Seven young middle-class professionals met in January at a Washington waterfront restaurant with two goals in mind--helping black candidates become the mayors of Philadelphia and Chicago.
Three months later, the Committee of Friends of W. Wilson Goode, which grew from the initial seven members to 90, has helped raise $50,000 from Washingtonians for Goode's Democratic mayoral primary campaign in Philadelphia against Frank L. Rizzo, the feisty former mayor who trails Goode in polls but leads in fund-raising.
The committee also plans to send a bus with 50 Howard University students to Philadelphia to help with voter registration. In addition, about a dozen members of Goode's fund-raising committee helped raise $15,000 in January for Harold Washington, a black candidate for mayor in Chicago's municipal election today.
"It's a metamorphosis. We weren't able to do things like this before," said Donald Temple, 29, an attorney with the House District Committee and a former Philadelphian.
"We are where we are because of the struggles of others. We hope to stimulate the national consciousness of people in Washington."
Temple and others have tapped the interest of an emerging group of hundreds of young, politically active Washingtonians, most of whom are black, who are willing to form ad hoc committees or to attend fund-raisers to throw their support behind major candidates, regardless of where the elections are held.
Some members of the group are doctors, lawyers, psychologists and management consultants. Others operate their own businesses. Many are between 27 and 32 years old.
"Only by becoming involved on a nationwide level will we be able to accomplish the goals of all black people," said Marlon Charles, 25, a law student interning with the Overseas Private Investment Corp. here.
"I'm not from Philadelphia, but I still feel a commitment to lend my support to a good cause. We should lend our services whether the candidate is located in Tuscaloosa or New York."
Several of the Washington area's most experienced political fund-raisers say it is unusual for such a young group to raise the sums it has for local races in other cities.
"You don't find the so-called heavies of the game at that age," said Nathan Landow, a Montgomery County developer who chairs the Maryland fund-raising effort for Walter Mondale's presidential bid.
"They are usually in their 40s to 60s and have built up constituencies they can call in their chips on."
Others say that Washington, long a city where national candidates have come for political support, is becoming a place where candidates in local races can also find financial help.
"This has been happening mostly in the last six years and increasingly in the last three years, especially with the increasing costs of running a campaign. You have to go farther for money," said Henry Hubschman, an attorney and a major fund-raiser in the mayoral campaign of Patricia Roberts Harris last year.
"With the possible exception of New York City and Los Angeles, this city probably has the biggest base for such fund-raising."
A majority of the committee members say that they are not supporting candidates just because they are black. Rather, they say, they are supporting candidates whose views on a variety of national and local issues, including affirmative action, unemployment, economic development and housing, are similar to their own.
"Don Temple called me and said we should rally around the best candidate in Philadelphia," said Chauncey Fortt, 31, a clinical psychologist who grew up in West Philadelphia but stayed in Washington after he earned a doctorate at George Washington University.
"We are continuing to develop our political consciousness," Fortt said. "Washington has children from every city in the nation. It's time we got together. This is the issue."
Max Berry, the finance chairman of Mayor Marion Barry's 1978 campaign, said that efforts to raise funds for local candidates in other cities generally fail unless there is a special significance to the election and an active body of people with close ties to that locality.
Charles Henry, a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of California at Berkeley, says the Philadelphia race contains elements of both.
"There is a symbolic importance to the campaign." Henry said. "In the case of Philadelphia and Chicago the election of black mayors is something that the national black community wants to see."
Mayor Barry and Democratic National Committee officials have raised another $50,000 for Harold Washington by sponsoring three fund-raisers here in recent weeks.
Barry was also the honorary chairman of a fund-raiser for Goode March 24 at the Mayflower Hotel. Later that evening, Barry, the committee and Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) sponsored a $1,000-a-plate dinner for Goode at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Goode, Philadelphia's former managing director, has welcomed his Washington supporters, saying: "It's broad-based support and I'm delighted to see it."
The idea of working together for a common goal appealed to Vincent Hill, 30, a Muslim and a pediatrician who grew up in Philadelphia, and lived there when Rizzo was police commissioner and then mayor for two terms. Hill went to medical school at Howard University and has settled in Washington.
"I've never seen so many transplanted Philadelphians together at one time," said Hill as he stood in a crowd at a Goode fund-raiser at the Mayflower Hotel.
"We are a lot more organized than a lot of people think. We all have a different outlook, but the ultimate issue is that if we don't stick together we won't get a thing done."
Others involved in a fund-raising effort for Harold Washington that netted $15,000 in January don't have ties to the cities where they hope to influence the outcome of elections. Ivy Davis, 34, is an attorney and a New Jersey native who came to Washington three years ago. Harold Washington is a member of the House Judiciary Committee for which Davis works.
"I just thought he was an outstanding candidate for mayor and wanted to help in some way," said Davis, who coordinated Washington's Capitol Hill fund-raiser at Mott House, which is owned by philanthropist Stewart Mott.
Davis is a member of the Committee of Friends of Harold Washington. "I've never been active in party politics," he said. "I was just in a position to help this time."
Davis, Temple and others have some political heavyweights on their side as well.
Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) recently presented Goode with a check for $5,000 from his political action committee, adding, "I'm committed to raising $20,000 for him."
Willie Brown, speaker of the California Assembly, also has been to Washington to stump for Goode.
But a lot of the traditional legwork for the first Washington fund-raiser and the two for Goode was done by the committee, whose members borrowed many of the techniques used in other successful fund-raising campaigns. Phone banks for calling people to support the fund-raisers were set up in the D.C. office of a Philadelphia accounting firm and in the offices of a local law firm where one of the partners is from Philadelphia.
"Altogether we had about 50 people working the telephones in the evenings and on weekends," said Clayborne Chavers, the law firm partner.
The committee grew as other former Philadelphians were contacted, along with people whose names came from lists of local campaign contributors and membership lists from other organizations.
The calls to former Philadelphians were succinct: "We need your help. Are you down or not? We want a $50 minimum contribution, plus your time," Temple said in describing the calls.
Even if Goode and Washington lose, there is little talk here of giving up or boycotting the Democratic Party in future elections.
"We'll just have to try harder next time," Chavers said. "There'll be other races and other qualified black, women and white candidates to support."
Later this month, Davis said, another group will conduct a fund-raiser in D.C. for Melvin H. King, a black former Massachusetts state representative, who will make a second bid to become Boston's mayor in this fall's nonpartisan primary.