Republican mayoral candidate Maurice T. Turner Jr. launched his first attacks yesterday against Democratic rival Sharon Pratt Dixon, saying she would not be tough enough on criminals and denouncing her proposal to fire 2,000 District government employees as unfair to city workers.
Turner, speaking to reporters two days after winning the GOP nomination in an uncontested party primary, said his 32 years as a D.C. police officer, eight as chief, make him better equipped to deal with the problems of crime and drug-related violence.
Meanwhile, Harry M. Singleton, who captured the Republican nomination for D.C. delegate to Congress, castigated Eleanor Holmes Norton, his Democratic opponent, as temperamentally unsuited for the job and politically crippled by a simmering controversy over her failure to file city income tax returns.
Turner, contrasting his record with Dixon's views about crime control, said he believed that "some people are going to do wrong, that you're not going to change that behavior through social conditions."
"She's crying for social changes," Turner said of Dixon. "People need to be arrested, convicted and sent to jail, and that's what I intend to do.
"There are husbands who don't feel safe at home with their wives, afraid that somebody's going to kick their doors in and rape their wives and their daughters," Turner added. "I'm committed to doing something positive about crime. She talks about compassion and doing something socially -- you have to do those things, but you've got to have a strong and forceful effort out there."
Law enforcement, Turner said, "is the part my opponent would probably skip."
Dixon, anticipating Turner's law-and-order themes in the Nov. 6 general election campaign, said the day after her upset primary victory that Turner was a captive of a conservative philosophy that most District residents would reject.
"Maurice Turner has been embraced by a philosophy that I personally do not believe serves the city well," Dixon said Wednesday. "The emphasis of the Republican Party, especially on issues such as drugs and crime, has been one of incarceration, and I think while you have to have discipline on the streets, ultimately we have to deal with the root and causes of all this.
"That's clearly the difference between the Democrats and Republicans," Dixon added. "We are about a different philosophy and a different ethic."
As the fall mayoral race got off to a spirited start, leaders of the national Republican and Democratic parties said they would be providing technical assistance, money and volunteers to the campaigns of the respective mayoral candidates.
On the GOP side, Mary Matalin, chief of staff of the Republican National Committee, said President Bush will give a fund-raising event for Turner and Vice President Dan Quayle will lend his support to the mayoral campaign. Bush, who recruited Turner to the Republican Party last year, has a "natural affinity" for Turner, Matalin said.
She said the committee has solicited contributions from Republican state parties around the country and that Turner has regularly used the research and communications services of the national party. James King, one of the highest ranking black Republican officials, is on loan to Turner as campaign manager.
Ginny Terzano, press secretary of the Democratic National Committee, said there have been no discussions about possible fund-raising for Dixon, but added that the national party is planning a major voter drive for the campaign's final phase.
Democratic National Chairman Ronald H. Brown has strongly signaled his support for Dixon, meeting her on election night and joining her on stage to savor her victory.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 8 to 1 in the District, which has elected only a tiny number of GOP candidates in its modern political history. Facing such a numerical disadvantage, Turner and Singleton tried yesterday to get an early start on the themes they will air throughout the eight-week campaign.
Singleton said Norton's failure to file D.C. income tax returns for the last seven years is an enormous political liability at a time when the city hopes to repair its image after the drug trial of Mayor Marion Barry.
"Having finally resolved the problem of the mayor making our city a national embarrassment, we don't need to elect a person to the job of delegate with a cloud over their head," Singleton said. "If she thinks that all of the questions about her integrity are behind her, then she is badly mistaken."
Singleton added that Norton lacked the appropriate temperament for the delegate's post, describing her as "very caustic and quick to fly off the handle," and accused her of distorting his views on abortion rights, which he said he favors.
Norton campaign manager Donna Brazile dismissed Singleton's criticism as nothing more than "throwing mud and hoping it sticks."
"He's doing the Republican thing of throwing big lies," said Brazile, adding that Singleton could not reconcile his personal views on abortion with the national party platform on that and other issues.
"In this campaign, we're going to be asking whether he's running on his personal position or the party platform," Brazile said.
Turner, at his news conference, said Dixon's proposed firing of 2,000 middle-level managers in city government was misguided because it would put "the burden of the failures of our leaders onto the backs of our civil servants."
Instead, Turner embraced a proposal by D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke, one of the four candidates who lost to Dixon, for trimming the public payroll by attrition.
Asked if he thought it was wise to take an idea from one of the city's best-known Democrats, Turner replied: "I didn't steal any idea, but I'll tell you what I have. I have the sense to recognize that I don't have all of the brains, that I know good ideas when I have good ideas.
"It's a good idea and I accept that good idea," Turner said of the Clarke plan.
Clarke said yesterday that his ideas were free for the borrowing, while expressing irritation with the news media for refusing to acknowledge "that I have been addressing the issue of the bloat in government for years."
Turner also said he supported a tax on suburban commuters who work in the District and said he confronted Barry before he retired from the police force about allegations of the mayor's drug use.
"I asked him face to face," Turner said. "He denied it. I believed him."
Turner also said his officers aggressively pursued the drug investigation against Barry in cooperation with federal authorities.
"The Metropolitan Police Department investigated the data and presented the evidence that it gathered to the United States Attorney's Office," Turner said. "With me as chief of police, the Ramada Inn incident went down. I am the one that put that team in place. That team stayed in place till the Vista Hotel."
The Ramada Inn episode, a turning point in the federal investigation of Barry, occurred in December 1988, when D.C. police officers responded to a complaint that Charles Lewis, a Barry associate, had offered cocaine to a hotel maid. The police tried to investigate, but left the downton hotel after learning that Barry was in Lewis's room.
Barry was arrested Jan. 18 at the Vista Hotel in an FBI drug sting operation, and subsequently was convicted of one misdemeanor count of cocaine possession.
Staff writer Mary Ann French contributed to this report.