The five Democrats who would be mayor scampered across the District's four quadrants yesterday, motoring from rallies to block parties to festivals to fund-raisers trying to nail down the sizable slice of the electorate that has yet to make up its mind.
No moment better captured the final weekend before Tuesday's primary than a duel between candidate caravans for mastery of a shopping center at Riggs Road and Missouri Avenue in Northeast.
As bemused shoppers watched, a procession of cars and vans supporting council member Charlene Drew Jarvis and another backing council member John Ray circled the parking lot, booming competing slogans via loudspeaker and leaving a sea of competing brochures.
That was not the only common ground in the quest for votes, however, as candidates popped up at the same event -- though not always at the same time -- all across the city, including a barbecue by the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged Inc., a block party at Sargent Road and 13th Place NE and Black Family Reunion day on the Mall.
One gathering alone, the LeDroit Park Fall Festival near the Howard University campus, drew 14 candidates, a reflection of the fact that the hopefuls for Congress and D.C. Council were just as active yesterday as the mayoral contestants.
Betty Ann Kane, Donald M. Temple, Sterling Tucker and Joseph P. Yeldell, all candidates for D.C. delegate to Congress, flocked to the LeDroit festival, and the fifth delegate candidate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, was slated to stop by last evening.
For most of those running, it was not a day for issues. Instead, candidates simply tried to be seen in as many places as possible to energize campaign workers and create a sense of momentum that might sway the large pool of voters who remain undecided.
Outside his campaign office at 14th and U streets NW, D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke, a mayoral hopeful, told 125 volunteers at the day's outset to shake as many hands as possible, give a quick Clarke pitch and move on. "If they want to argue," Clarke told his supporters, "just go on to the next voter."
"Even at this point, about one-quarter of the people are saying they are undecided," Clarke said, "and those that are decided aren't really that decided. This election is still wide open." With that, a Clarke motorcade sped off in an effort to swing through all eight of the city's wards.
Ray blitzed the Capitol Hill area of Ward 6 in 90 minutes yesterday, moving from a Safeway store on Kentucky Avenue SE to the Eastern Market to the Potomac Gardens apartments, shaking hands, kissing babies and hugging anybody within reach.
Aides to Ray said their strategy, with three days to go, was to market Ray the man, believing that his low-key personality is their best selling point. But while many voters seemed to greet Ray with enthusiasm, there were many skeptical looks.
"We're doing unbelievably well," Ray said in the Safeway parking lot, shortly after speaking to a group of people conducting a religious festival on nearby 14th Street.
Ray said that "the biggest chunk of undecided is the black vote" and that he would be helped by the recent endorsement of the Washington Afro-American newspaper.
Equally peripatetic yesterday was Sharon Pratt Dixon, the former Pepco executive whose campaign has surged in recent days because of endorsements and her performance in televised debates.
As she bounced from meet-the-candidate receptions to the LeDroit festival to private gatherings, Dixon reiterated her pledge to "clean house" at the District building if she wins her first attempt at public office. That pitch seemed to pick up some converts.
"I think I liked what I saw," said Tom Hilliard, who attended a reception for Dixon yesterday in Ward 4.
Riding in a motorcade of his own, Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, also a mayoral candidate, spent time at the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged barbeque at 14th and Harvard streets NW, dancing before the crowd of 400 to Aretha Franklin's "Respect."
From there, the Fauntroy caravan moved on to the Sargent Road block party, where the candidate shook dozens of hands and said he was concentrating on one-to-one contact with voters. Both coming and going, Fauntroy's motorcade traveled to the sounds of the Winnans gospel group's song, "Time to Make a Change."
Jarvis too went to the barbecue, moving from table to table with a roll of her red-heart Jarvis stickers, a staple of her appearances across the city.
"I've been doing this all day, and I'll be doing it again all day Sunday and all day Monday," Jarvis said, referring to campaigning. "You should have seen me this morning at LeDroit Park, where I did an impromptu rap song."
At LeDroit, she was introduced by Larry Guyot, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for the area and a longtime friend of Mayor Marion Barry's. "If you liked Mayor Barry," he said, "you will love Charlene Drew Jarvis."
Jarvis, however, turned to a reporter and said, "I'm not sure I liked that. You noticed no one applauded."
In her remarks to the crowd of about 100 at the festival, Jarvis made no mention of the Barry administration, instead stressing what she would do in the future.Staff writers Keith Harriston, Nathan McCall, Carlos Sanchez, Rene Sanchez and Linda Wheeler contributed to this report.