Mayoral candidate Charlene Drew Jarvis said yesterday she would make family issues, health care and drug abuse prevention the focus of her administration, adding that she had "crossed the threshold" of voter resistance to the candidacy of a woman for the District's highest elective office.
Jarvis also sharply criticized two of her rivals in the Democratic Party's Sept. 11 mayoral primary, calling D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke "temperamentally unsuited" to be mayor and council member John Ray (At-Large) insensitive to issues affecting women and children.
In a luncheon interview with reporters and editors of The Washington Post, Jarvis said she would seek no immediate tax increases if elected and would retain Isaac Fulwood Jr. as police chief. Jarvis said the D.C. government would "do more with less" and "make wiser decisions about how we spend money" under her leadership.
"I think citizens do not have faith in their government at the moment and they're not willing to pay one more dime to a government in which they do not have faith," Jarvis said. "My challenge is to restore the credibility of government to prove that we can wisely use taxpayer dollars and not to propose any tax increases until there is that faith in government."
Jarvis, a native Washingtonian who turns 49 next week, received a doctorate in neuropsychology from the University of Maryland. She was elected to the D.C. Council from Ward 4 in a 1979 special election and faces four opponents in the Democratic mayoral primary: Clarke, Ray, lawyer Sharon Pratt Dixon and Del. Walter E. Fauntroy.
Former D.C. police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. has no opponent in the Republican mayoral primary. The general election is Nov. 6.
Jarvis, citing several recent endorsements and an influx of organizers and fund-raisers from the defunct reelection campaign of Mayor Marion Barry, sought yesterday to cast the primary election contest as a race between her and Ray.
"He's not moving and I am," Jarvis said. "It's going to be easy to catch Mr. Ray."
Although she faulted Ray for not supporting several council measures she proposed to help women, Jarvis reserved her strongest criticism for Clarke, who over the years has clashed with Jarvis and other council members.
"Mr. Clarke is temperamentally unsuited to be mayor," Jarvis said. "Mr. Clarke has a temper. He is petulant. He is often illogical under stress and not often rational. That makes him temperamentally unsuited."
Kerry Pearson, Clarke's campaign manager, said Jarvis's comments were "uncalled for, low and not true. She's putting the campaign on a plane that's not complimentary to her campaign or the voters of this city."
Jarvis criticized Ray for opposing a set of child-support guidelines, reduced insurance premiums for women and legislation to prod insurers to pay for mammography screening for breast cancer.
Jarvis said her council colleague had been "really quite insensitive to the issues affecting women and children in this community."
Ray said later, "I've been on women's issues long before Jarvis got there," adding that, "I guess people have to beat up on you about something."
Ray and his spokeswoman, Margaret Gentry, cited his support for child-care legislation, a measure to strengthen child support regulations as early as 10 years ago and passing Jarvis's mammography bill out of his council committee.
Jarvis also criticized Ray for accepting substantial contributions from developers, saying "voters are suspicious of the source of those funds and the Ward 3 voter is now understanding that a Ray candidacy means an end to their successes over development."
Ray, who has campaigned widely in affluent Ward 3, where neighbors have banded together to defeat several development projects, said this week that he was not accepting signficantly more developer contributions than other mayoral candidates.
In the interview, Jarvis said she would reorder the priorities of D.C. government to create a better support system for families in crisis, drug addicts and those afflicted with AIDS.
Jarvis, who earlier in the campaign complained that she was not being taken so seriously as others because she is a woman, contended that voter reluctance to embrace such a candidacy seemed to be dissipating in recent weeks.
"Voters are looking at me differently as a candidate now," said Jarvis, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1982. "The comments that I got before from voters were: 'Yes, Jarvis, you're very capable and energetic and hard-working and experienced and knowledgeable, but we don't think a woman can win this race.' And they're not saying that. I really have crossed that threshold."
Although Jarvis described the hiring of government workers as "out of control" under the Barry administration, with rewards going to "those who performed politically and not professionally," she said she saw no pressing need to order across-the-board cuts in the city payroll, as some of her opponents have suggested.
With the District facing a deficit that some experts believe will approach $100 million in coming months, Jarvis said money could be saved in several areas, such as paying insurance premiums for AIDS patients rather than absorbing their Medicaid costs, and by reducing the amount of office space the city government leases.
Jarvis said she would reduce the 3 million square feet of space the city now leases to 1 million within six years.
She also said she had severed her ties with Woodrow Boggs Jr., her onetime political adviser who with Jarvis was embroiled in several political and financial controversies over the years.
"Mr. Boggs resisted accountability, and therefore he is not part of this campaign," Jarvis said. "That is exactly what I will do as mayor. People who are unwilling to be accountable will not continue in my government."
Jarvis said Boggs would have no role in her mayoral administration, adding that the two had not spoken in months.