The mayoral endorsement sweepstakes continued yesterday with the Washington Teachers Union backing John Ray for mayor, and the Greater Washington Board of Trade deciding to sit on the sidelines.
The political action committee for the board, the region's major business lobbying group, said it sees no significant differences among Ray, David A. Clarke, Sharon Pratt Dixon, Walter E. Fauntroy and Charlene Drew Jarvis, all Democrats, and Republican Maurice T. Turner Jr. in their support of business interests.
Each of the six was recognized as an individual "the Board of Trade can work with over the next four years in solving the critical issues facing citizens and businesses in the District of Columbia," the board said in a statement.
The board's political action committee promised to contribute $500 to each candidate's campaign.
Individual labor unions have begun to announce their endorsements of various candidates. Ray, an at-large D.C. Council member, has picked up the backing of local firefighters and police officers, as well as one of the local Teamsters unions.
Yesterday's endorsement by the teachers union provides Ray with the support of one of the largest and most politically active unions in the city. The union, which claims roughly 6,200 members, also endorsed law professor Eleanor Holmes Norton for D.C. delegate to Congress and school board member Linda Cropp for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.
Teachers union President William Simons hailed Ray "as someone who has the capability of bringing the city together in a healing process . . . . We just think he is the one who can do it."
Ray said the endorsement "underscores that public education is my number one priority . . . . I would have been extremely disappointed not to get this endorsement."
Simons also contrasted Ray with Jarvis, who had been actively courting the endorsement and who had voted against the city's recent budget on the grounds that it did not contain money for teacher pay raises. Ray and other council members have promised to finance those pay increases once the school system completes negotiations with the teacher union.
Simons termed Jarvis's maneuver as "just a show," and added, "I don't pay it any credence at all.
"Mrs. Jarvis seems to propose legislation at election time," he said, "but there are so many things that do not happen."
As an example, he noted that Jarvis, chairman of the council's Housing and Economic Development Committee, only recently approved amendments to workers compensation rules that had been sought for years by the labor community.
Dawn Alexander, a spokeswoman for Jarvis, said Jarvis has had to deal with a host of complex legislation in recent years, of which workers compensation was only one.
"You can only get to so many things at one time," she said. "It is totally unfounded what he's saying."