The breakup of Mayor Marion Barry's political organization continued yesterday as several prominent D.C. business people and developers endorsed mayoral hopeful Charlene Drew Jarvis, while some members of the clergy threw their support to candidate Walter E. Fauntroy.
Barry, who announced two weeks ago that he would not seek a fourth term, has asked his political lieutenants to wait until next month before going to work for any of the candidates in the Democratic mayoral primary. But with that election less than 11 weeks away, some people whom Barry has relied on over the years to deliver money and votes are now switching their allegiance to several of his would-be successors.
At the same time, some of the mayoral candidates, notably Jarvis and John Ray, both D.C. Council members, are waiting for Barry to signal his preference in the party primary. An endorsement by the mayor could be a mixed blessing, but Ray and Jarvis are widely viewed as the two most probable choices for Barry's support.
Jarvis (Ward 4), appearing yesterday with several business leaders at French's soul food restaurant in Northeast Washington, said a Barry endorsement is less important than the time and money she will receive from some of his longtime supporters.
"I'm really looking for the people and not necessarily the endorsement," Jarvis said.
Richard Maulsby, a staunch Barry supporter and D.C. government official who attended the Jarvis event, said the mayor's allies bring "valuable support" to her campaign.
"Some bring money to the table and others have deep roots in this community," he said. "That's the two things this campaign needs right now: money and organizational strength."
The fund-raising team unveiled by Jarvis yesterday includes Max N. Berry, a lawyer who has served as an adviser to several of the city's best-known politicians, including Barry; William F. Fitzgerald Jr., a real estate appraiser and son of a longtime Barry associate; Joel Fernebok, president of Harvey Construction; Marc G.H. Giattini, vice president of Saratoga Development Corp.; and businessman Marion O. "Duke" Greene, who serves on several charitable boards in the area.
Real estate developer Dan Melrod, another member of the group, said he had supported Barry in the past but believed months ago that "it was time for a change" in the mayor's office.
"Before Marion dropped out, he was, unfortunately, polarizing the city," Melrod said. "He no longer had the ability to create coalitions of people, which is what a mayor has to do. Charlene has that ability."
Melrod, like several other Jarvis supporters, said Jarvis's task is to catch up to Ray, who polls show to be leading in the Democratic primary. Ray is the fund-raising leader in the race, and has won endorsements from an array of interest groups.
Melrod also said Jarvis must overcome voter reluctance to send a woman to the city's highest elective office.
"Charlene's biggest problem is that, as a woman, some voters will be resistant," Melrod said.
Jarvis's chief rivals for the mayoral nomination are D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke; lawyer Sharon Pratt Dixon; Fauntroy, the District's congressional delegate for 19 years; and Ray, an at-large council member.
Fauntroy was endorsed yesterday by a group of 30 black ministers, including several who have maintained a close relationship with Barry and his administration since the mayor's election in 1978.
Bishop Smallwood E. Williams, pastor of Bible Way Church and a mentor to Fauntroy, hailed the delegate as a "shining example of integrity, determination and honesty," particularly in the years that Fauntroy worked in the civil rights movement.
Carlton Veazey, pastor of Zion Baptist Church and a friend of Barry's since their adolescence in Memphis, said the mayor's drug arrest in January had forced him to consider alternative candidates.
"Walter Fauntroy didn't start yesterday" in public service, said Veazey, who has been a pastor in Washington for 30 years, one year less than Fauntroy, who is pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church.
Bishop George Augustus Stallings Jr., who broke with the Catholic Church to form his own congregation, also endorsed Fauntroy, but did not attend the afternoon news conference that Fauntroy held with most of the other ministers.
The support of Veazey, Williams and the other ministers is extremely important to Fauntroy's campaign, which seemed in recent months to lose the momentum it had in March, when Fauntroy announced his candidacy. The church, long a focal point of life in the black community, also serves as an important organizing tool in election seasons because many pastors oversee large congregations. For instance, Veazey noted yesterday that 1,800 people attend his church.
Fauntroy also proposed a "bill of rights" yesterday for the city's neighborhoods, incorporating such basic services as clean and well-maintained streets, safe playgrounds and "reasonable" taxes.
Fauntroy said that if elected, he would hold the line on taxes, despite the prediction by several experts that the city will likely be forced to raise taxes next year to help solve its worsening financial condition.
Fauntroy has not openly courted Barry's endorsement, but supporters say he has sought to minimize the mayor's sometimes harsh criticism of his own mayoral bid.
The issue of a Barry endorsement arose yesterday morning during a mayoral forum sponsored by the D.C. Hospital Association, when Dixon accused some of her rivals of "scampering about in the hopes of sharing a political blessing of a season that should have ended."
Barry has said he would never endorse Dixon.
Staff writer Mary Ann French contributed to this report.