Glenn White is running for mayor as the candidate representing the ideals of the Socialist Workers Party.
Dennis Sobin is running for mayor because he says police harassed him when he opened a club where people could socialize in the nude and openly engage in sex.
E. Brooke Lee Jr. is running for mayor as a businessman who says the city is so poorly run that it discourages businesses from coming here. His campaign theme is "More Jobs -- Less Crime."
Tonight, all three will be in the City Council chambers at the District Building at 8 p.m. for the first debate of the District's general election for mayor. The big question is whether the fourth candidate, Democratic Mayor Marion Barry, will be there.
Barry has been avoiding his opponents in next Tuesday's election to the point of not telling them whether he will show up for the debate.
All the mayor has done is make the general promise that if there is a debate with all the candidates he will be there.
The mayor's aides say frankly that they aren't worried about the election. But they want to make sure that Democrats turn out on election day to give Barry an easy victory, so they are having a get-out-the-vote rally Monday night at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church downtown.
Other than that, the mayor's campaign staff is trying to arrange to use the new D.C. Convention Center -- the massive, brand-new white structure cited many times by Barry as an example of his administration's accomplishments -- for his inaugural. Tentatively, Barry aides have planned a prayer breakfast, parade and reception, as well as both public and private swearing-in ceremonies, a state-of-the-city address and a gala ball.
Barry's indifference to his challengers has left them grasping for any public attention they can attract, in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 9 to 1 and the real mayor's race is considered the Democratic primary that Barry won in September.
"If Barry doesn't show," Lee told Sobin yesterday at the Metropolitan Club, where Lee had invited Sobin to discuss the debate, "we'll have one of his posters with a picture of him up there for all to see who is afraid to debate and discuss the issues."
"I think we should take his name off the poster," said Sobin. "I don't like to mention my opponents' names."
In addition to tonight's session, the challengers have planned for debates Friday and Sunday night and are scheduled to appear on Monday on the "Good Morning Washington" television program on WJLA-TV (Channel 7). All candidates in the race except Barry have agreed to appear on the program.
Unlike attempts by candidates in the primary to draw Barry into a debate in which he could make a critical mistake and hurt his chances for reelection, the debate issue this time around has less to do with politics than with getting attention for the challengers.
"I'm really in this thing to make a statement," Sobin said yesterday at the offices of his magazines, Met Forum and Washington, in a Southwest Washington warehouse. " Council member John Ray in the primary spent $300,000 to get about 3,000 votes. I'm spending $20,000, and if I get 300 votes that will show me to be a vote-getter with a real issue, human rights. Rights not to have the government in the bedroom.
"If I don't win I'll run for the at-large school board seat next year and the year after that I'm going to run for John Ray's (at-large) seat on the council."
Sobin, 39, an author and urban planner who has not run for public office before, said he felt the need to run after the police arrested him in 1979 for putting up vending machines for his sexually explict publication. Before that, they raided his Playground Club. Sobin also said Barry's government harassed him when the city's zoning board ruled that his art gallery, featuring sexually oriented photographs and paintings, violated zoning laws.
Lee, the Republican nominee, is running because he says the city government is now inept at bringing business into the city. But he admits that his campaign is a potential help to his real estate business by giving him name recognition.
"I know for a fact for a lawyer, broker or a Realtor, running for office is very helpful," said Lee, 65. "How could it miss? You can't miss. People prefer honest answers and there it is . . . but my first priority is bringing jobs to the city. This city is in desperate shape. You've got the golden Kennedy Center at one end and people begging for jobs and food at the other end. What kind of city is that?"
Glen B. White, 29, a Metro structure repairer, could not be reached for comment. His campaign literature says he is running on the platform of the Socialist Workers Party, which calls for a "revolutionary government of workers and farmers that would reorganize our society in the interest of the majority."
Barry, meanwhile, declined to tell a reporter yesterday if he would attend tonight's debate. He said to ask his press secretary, who said the mayor is "considering it."
Barry's assistant campaign manager, Anita Bonds, said Monday that Barry has raised an additional $75,000 for the general election to add to the $1.2 million he raised during the primary. She said Barry will purchase no radio or television ads and that he has closed all of his ward campaign offices.
Yesterday, Barry met with labor leaders from the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, who were divided in the primary but endorsed him in the general election and gave him a campaign contribution for $3,000.
"It would be a disaster Nov. 2 if we were to wake up and discover that the opponent of the mayor happened to be our mayor," said Joslyn Williams, the head of the council.