Carol Schwartz, the outspoken former school board member who once criticized her colleagues' out-of-town travel, comes across as a tough-talking candidate prepared to take on city government if she wins a seat on the D.C. City Council next month.
Schwartz, the Republican nominee for an at-large council seat, is hoping her hard-charging, shake-'em-up style and her message that District government isn't doing enough for residents will carry her to victory against increasingly difficult odds.
Schwartz won the hotly contested GOP primary with 57 percent of the vote and is now faced with another battle against the same opponent, City Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At-Large), who is running a write-in campaign with the backing of six Democratic council members and supporters of Mayor Marion Barry. Her campaign has been further hurt by a serious drop-off in campaign contributions since her primary victory.
The race's outcome could have a broader impact because Democrats and Republicans alike have accused Moore and his supporters of trying to undermine the city's primary process.
Schwartz is waging her campaign through living-room chats, letters, political forums, luncheons and parking lot politicking.
"I've seen a street sweeper once or twice in the 15 years that I've lived here," Southeast resident Robert L. Knight told Schwartz at a recent meeting at a neighbor's home.
"I can assure you, if I make it to the City Council, you will get your fair share," Schwartz responded. "I think I've got what it takes to be down there."
Schwartz decries high income taxes. She tells voters that they need a City Council that is not afraid to question how the city's money is being spent while city services are lacking. She assures them that her school board experience qualifies her to become a council member and that her board record assures voters that "I will not just sit there, roll over and play dead."
As council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At-Large), one of Schwartz's most prominent supporters, said, "We need her on the council. I'm so sick and tired of there being only two votes against tax increases and there being an unwillingness to question things from the executive branch. Rubber stamp is about the best symbol there is for Jerry Moore."
Schwartz, 40, mother of three, is managing her own campaign and radiates energy as she dashes back and forth from shaking hands on the campaign trail to taking charge of emergencies in her campaign office. She has won new supporters and brought back those who followed her work during her eight years on the school board.
During those years she did not shy away from controversy. The former school board vice president led the fight to ban out-of-town travel for board members. She urged that teachers be given competency tests and opposed tenure for teachers. "With tenure a teacher could sit in class till he or she died. And even then no one would notice," she said as a board member seeking reelection.
Schwartz said her accomplishments included support for educational improvements aimed at ending social promotions for students and increasing high school graduation course requirements. She also supported the firing of former school superintendent Barbara Sizemore.
While the message Schwartz is taking to the voters has not changed since the primary, her approach has.
In the primary, Schwartz concentrated on Republican voters. Now, she plays down her party affiliation. Being a Republican, she said, is a "tremendous disadvantage" in the November general election in Washington, a predominantly Democratic city expected to vote overwhelmingly for Walter F. Mondale.
Schwartz also faces a complicated general election for one of the two at-large seats. In addition to council member Moore's write-in campaign, there are four other candidates -- incumbent council member John Ray (D-At-Large), Statehood Party candidate Josephine Butler, independent candidate Brian Moore and Communist candidate Maurice Jackson.
"I always run like the underdog," Schwartz said. "I run like I'm running scared."
Indeed, Schwartz asserts that there are efforts to shut her out. In a mailing to residents, she said, "there are several factions in our city government working very hard to stop me from being elected. They will do anything in their power to preserve the status quo and prevent a breath of fresh air from entering City Hall."
In particular, Schwartz is angered that she must again face council member Moore.
"He Moore is not a legitimate candidate," Schwartz said at a recent political forum in which she argued that a Moore representative should not have been allowed to speak. "I don't think it is fair that he is allowed to be part of forums. I don't feel threatened by Moore . I'm mad. I'm mad that he broke his word to support me. I'm mad at the closed City Council Club. And I'm mad that he is circumventing the primary process."
There is also the impact that Moore may have on Schwartz's ability to raise money. Moore raised $175,000 for his primary campaign and Schwartz said that Moore's write-in campaign has captured the loyalty if not the money of people and groups that would otherwise be her financial supporters.
She raised $55,000 for the primary contest and had $906.39 left according to her Oct. 10 financial report. Between Sept. 4 and Oct. 8, her campaign received only four $1,000 maximum contributions. Two of them came from Schwartz and her husband David.
The majority of her contributions are from people she does not know -- people who dropped $10 or $25 or $50 in the mail after receiving a letter from Schwartz. Absent are contributions from the political action committees of the Greater Washington Area Board of Trade and local labor unions.
Schwartz dropped her goal of raising $150,000 for the general election campaign and scrapped plans for the television and radio advertising that the money would have purchased.
But the Republican candidate is not running short of something she considers crucial -- Democratic supporters. During her primary and now, Democrats have supplied much of the volunteer labor for her campaigns. They run her ward organizations, work in her office and give her political advice.
One reason Kane, who on Friday hosted a party for Schwartz, said she is supporting the Republican is because Kane believes in a two-party system. The Democrats who are supporting Moore after he lost the primary election are "taking a stand that a lot of Democrats will come to regret," Kane said. "It says that the primary process doesn't mean anything."
When asked if she had given Schwartz political advice, Kane said, "We've talked, but she had a tremendous win in the primary and she's got some political smarts herself."
Some of that savvy is evident in her handling of the race issue. Schwartz won the primary election by carrying the wards that had the preponderance of white Republican voters. Moore, who is black, carried the wards where the residents are predominantly black.
Stressing that she won't interject race into the campaign, Schwartz said, "People don't care about race. They want good people in there to do a job for them."
Nonetheless, Schwartz points out in one of her mailings, " . . . approximately two-thirds of my campaign volunteers are black and three-quarters are Democrats."