Ruth Dixon campaigns as the most experienced and most organized candidate running for the D.C. Council from Ward 3 in Northwest Washington. She kicked off her race with local advertisements listing about 1,000 ward voters who support her, and has since mailed out thousands of letters and campaign fliers touting her prominent support in the community.
But Dixon's campaign acknowledged yesterday that the initial list of supporters was flawed -- about 10 percent were listed in error, according to a check of voter registration rolls -- and that the names or photographs of some prominent community leaders have been used in more recent campaign material without their permission.
In interviews yesterday, Dixon and her campaign staff attributed the mistakes to poor staff work.
"I'm willing to grant in the early lists we were not careful to see that they were Ward 3," said Dixon, who is locked in a four-way race in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary with James Nathanson, Mary Draper Janney and Mark L. Plotkin. Incumbent Democrat Polly Shackleton is retiring.
"The thing that bothers me about this is that integrity is an issue in every election in this city," said Nathanson, a high school teacher making his first campaign for office. "Whether this activity by the Dixon campaign is the result of carelessness or design, I find it very disturbing."
"The Ward 3 voters are independent and discerning," said Plotkin. " They deserve better and they will be making their true endorsement on Sept. 9," Plotkin said. "I'm confident of getting that endorsement."
Both Nathanson and Plotkin had contended that some of their supporters were on Dixon's lists. Janney said last week she was unaware of any misused names.
A check of voting rolls yesterday showed that at least 120 persons named on Dixon's list of 1,000 either were not registered voters or were registered in other wards and thus could not vote for her.
Among prominent local leaders who have been erroneously associated with Dixon in her literature are Marvin Tievsky, president of the Friendship Heights Citizens Association, the largest such group in the ward, and Joel Odum, head of a 900-member group fighting a major development project on Wisconsin Avenue.
A photograph of Tievsky and Dixon shows up in Dixon's most recent ward-wide mailing. "She should not have used it," said Tievsky, who said he was neutral in the race.
Dixon said the photograph was "public" because it was taken by her campaign at a public forum at the Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church at Tenley Circle. Tievsky is not identified by name but is alone in the picture with Dixon on a page with a headline that reads "Neighborhood Activists Vote Dixon."
Odum said his name was used by mistake in a precinct-level mailing even though he specifically asked Dixon several weeks ago not to use it. He said he wanted to remain neutral as head of the Tenley and Cleveland Park Emergency Committee, which is opposing construction of a large office building and road at 4000 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Extensive development along Wisconsin Avenue has emerged as a key issue in the Ward 3 race.
"Joel's exactly right," Dixon said, acknowledging that his name on the mailing was a mistake.
In some cases, Dixon campaign officials said, overzealous supporters pressed some residents to indicate at least minimal support for Dixon months before the campaign began, meaning that the initial list included some persons who now support other candidates.
"That was a mistake," said Kathy Foster, a chairwoman of Dixon's campaign. "Every campaign makes mistakes. If we had that announcement to do over we would not have labeled it Ward 3 voters." She said more recent glitches in the campaign list are minimal, and said the materials accurately depict a broad base of support. "Right now we are the front-runner . . . and every front-runner comes under closer scrutiny," she said.
Foster and other Dixon supporters recounted a few instances in which they said other candidates had made similar errors, but Foster said "we don't want to run that kind of campaign."
Sue Panzer, like Dixon a former president of the League of Women Voters, said her name was listed as a supporter of Dixon even though she had an agreement with Dixon that her support would be private.
"I'm trying very hard not to be actively in support of anyone," said Panzer, who stressed she is a close personal friend and that the use of her name was "a picky point."
Lawyer Lawrence H. Mirel, former chief legal adviser to the D.C. Council, was listed as a Ward 3 voter who supports Dixon. Mirel, who lives in Ward 4 across Rock Creek Park, said he is supporting Dixon but was unaware that his name had been published in community newspaper advertisements.
Marilou Righini, another longtime community worker and education activist associated with Wilson High School in Ward 3, also is listed as a Ward 3 voter for Dixon. Righini lives in Ward 1.
"I'm not actively working for her ," said Righini, who said she attributed the fact that she was mentioned as a supporter to a mistake in labeling a list Ward 3 voters when it included contributors from outside the ward.