D.C. council member John A. Wilson said yesterday the fund-raising efforts for his mayoral campaign have stalled and he may drop out of the race if he does not get a significant influx of money by April 26.
"I really don't know what the future holds right now," Wilson (D-Ward 2) said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I do know that if we continue having the difficulty raising money that we are having right now, there is no way we can possibly stay in the race."
He added, "By the 26th, we'll be at the point where we basically would be creating debts, so I'll have to go one way or the other by then. At this point, it looks like we'll drop out, because I don't see the campaign picking up any momentum and I assume we'll still be having trouble."
If Wilson does leave the race he will be the first announced candidate to do so. Currently, nine candidates are in the race including six well-known ones--Mayor Marion Barry, council members Wilson, Betty Ann Kane, John Ray, and Charlene Drew Jarvis, and former Carter administration cabinet officer Patricia Roberts Harris.
On March 10, when the latest campaign finance reports were filed by candidates, Wilson had collected $107,517. But most of the money had been collected last year, including $31,656 by a Draft John Wilson Committee before July 31.
In the six-week period before the March 10 report Wilson collected only $11,469, a sharp drop from the $64,392 he had reported for the prior reporting period. Wilson said yesterday he needs money to be able to afford broadcast advertising.
"Businessmen gave John some money," said lawyer R. Robert Linowes, a fund-raiser for Barry, "because they like him personally. He's a guy they give mixed reviews. He's a good guy and a pretty good council member, but is he ready to handle the mayor's job? I think most people didn't think so."
Wilson attributed most of his fund-raising trouble to the presence of two candidates he said he had not expected to run: Harris and Jarvis.
"I never thought Harris would come in the race," he said. "I never thought Jarvis would enter the race. I thought it would be a four-person race. There just isn't that kind of money out there to support all these people running for mayor. So what's happening is that people are figuring with all these candidates running around the incumbent is going to be reelected. So they're betting on the incumbent and maybe one or two others."
Wilson said if he does leave the race he is not certain whether he would endorse any of the eight other candidates now in the field for the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.
"I haven't talked about endorsing anybody," he said. "I don't endorse candidates on the basis of friendship. I endorse candidates on the basis of what they do. As far as Barry goes, I don't know what he believes in. I don't know what Patricia Harris believes in. I know Betty Ann Kane because she was a colleague on the council, but I don't know what she would do as mayor. The same with John Ray ."
Wilson said he is still undecided about running for the council chairmanship or an at-large council seat. But if he does leave the mayor's race, he said, he would probably be content to keep his ward seat because he feels that no other council seat would offer him any more visibility or power.
But other candidates and their strategists said they think Wilson is likely to run for the council chairmanship against incumbent Arrington Dixon.
Dixon has no challengers at the moment. Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) was expected to run against Dixon, but he announced last week that he would run instead for an at-large seat. Wilson could possibly agree to endorse a mayoral candidate in exchange for an endorsement for himself in the chairman's race.
With Wilson thinking of leaving the race, the remaining mayoral candidates are likely to go after the support of tenants' groups, which were considered Wilson's main constituency for the mayor's race.