Republican mayoral nominee E. Brooke Lee Jr. said yesterday his experience as a business executive will enable him to bring more jobs to the District and make the city government operate with corporate efficency if he is elected on Nov. 2.
Lee said he expects to upset Democratic incumbent Marion Barry, in a city where Republicans are outnumbered 9-to-1, by openly appealing to those Democrats who voted against Barry in the Sept. 14 primary.
"There are only two things I'm doing to win this race," Lee said in a luncheon interview with reporters, editors and editorial writers of The Washington Post. "I'm saying anyone who owns anything in this town ought not to vote for Barry. He wants to redistribute all the wealth.
"And second, I'm saying to the 50 percent of the city that wants to vote against Barry and the new proposed D.C. statehood constitution that I have a big bushel basket waiting for all the votes against Barry -- so vote for me."
Lee, who will be 65 on Sunday, portrayed himself as "an average guy," ready with common sense and contacts with leading businessmen and politicans as a result of his work as a sales manager with the Scott Paper Co. and his family's history of involvement in local and national politics.
His brother, Blair Lee III, is a former state senator and lieutenant governor of Maryland, and served as the state's acting governor from June 1977 to January 1979. Lee's sister, the late Elizabeth Scull, served on the Montgomery County Council, and his nephew David Scull is a current member of the council.
In response to standard political questions about his campaign's prescriptions for solving the city's problems, such as how to improve the education offered in the public school system and how to meet the need for added housing, Lee departed from standard candidate form by saying simply that he didn't have the answers to "every $64 question."
"I haven't spent a lot of time sitting around thinking up a lot of quick answers to all the machine-gun questions you've been asking me," he said. "My brother Blair told me position papers are only good for getting you into trouble now or for them to hang you with a few months later . . . . What I promise you is a business approach to problems."
Lee did offer specific proposals for lowering the city's rising crime rate, promising to put more policemen on street patrols and saying that he is strongly behind the mandatory minimum sentencing initiative approved by voters in September, which requires judges to impose fixed prison terms for persons convicted of committing a violent crime with a gun and for certain drug offenses.
Lee said he believes that there is a core of criminals in the city who are responsible for most of the city's crime.
He said that he would concentrate on making sure that these persons would be arrested.
Asked whether he had any proposals for upgrading the performance of the public school system, Lee said that if he is elected he will confer with key people involved in public education before deciding what can be done to improve the public schools.
Lee, espousing a belief in that sort of corporate, board-room urban management, said he thinks that the District government was better managed when a group of appointed commissioners ran the city.
"This city was better off under the commissioners, a lot better off," he said. But he added that he believes there can be no return to that system.
Lee said that Barry does not know how to run the city's budget, and criticized Barry for his administration's changing estimates of the city's budget deficits and surpluses.
Lee, who often strives to make his points with humor that is both folksy and sharp-edged, facetiously suggested that Barry start to learn how to handle budgets by first owning a small candy store and then moving on to larger businesses before trying to manage a $2 billion city government.
"What this town needs to handle its present debt and finances is a businessman," said Lee, who was national sales manager of the Scott Paper Co. from 1954 to 1962 and is now a real estate broker in Washington, heading E. Brooke Lee Jr. Properties Inc. "This city is run inefficiently . . . . I don't think Marion Barry knows how to hire or fire people. Once you let go the first few people, things start to clear up."
Lee said he believes that no more than two of every ten city employes would be found at work in mid-afternoon, and said that a group of young people hired to review voting records during the past summer, working on the first floor of the District Building, had spent most of their time "asking each other for dates."
Lee cited as an example of the city government's inefficiency the problems the District has had in compiling accurate rolls of registered voters. Lee, who took the city to court in an effort to require that all voters be reregistered before the general election, said his case was dismissed by a "Democratically appointed judge who is a close friend of Marion Barry . . . and called my cause frivolous."
"Now we want to know: Is it frivolous for the voters of this town to want reregistration and to have one vote for one person?" Lee asked.
He said that if he wins the election he expects to make changes in the government. But he declined to say which agency heads would be fired. He emphasized repeatedly that his friendships with top business executives would be of value to the city.
Lee said he is against the proposed statehood constitution that will be on the Nov. 2 ballot, contending that some of the document's provisions amount to socialism. If approved by the voters, the constitution would have to be approved by Congress before the District could become the 51st state.
"Under that constituion, they can seize your home and your car," Lee said. "This is state socialism, and you let it get started and you can't stop it . . . you know the Congress of the United States is never going to pass something like that, so why set back home rule by letting something like that get on the ballot?"
Lee cited two other provisions of the constitution that he said were objectionable: one to create a "bank of last resort" to finance businesses that cannot obtain loans from commercial lending institutions, which Lee said would bankrupt the city, and a second that gives District residents the right to cast out their government, which he said Congress would never accept.
Lee, said that he expects to win Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and possibly Ward 6 -- all of the city west of the Anacostia River.
Lee noted that Barry won only about 58 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, while he won the Republican primary with 61 percent. In terms of actual numbers, however, Barry's primary vote dwarfed Lee's.
Lee's campaign already has raised $40,000, he said, with $14,000 of that amount contributed by Lee himself. When asked why he made such a large investment in such an uphill race, Lee quipped that the campaign -- win or lose -- was a good advertisement for his business. But he added that he intends to win.