President Bush, in his only major appearance for a municipal candidate this fall election season, helped raise more than $200,000 yesterday for Republican mayoral nominee Maurice T. Turner Jr., hailing him as the candidate best equipped to end "the crisis of confidence that grips the District Building."
Bush, speaking to a breakfast audience of several hundred Turner supporters at the Mayflower Hotel, described Turner as an underdog in the mayor's race, but said there was "no one more dead set on getting the deadwood out of city government and providing leadership to help heal Washington" than the former D.C. police chief.
Those who know Turner "call him tough, honest, concerned, committed, competent," Bush said. "Well, come November 6th, that's just one thing more I'd like to call him, and that is 'Mayor.' "
Turner, who at various stages of the mayoral campaign has sought to play down his affiliation with the Republican Party, issued a strongly partisan attack on the District's ruling political establishment, saying, "The Democratic leadership in the District has let us down."
"That leadership has been high on power and short of sight," Turner said. "They have stymied our progress, stifled our opportunities, smothered our schools in bureaucracy and crippled city hall with corruption."
Later, at a news conference, Turner repeated his recent criticism of Sharon Pratt Dixon, his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election, asserting that Dixon is "soft on crime" and unwilling to press aggressively for the incarceration of convicted criminals.
Dixon, campaigning yesterday in Southeast Washington, where she received the endorsement of the Tenants Organization Political Action Committee, disputed Turner's contention and blamed Republican administrations for exacerbating the crime rate in Washington and other parts of the nation.
"Crime began to escalate in this city, as well as this country, as a result of the policies of the Republican Party, because the Republican Party helped to create enormous economic differences in our society," Dixon said. "The Republican Party is the problem."
"I intend to be tough on the root causes of it, as well as to restore discipline in the streets," Dixon added. "When Maurice Turner was a Democrat, he said you had to deal with the root causes. But now he's become the Wyatt Earp of politics, and that's a result of his association with the Republican Party."
In response to questions from reporters yesterday, Dixon said she was willing to release copies of her city and federal income tax returns, while Turner said he would not release copies of his.
"I have paid my federal taxes, I've gotten my refunds and I think that's sufficient," Turner said. "If, at the proper time, I have to release them, I will. But I won't release them at this time."
Turner campaign aides said 600 people attended the $250-a-head breakfast at the Mayflower and that the event raised about $250,000 in all.
Bush, who has been making political appearances around the country before the midterm elections, spoke briefly but with spirit about the man whom he recruited to the GOP last year.
Turner, said Bush, has "a strong message for the criminals who create a climate of fear and the drug dealers who prey on our kids: You can run but you cannot hide."
The president said Turner had spent the summer stumping for votes "from Anacostia to Wisconsin Avenue," losing 35 pounds in the process but gaining "the fighting edge that he needs to boost this underdog over the top and into the mayor's office."
Turner, who presented Bush with a red, white and blue campaign T-shirt, said the president's appearance was a "wonderful moment" in a mayoral bid that even GOP strategists say will be difficult in overwhelmingly Democratic Washington.
Florence Booker, a Turner family friend who is chairman of the campaign, seemed to acknowledge the challenge facing the former police chief when she characterized a Turner victory as only a "strong possibility" in "the midst of a Democratic stronghold."
Officials in the Turner campaign, which this month reported a debt of $109,913, seemed pleased by the fund-raising results. They said the president's appearance would help energize the occasionally moribund city GOP in time for the election.
Dixon, meanwhile, disparaged the Bush appearance. "I think given the policies of President Bush, and given the fact that we're still searching for his thousand points of light . . . I don't see how it could be effective," she said.
"I'm certain it is a benefit in terms of raising money, but I don't believe in terms of philosophical approach it could, in any way, be an asset," Dixon added. "It would have to be a liability."