City Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. speculated early in his campaign for reelection that if he lost the Republican primary, local Democrats might convince one of their own to run as an independent.
Moore maintained that he was the only Republican who could get enough votes in the November general election to win. If any other Republican won Tuesday's party primary elections, a Democrat in disguise would be waiting in the wings to snatch the Republicans' only seat on the City Council, according to Moore's theory.
Well, some people are speculating that such a Democrat may have appeared.
Last week, elections registrar Joe Baxter issued a certified list of independent and minor party candidates who have qualified to run for the two At-Large City Council seats that are up in the November general election. The three names on the list were Brian Moore, an independent, Z. Maurice Jackson, a Communist Party member, and Norman Neverson, an independent.
Neverson's name is drawing attention because he is, or was, the Ward 4 chairman for the Democratic State Committee. Neverson switched his party affiliation from Democrat to independent to file his petitions for the At-Large seat, Baxter said.
That news surprised some Democratic State Committee members, all of them residents of Ward 4.
"No," said Marilyn T. Brown, a Ward 4 resident and an At-Large member of the state committee. "I don't believe he would give up his job as Ward 4 chairperson. I'm stunned that he would switch from the Democratic Party, being such an active Democrat."
Part of the surprise comes because Neverson won the chairman's role in a hard-fought contest with Julius Hobson Jr., who had been supported by Mayor Marion Barry's organization.
Whether Neverson has actually resigned the chairmanship is unclear, but Ward 4 representatives said Neverson will be required to resign because he is no longer a Democrat.
Neverson ran twice for the Ward 4 City Council seat and was defeated both times. He also ran unsuccessfully for the school board and worked as the director of field operations in City Council member John Ray's unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1982. Ray, a Democrat, is running this year to retain his At-Large City Council seat.
Why has such an active Democrat suddenly switched parties to run as an independent?
Neverson, despite repeated attempts, could not be reached for comment.
Some Democrats have said privately that Neverson is waiting to run against Carol Schwartz if she defeats Moore in Tuesday's Republican primary. They did not indicate whether any other Democrats have promoted such a strategy.
At least two political candidates running for the two At-Large council seats are angry about Neverson's party switch. They maintain that Neverson's action is an attempt to thwart the law effectively requiring that at least two of the council's four At-Large seats be reserved for a non-majority party. One of the non-majority seats, the one held by Jerry Moore, is up this year.
Independent candidate Brian Moore said he may challenge Neverson's right to run as an independent.
"It appears to be a manipulation of the intent or the spirit of the home rule law," Brian Moore said. "I question his motive and the ethics of it. It raises the question in my mind as to whether someone is behind him. Maybe there is a connection between him and the mayor and that is something I plan to look at very closely."
Brian Moore said he has been alternately a Democrat and an independent since he came to Washington in 1978 but argued that his party switches were justified because he switched merely to vote in Democratic primaries.
Candidate Benoit Brookens is an attorney challenging City Council member Ray, who is backed by the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Brookens said even if he defeats Ray, he would still find himself facing the mainstream of the party, which would likely support Neverson's candidacy.
"The law provided for minority party representation," Brookens said. "If I beat Ray in the primary, I don't want to be running against Neverson in the general election fight. We would be fighting against the same political organization and we don't have the resources to do it twice."
Earlier in the campaign, Neverson tried unsuccessfully to have Brookens removed from the ballot. Now, Brookens said he has urged the Ward 4 Democrats to question Neverson's role as an independent.