That man with a pocket full of red pencils at a Northeast supermarket recently was City Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At Large), waging a write-in campaign to retain his seat with renewed vigor and the strong backing of many of the Washington clergy.
Moore regaled shoppers with his campaign theme, "Write in and punch," and then passed out leaflets explaining how to write in his name on the ballot and then use the voting machine. His strategy focuses more heavily on selling the write-in process itself -- something that has never been done successfully in the District -- than on selling the candidate.
But the muscle behind the campaign, which is supported by six Democratic City Council members and which campaign manager Margaret Chase predicts "is going to make history," derives from widespread support for Moore, a Baptist minister, by the city's influential black clergy, supporters say.
Campaign organizers claim 6,400 volunteers from the congregations of 245 local churches. Local ministers note that the churches provide an established organization and that the effort carries added strength because one of the strongest Moore supporters is the Rev. Ernest Gibson, executive director of the 547-member Council of Churches of Greater Washington.
"It's not unusual for a congregation or a pastor to make a personal choice," said Gibson, who said his support is personal because the church council does not endorse candidates. "The difference is the united effort. This is the first time I've seen this kind of effort for a write-in candidate."
At Gibson's urging, a group of local ministers who have held Wednesday breakfast meetings for about 15 years has devoted the last four meetings to discussing Moore's campaign. Even some ministers who privately say that they have reservations about Moore's write-in campaign acknowledged that they have placed Moore's literature in their churches. And campaign workers have been taking voting machines around to churches on Sundays to demonstrate how the write-in process works.
"You can't use 6,400 people in a local campaign because they would be walking across each other," the Rev. A. Knighton Stanley, pastor of the 1,500-member Peoples Congregational Church, said of the church volunteers claimed by the Moore campaign.
"But it does give some indication of Moore's strength," Stanley added. "You can always raise the question of how many votes will church people turn out. But it is a factor to be reckoned with, especially in this election when you're dealing with a black Baptist clergy person."
Others have made their support clear: "Usually I have not endorsed candidates from the pulpit, but I think that the whole congregation knows I support Rev. Moore," said the Rev. Henry Gregory, pastor of the 5,200-member Shiloh Baptist Church.
Moore, 66, launched his write-in campaign after losing the Republican primary election in September to former school board member Carol Schwartz. She must face Moore again in the general election.
Schwartz has accused Moore of using the write-in campaign to circumvent the party primary process. She has also criticized Moore for going along with the Democratic majority on the council and rarely voicing a different opinion on matters of policy while representing Republican voters. Moore's critics have also dubbed the City Council a "closed club" because of the support he has drawn from Democratic incumbents.
District residents are allowed to cast two votes in the at-large council race. Democrat John Ray is expected to easily retain the seat he now holds, leaving the non-Democratic candidates -- Moore, Schwartz, Statehood Party candidate Josephine Butler, independent Brian Moore and Communist Party candidate Maurice Jackson -- to fight for the other seat. In heavily Democratic Washington, the battle comes down to a contest for the votes of Democrats.
Although the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will have a computer indication of how many write-in votes were cast, the manual count of write-in votes for Moore and other candidates will not be complete for at least a week after the election.
Moore, a 15-year council veteran, is the only Republican ever elected to the council. His supporters cite Moore's work as chairman of the council's Transportation and Environmental Affairs (now Public Works) Committee as the central reason for their efforts to keep him on the council.
They note that Moore fought for the Metrorail system and has served on the transit system's board of directors. They praise him for proposing half-price mass transit fares for senior citizens and the handicapped.
Moore has strong support from the District's business community. Much of the legislation he introduced over the years pertained to alley closings requested by developers. He says he wants to be reelected to be part of such things as developing policies to repair the city's streets and bridges and monitoring the cleanup of the Potomac River.
Moore maintains that as a minister he is "much more than a politician." He insists that he "knows how to keep the peace" and "how to make things work." He also said that he launched a write-in campaign only because he was drafted by several groups of supporters.
"I feel if people had that much confidence in the work I had done on the council and had a strong desire for me to continue I had to yield to the will of the people," he said.
Moore's recent public statements at times contain flashes of a fiery spirit not evident during the primary campaign. He raised a record $175,000 for the primary and spent about $75 for each of his 2,446 primary votes. By contrast, a recent report filed by a draft-Moore committee indicated a total of $27,465 in contributions for the period Oct. 10 through Oct. 30, expenditures of $31,460.57, and debts totaling $15,625.18, according to the D.C. campaign finance office.
Incumbents Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) and H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) have allowed Moore to use their reelection campaign staffs. Moore supporters in Ward 4 have used Jarvis' office for Moore strategy meetings, while Crawford staff members answer the telephone by saying, "Citizens to elect H.R. Crawford and Jerry Moore."
Although he has not publicly endorsed Moore and says he frowns upon organized write-in campaigns, council member Ray acknowledged that he has encouraged his financial backers to contribute to Moore's campaign.
City Council Chairman David A. Clarke, a strong Moore supporter, has appeared with Moore and on the candidate's behalf at social events. Clarke took exception to criticism that the council is behaving like a "closed club."
"There are no king makers in the District of Columbia," Clarke said. "My endorsement is not designed to deliver votes to get someone to the City Council, but to tell my constituents why I support someone."
Although Moore is conducting a nonpartisan campaign, some say it will not be easy to forget that Moore is a Republican.
"A lot of people feel that he Moore is not a radical and he's not a controversial person and he has the city at heart, but they're not out campaigning for him because he's a Republican," said Janette Harris, a member of the Democratic State Committee.
"This is a Democratic town," said City Council member Frank Smith (D-Ward 1), who said he will cast his second at-large vote for Statehood candidate Butler. "They voters are going to have to hold their noses to vote for someone who is not a Democrat, and hold their noses real tight to vote for someone who supports Ronald Reagan."
While the Republican Central Committee endorsed Moore during the primary, Ann Heuer, the party chairman, said the GOP will support nominee Schwartz for the general election.
"To turn my back on him would be an act of treachery, but I can't go out and work for him as I have in the past," said Republican National Committeewoman Lois DeVecchio, an active Moore supporter during the primary. "It is just not done. It would be frowned upon strongly by the powers that be."