D.C. City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon said yesterday that he intends to seek reelection this year instead of jumping into the crowded scramble of District politicians planning to run for mayor.
"This decision is not one made hastily," Dixon told reporters in his first floor office in the District building during a regularly scheduled press briefing. "But after reaching it, I am making it with a lot of joy.
"I view it as a tough job but I enjoy it and would like to build upon what I've learned," he said. "This is not done in my self-interest, but in the interest of the community. My experience will allow me to build a more independent council and allow the council to be of even better service to the community."
Dixon's announcement had the dual effect of taking him out of the mayor's race just as the first cut is about to be made in the field of candidates, and of allowing him to stake early claim to the chairman's job, a highprofile post to which he was first elected in 1978.
Dixon, 39, insisted yesterday that he had never tested his strength as a candidate for mayor, although last year, a poll paid for through the constituent service fund in his office surveyed the views of city residents on major issues and found that jobs, education and crime were the top concerns.
Dixon contended at the time that the poll had no political significance, even though soon afterwards he took a leading role in the highly publicized campaign against a proposed education tax credit, and aides close to him insisted privately that he should be considered a possible candidate for mayor.
Dixon said yesterday that his decision to run for reelection as chairman was not related to a pending divorce from Democratic National Committeewoman Sharon Pratt Dixon, his wife of 15 years who was considered his principal political adviser.
Arrington Dixon said that Sharon Dixon continues to support him politically and she has made similar public statements.
However, she also is among the principal persons working on a possible campaign for mayor by Patricia R. Harris, the secretary of Health and Human Services in the Carter administration who preceded Sharon Dixon as Democratic national committeewoman from the District of Columbia.
In addition, Arrington Dixon, the former council member from Ward 4 in upper northwest Washington, shares with Harris and several other potential candidates for mayor a political base among middle-aged, relatively moderate, middle-class and professional blacks, many of whom take pride in identifying themselves as native Washingtonians or long-time city residents.
Moreover, other council members pointed out yesterday, in his three years as chairman of the council, Dixon has had frequent squabbles over committee chairmanships and staff assignments and at times appeared to have only tenuous control over council meetings -- controversy that has tarnished his leadership image.
Dixon said yesterday his reelection campaign would not be part of any political slate, though he claimed the support of most of the announced or potential major candidates for mayor, including Harris, Mayor Marion Barry and former council chairman Sterling Tucker. Dixon said he also has support of nine of the 12 other members of the council and of Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.).
But several council members whom Dixon listed as supporters said they were not supporting him.
"He came by last week to tell me he was running," said Betty Ann Kane (D-At large), who is a candidate for mayor, "and I told him I'm not opposed to him. At the moment I'm not supporting anyone against him, but I don't intend any sort of official endorsement."
Council member John L. Ray (D-At large), another mayoral candidate and a person Dixon included among his supporters, said he has not made up his mind whom he will support for council chairman.
Some of the council members Dixon did not list as supporters of his reelection effort -- Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) and David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) -- gave varying reasons for opposing Dixon.
"The chairman of the couneil," said Winter, "must have the qualities of his leadership in my opinion, such as integrity and honesty. He must be impressive and able to work with other people... He has to be able to represent the council when he speaks at special engagements. I think it has to be a super person. I'm looking around and evaluating who might be running."
The most often mentioned opponent for Dixon is Clarke, who recently fought with Dixon over the council chairman's refusal to let other council members see the council's budget before it was submitted to the mayor.
"I'm considering it," Clarke said of running for the council chairmanship., "I have some criticisms [of Dixon], but I have not made my decision to run or whom to support."