With a collective sigh of relief, District residents at last can put the 1984 election behind them.
It was a political year marked by an intense Democratic presidential primary battle, a highly complex and divisive race for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council, and a strong Nov. 6 finale in which a record number of voters turned out to voice their disapproval of President Reagan.
Clearly, one of the big winners is Republican Carol Schwartz. A former school board member from Ward 3, Schwartz was elected to one of two at-large seats on the D.C. City Council that were on the line.
Schwartz whipped incumbent City Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At Large) in the primary and then scored an impressive citywide victory in the general election. She won despite a strong write-in for Moore orchestrated by the Democratic power structure and an impressive labor-backed campaign by Josephine Butler, a Statehood Party candidate.
Another big winner was the Community for Creative Non-Violence and other backers of Initiative 17, a measure that will require the D.C. government to provide overnight shelter to the city's homeless. Supporters overcame strong opposition from Mayor Marion Barry's administration and initial public indifference to win the approval of 72 percent of the voters.
The extraordinary outpouring of support -- more than 109,000 persons voted for the initiative -- was largely due to intensive news coverage of a hunger strike by CCNV leader Mitch Snyder and of a recent fire in an abandoned house that killed four homeless men who were seeking shelter from the cold. As the mayor readily conceded, it "even grabbed me."
Jesse L. Jackson, the first black politician to mount a serious campaign for the presidency, also deserves much credit for energizing D.C. politics and boosting voter registration. Jackson romped to victory in the District's May 1 presidential primary with the support of much of the city's political elite.
The big loser in last week's election was Jerry Moore, a likeable but lethargic 15-year veteran of the City Council who waged a hapless and inept primary race and then allowed himself to become a pawn in a political power struggle in the general election campaign.
By law, Moore's at-large seat is reserved for non-majority candidates. But from the start, Barry and most of the Democrats on the council, viewing Moore as a good friend and compliant ally, did everything they could to get him reelected.
When Moore first launched his reelection campaign, Barry and the majority of the Democratic-controlled City Council turned out to offer their endorsement and help him build up a massive campaign war chest.
After Schwartz beat Moore in the primary, City Council Chairman David Clarke and five other council Democrats helped launch a massive write-in campaign for Moore. Better friends might have discouraged him from running again. Barry stayed in the background this time, but with many of his key organizers and supporters lining up behind Moore there could be little doubt about where the mayor's sentiments lay.
Some critics viewed the write-in as an unseemly attempt by Democrats to subvert the primary process and prop up an unpopular candidate. This write-in was especially unpalatable for some Democrats because Moore had attended the Republican National Convention and helped to nominate Reagan for a second term.
But Clarke and the others discounted the criticism and waged a campaign whose general theme was that the Republicans had rudely denied the remainder of the electorate the chance to vote for Moore. If Moore's name could somehow appear on the ballot, they argued, Democrats would rise up in appreciation for his years of service and his steadying hand.
Organized labor had supported Moore in the primary, but would have nothing to do with him after that. Instead, labor leaders united behind Butler, a longtime community activist, and mounted what proved to be a highly effective get-out-the vote effort.
The split within the ranks of Democratic leaders and organized labor eventually paved the way for Schwartz's victory. Schwartz, who is white, benefited from a substantial turnout in Ward 3, an upper-middle-class and predominantly white area west of Rock Creek Park, where she received 40 percent of her 50,892 vote total. She also made a strong showing in the inner-city areas of Wards 1 and 2 and the Capitol Hill section of Ward 6, west of the Anacostia River.
At the same time, Butler and Moore's write-in campaign were splitting a potent block of mostly middle-class black voters concentrated in wards 4, 5 and 7. Each sapped the other's strength. In the end, Schwartz zipped past Butler, Moore and two lesser-known candidates to win the election.