Former D.C. Council chairman Sterling Tucker picked up the endorsements of 88 ministers yesterday in his bid to win the city's non-voting seat in Congress, while rival Eleanor Holmes Norton received the backing of the District's major tenants-rights organization.
The endorsements came at separate appearances during a day that reflected the accelerating tempo of the race to succeed Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D), who is giving up the delegate's post to run for mayor.
Eleven candidates -- seven Democrats, three Republicans and an independent -- have entered the campaign, which has been marked by verbal sparring between Norton and D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), another contender.
The wrangle continued yesterday as Norton was endorsed by the Tenants Organization Political Action Committee, a group of 27 tenant associations that have been active in the fight to retain tough rent control laws.
Although Norton, a civil rights activist and law professor at Georgetown University, did not mention Kane by name, she said she would have supported the 1985 referendum that overturned the D.C. Council's vote for a gradual phase-out of rent control.
Kane was one of seven council members who supported the proposal to decontrol rental units as they became vacant.
"You bet your bottom dollar I would have voted with tenants and not developers on this issue," Norton said.
Former Ward 3 council member Polly Shackleton, who introduced Norton yesterday, was more explicit in her attacks, saying that Kane is wrong about rent control.
Kane responded to the attacks by saying that rent control "is not an issue before Congress . . . . It is the law of the city, and my job in Congress is to protect the right of this city to make its laws.
"I don't not recall hearing a peep from Professor Norton when the issue was before the council," Kane said. But she also described herself as a "strong supporter" of tenant issues, such as rent subsidies for low- to moderate-income people, and said her 1985 vote came on a complex matter that "split" the community.
Tucker, who has been an assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and most recently the city's anti-drug czar, received the ministers' blessing at a morning news conference at Scripture Cathedral at Ninth and O streets NW. Bishop Clarence L. Long said Tucker "is the only man who can fill Walter Fauntroy's shoes."
The Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, pastor of Zion Baptist Church, said the ministers would urge their parishioners to support Tucker, whom he said has the "longest length of service" and most experience of any of the candidates.