Residents of Ward 6 in the past have elected both Nadine P. Winter and John Warren to public office. Now, in this year's Democratic City Council primary, they must choose one over the other.
Winter, the incumbent Ward 6 council member, is trying to keep her past supporters and at the same time is wooing important Ward 6 constituencies that did not support her four years ago. Warren, on the other hand, is trying to persuade voters who elected him to the D.C. school board -- among them, many who also supported Winter's two previous successful council bids -- that they should select him over the incumbent.
The campaign has come down to the issue of Winter's record. She touts her service to the ward -- which stretches east from parts of the H Street NE corridor and Capitol Hill across the river to Anacostia, embracing D.C. General Hospital, RFK Stadium and the D.C. Jail -- while Warren claims the incumbent has done little to address residents' problems.
"I do take care of my constituents," Winter said on her way to a recent block meeting. "That's what's going to get me reelected."
But Warren, referring to Winter's 100-vote edge in the primary four years ago, said, "She almost lost last time, because people were fed up with her."
Winter admits she was out of touch with voters when she nearly lost to real estate executive Pat Press in 1978, and blames her near-defeat on lack of communication, infrequent public contact and political naivete. But, she says, she has changed.
"I've been out there with the people," she says now. Observers say Winter, who has more major endorsements than Warren, including a nod from the Washington Teachers Union Political Action Committee, lately has had more public meetings with constituent and community groups than perhaps any other current member of the council.
Warren argues that Winter's close call four years ago showed that voters want the change in leadership he says he represents.
"Ask these people when was the last time they saw Nadine Winter," Warren said one morning last week as he nodded toward the few men and women who hugged the street corners along the H Street NE corridor. Warren said he established his campaign headquarters in this area to gather support from a section of the ward he said is largely ignored.
Less than an hour later, Winter appeared, soliciting votes and urging merchants down the block from Warren's headquarters to display her posters.
Warren charges that Winter has failed during her tenure to solve many of the ward's continuing problems with transportation, joblessness, crime and development along commercial strips.
Winter says she has "put millions" of dollars into the ward with street, sidewalk and other improvements, introduced legislation to train incarcerated youth, worked to get Congress to offer the federal support needed for redevelopment and worked to keep open the 1st District police substation that serves Capitol Hill.
If elected, Warren said, he would work to ease residential property tax assessments, provide shuttle bus service and increased Metrobus service, create more police substations to serve the ward and introduce legislation to reduce the occurrences of residential foreclosures.
Less than a week away from the Democratic primary, both candidates are keeping secret any last-minute campaign tactics. Neither has launched a media campaign, although Warren says he wants to begin radio advertisements and Winter said she is not sure if she will use the airwaves at all.
On primary day, both promise to have workers at polls throughout the ward. Many will be like Danny Butler and Carrie Nobles. Butler, who worked to reelect Warren to the school board in 1979, is now vice chairman of Winter's reelection campaign. Nobles, a longtime Winter supporter, is a coordinator of Warren's effort to unseat the incumbent.
Some area residents believe Winter has an edge because of her experience. "When you think of City Council in Ward 6 , you think of Nadine," said Albert Hopkins, president of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation.
Warren discounts the notion that residents will vote out of habit, however. Instead, he stresses his own vote-getting history in the ward. "I have been elected by the same people who've elected her over the last eight years," he said recently.
Winter has sought to maintain her political base in sections of the ward such as her home neighborhood of Kingman Park. Although she denies having concentrated on broadening her base in certain areas, she appears to have gained support in some areas, such as affluent Capitol Hill, that gave her trouble in the last election. The Washington Committee for Good Government, a political group sponsored by real estate interests that tried to oust Winter in 1978, is helping to finance the incumbent's campaign this year.
Warren, who held onto his school board seat in 1979 in another close race, has been noted for his strong following among younger voters throughout the ward and in his politically active home base of Anacostia. Winter has also been knocking on doors in the Anacostia area, looking to pick up strength there as well.