Several national women's groups yesterday endorsed Eleanor Holmes Norton for the District's nonvoting seat in Congress, while one of Norton's rivals, Donald M. Temple, said he was staying in the race despite being urged to get out.
Norton received the endorsements of the National Organization for Women's political action committee, the National Abortion Rights Action League, the National Women's Political Caucus and EMILY's List, a group that helps mobilize financial support for women candidates across the country.
The endorsements were striking because there are two other women in the race -- D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane and former school board member Barbara Lett Simmons -- and because each of the six Democrats in the race has expressed support for abortion rights and other women's issues.
But the groups said that Norton, a Georgetown University law professor who formerly headed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has a particularly strong record of leadership on women's issues.
"There are other impressive pro-choice candidates in this race, but the fact that D.C.'s representative cannot vote makes that person's ability to lead a compelling consideration," said Kate Michelman, executive director of NARAL. "There, Eleanor Holmes Norton stands alone."
Kane sharply criticized the endorsements, saying, "These national groups are doing the same thing that we criticize Congress for, undermining home rule and imposing their own will over local choice."
Meanwhile, Temple, a former congressional aide, held a news conference to announce that he is staying in the race, despite what he said were suggestions from some political activists that his candidacy "only serves to divide the African American electorate."
Temple said he was staying in the race to offer an "alternative to the status quo."
He criticized some of his rivals, questioning Kane's commitment to statehood and the support she has from the region's real estate interests. He said he could not think of one "significant local contribution" made by Norton in the past 10 years.
And while pointing out the "significant contributions" of Simmons and former city officials Sterling Tucker and Joseph P. Yeldell, Temple said, "It is time to build on their successes by passing the torch."