While three television sets hummed with a gaggle of celebrities urging viewers to send money, a small group of D.C. Democrats gathered yesterday to use the national Democratic party's "Celebrate America" telethon fund-raiser for a little politicking of their own.
Rambling around attorney Ed Black's 100-year-old Logan Circle town house, the sparse crowd of about 40 Democrats largely ignored the television fare in favor of local political gossip and musings about the wisdom of having a political telethon on a holiday weekend.
"That's all the time the networks would let us have," said Mary Eva Candon, executive director of the local party, as she chatted with arriving and departing guests.
With Mayor Marion Barry off to a Memorial holiday jaunt to Jamaica, and many other big-name Democrats out of town, Candon said yesterday's reception, which was held during the last three hours of the 17-hour telethon, had not been expected to draw a big crowd. Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) was one of the few elected officials who attended the event.
One of the topics of discussion was the District's Democratic State Committee election of new officers Thursday night. Although there have been several reports that Barry wanted to replace Theodis (Ted) Gay as chairman, there is no announced opposition to the incumbent officers and all are expected to be routinely reelected.
Barbara Bell Clark, vice chairwoman of the party who said Gay was in California for the telecast, said yesterday the local party had raised about $3,000 in the last few weeks with its own promotion of the telecast.
National Democrats, who spent $6 million on the telethon, said they hoped to at least break even on the event. The Democrats later announced that they received pledges of $16 million to $20 million during the telethon.
Profits from the telethon, to be used for more fund-raising, candidate recruitment and voter registration, will be divided equally between the national party and local groups based on the money each area raises.
One of those who attended yesterday's local function, Tom Chorlton, executive director of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs, criticized the national organization for failing to include openly gay persons in the program.
"That's out of sync with the . . . party's overall movement on this issue," Chorlton said, noting the party recently approved the establishment of an official gay and lesbian caucus within the organization and that national gay Democratic clubs had offered to participate in the fund-raising.