Mayor Marion Barry is using the quiet of the City Council's August recess to assess cautiously his options for taking part in the 1984 Democratic presidential campaign.
Barry craves national recognition and understandably wants to align himself as early as possible with a strong Democratic contender. He has received overtures from former vice president Walter F. Mondale, whom Barry likes a lot, and from Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), who stopped by to see the mayor recently.
A former civil rights activist, Barry also is intrigued by the prospect of the Rev. Jesse Jackson launching a presidential candidacy that would be closely linked to a massive nationwide effort to register blacks and Hispanics to vote. Jackson is wrestling with the decision of whether to run, and until he makes up his mind the mayor intends to straddle the fence.
"The dynamics are too fluid right now," the mayor said during an interview last week. "I like Mondale. I know a lot about him. He's been a supporter of the District. He has a good voting rights record. John Glenn is a centralist, but he's not bad either. Gary Hart, Alan Cranston, Fritz Hollings, all these people in my view are good Democrats."
Yet the mayor indicated he could easily rationalize supporting a Jackson candidacy, even if Jackson's chances are at best slim, because it would benefit the Democratic party by adding millions of minorities to the Democratic voting rolls.
Barry recalled that while Ronald Reagan won an overwhelming electoral victory over Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election, Reagan's margin of victory in many key states was narrow.
"What it means is that if you have two million to three million additional registered voters who more than likely would vote Democratic, it may mean the difference between defeat and victory in the White House in 1984," he said. "And if running someone who happens to be black can do that . . . then that is an idea whose time has come."
There are other reasons, as well, for Barry to give serious thought to supporting Jackson, the charismatic founder of Operation PUSH. The District's population is nearly 70 percent black and Jackson would stand an excellent chance of winning next May's Democratic presidential primary here.
"It's hard to imagine Jesse Jackson running in the D.C. primary and not winning," said one aide to the mayor. "I'm sure the mayor doesn't want to be out of step with the rest of the city ."
Also, Barry's top political adviser, Deputy Mayor Ivanhoe Donaldson, indicated that he may work on a Jackson presidential campaign after he quits his post later this year--although this is no sure-fire evidence that Barry is leaning towards supporting Jackson.
One knowledgeable ally of Barry who is involved in presidential politics believes the mayor is too much of a pragmatist to back a Jackson candidacy formally. "I think he's torn right now, but as a practical politician, I think he'll go for Mondale," the supporter said.
Whatever the mayor decides to do eventually, his supporters can only hope that he shows a little more decisiveness than he did in 1980.
Back then, Barry flirted with supporting Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) but eventually endorsed Carter for reelection, after putting off the decision until the last moment. Carter's camp was irritated with Barry's handling of the situation, and the mayor also found himself shut out of a significant role within the D.C. delegation to the Democratic National Convention, which was heavily in favor of Kennedy.
The health industry and insurance companies are outspending all other interest groups in lobbying at the District Building, according to the latest listing of lobbyists compiled by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.
The large turnout of insurance company lobbyists was due in part to the intense interest in the District's new mandatory no-fault car insurance legislation, as well as health insurance issues.
Among the controversial pieces of legislation that drew health care industry lobbyists was a bill introduced by City Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) that would for the first time permit nurse-midwives, psychologists and three other categories of nonphysicians to do their work at hospitals.
The law firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Heine, Underberg & Casey, which includes mayoral ally Robert B. Washington Jr., had the lion's share of health care lobbying work, according to the listing. Jerry A. Moore III, son of Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At large), represented the Greater Washington Association for the Advancement of Psychology.