D.C. Council member John A. Wilson, saying he lacked sufficient funds to go on, officially ended his bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor yesterday and became the first major candidate to pull out of the crowded field.
Wilson, a three-term council member from Ward 2 in the inner city whose candidacy had been considered a tenuous one in many political circles, said a lack of support from major campaign donors, press coverage he thought was unfair and a self-described controversial record on the council led to his decision.
He did not immediately endorse any other candidate, and, for the time being, said he had closed the door on the possibility of challenging incumbent Arrington Dixon for the party's nomination for council chairman in the Sept. 14 primary. Wilson's current council term expires in 1984.
Instead, Wilson abandoned his campaign strongly criticizing the five major candidates still in the field.
"This race is full of failures," Wilson said during a press conference at the District Building. "These people have failed at everything they have done. But if you do something in this town, let people know where you stand, it's going to hurt you. That's why most politicans in town take the tack they've taken for the last two years--they don't say nothing about nothing."
When asked whom he considered "failures," Wilson said: "Pride (Inc.) (a self-help group started by Mayor Marion Barry) is closed, and the lady (Patricia Roberts Harris, a cabinet secretary in the Carter administration) worked for a one-term president . . . Not one of the other council members (John Ray, Betty Ann Kane and Charlene Drew Jarvis) have a record of doing anything that comes close to mine."
Wilson said he had alienated potential campaign donors in the real estate industry by consistently opposing abolishment or dilution of the city's rent control laws and by rewriting the city's condominium conversion law to benefit tenants who want to buy their apartments.
He said he lost favor with another group of possible financial backers, the city's black businessmen, by promising to fight to get Asian businessmen included as participants in the sheltered market for contracts let by the District government. To do otherwise, he said, would have been racist.
"The fact that I have the strongest legislative record of any of those running for mayor has proven to be a hindrance rather than a help," Wilson said, adding that in his opinion, there are too many candidates running for mayor and too little money to support them. "Because of these facts, it is clear to me that the mayor's race is impossible for me to win."
Wilson, 38, chairman of the council's finance and revenue committee, announced his campaign for mayor in February, promising to restore public cofidence in the city government.
A supporter of Barry's campaign in 1978 but a frequent detractor of Barry since, Wilson launched his campaign with criticism of Barry's administration as one that tends "not to know what's going on in their own government."
Support for Wilson's candidacy was strongest in his own ward, a racially and economically mixed area of the city that stretches from Foggy Bottom to Shaw and Southwest and includes more than 90 percent of the city's businesses.
Wilson raised an estimated $150,000 toward a campaign that he estimated would cost $500,000, including major campaign contributions from some city businessmen. By contrast, Barry has raised more than $500,000 and Ray, more than $225,000.
At yesterday's news conference, Wilson hinted that one reason he was leaning against running for chairman of the council was because of the recent controversy involving council member David A. Clarke's announcement last week that he would not run for chairman because he had found that many black voters would not support a white candidate against a black incumbent. Clarke, who is white, is expected to announce today that he has reconsidered and now intends to seek the nomination for chairman.
Wilson implied yesterday that because of Clarke's situation, now would not be a good time to announce a candidacy for chairman. "I don't want to be anywhere around that one," Wilson said. "That one is dynamite. The city is more racially polarized than ever."