assertion that he will not act as a special voice for Hispanics. Shaffer-Corona loudly touts himself as the "only Hispanic on the East Coast elected to statewide office."
In recent days, the at-large challengers have begun criticizing one of their own, Eaton, complaining that he is too political to serve on the nonpartisan school board because of his close association with Barry. The mayor has agreed to sponsor a fundraiser for Eaton.
Some of the at-large candidates complain that Eaton, if elected, would thus be reluctant to fight a $40 million reduction in the board's 1983 budget request that Barry has proposed. Eaton insists his friendship with the mayor "may help the school board. I may be able to persuade him to give more funds to the schools."
In the Ward 8 race, Linda H. Moody, a former aide to Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) and Phinis Jones, a union business agent and former aide to Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), have emerged as the principal challengers to Lockridge.
Initially, Lockridge's often abrasive personality was the main issue in the Ward 8 race, but in the waning stages of the campaign the challengers have turned much of their ammunition on Moody, whose campaign has been well-financed and has garnered several major endorsements.
Some of the candidates took potshots at her former association with Kane, a potential candidate for mayor. Moody countered by saying, "I am beholden to no one." She declined to answer when she was asked whether she would support Kane in her expected bid for mayor, saying it was no one's business but her own.
Lockridge, on the other hand, has steered clear of most concrete issues, concentrating on his experience in key school board posts and claiming to have corrected an imbalance in school facilities between Ward 8 and the rest of the city.
The Ward 3 race has become a fierce and expensive contest between Wanda Washburn, a veteran of many parent-school organizations in the area, and Mary Ann Keeffe, an economist and former head of the ward's Democratic party organization.
Washburn, who says she has spent at least $7,000 on the campaign, has received endorsements from major community groups as well as widespread support from the ward's parent activists and student groups. Keeffe, who has raised more than $12,000, is backed by major political groups and most of the city's Democratic leaders, including Kane and Ward 3 Council member Polly Shackleton.
While Keeffe's supporters maintain that most of Washburn's efforts have been on the "baking cookies" level of school involvement, Washburn insists that Keeffe has spent too much time in the city's "political vineyards" to serve on the school board. Keeffe replies that board members needs political skills.
In Ward 2, R. David Hall, founder of the D.C. Street Academy, an alternative school for dropouts, has become the principal challenger to Rieffel, with Marjorie Maceda, a teacher, appearing to have fewer endorsements and less visible support.
Rieffel says she has been hurt by endorsements and statements that group her with the other incumbents. "This is a cruel joke," Rieffel wrote The Washington Post after it endorsed Hall. "I have as strong an interest as anyone in replacing incompetent board members: I have to work with them on a daily basis!"
Hall has been emphaiszing his efforts with the street academy and criticizing Rieffel for spending too much time on special education programs for handicapped students. Rieffel contends that she supported the academic high school and stiffer promotion standards.
The other at-large candidates are Trummie Cain, a former Cardozo High School teacher; Angie King Corley, a McKinley High School counselor; Dorothy Cresswell, a Hobson Middle School counselor; Andrea Gonzalez, a Metro transit employe; Charlotte Holmes, a budget analyst; Athel Q. Liggins, former principal of McKinley High School; Ernest B. Mercer, principal of Langdon Elementary School; Jonas Milton, housing director of the Southeast Neighborhood House; the Rev. Kathryn Bailey Moore, pastor of Douglas Memorial United Methodist Church; Berlene D. Newhouse, a parent activist; and Edwin C. Parker, a computer analyst.
The other Ward 8 candidates are O.V. Johnson, former member of the Anacostia Community School Board; Absalom F. Jordan Jr., executive secretary to the D.C. Unemployment Compensation Board; Edward H. Moore, pastor of the Life Church of Good Hope; Gordon A. White, associate director of Southeast Neighborhood House.