Republican mayoral nominee Maurice T. Turner Jr. yesterday accused his Democratic opponent, Sharon Pratt Dixon, of "setting deals" with out-of-town interests as she plans a series of three fund-raising trips across the country.
Dixon left for Los Angeles last night for two days of fund-raising and meetings with entertainment industry executives. She is also planning trips to Chicago and Atlanta, and was scheduled to go to Boston Thursday, but her flight was canceled because of bad weather.
Turner, speaking to reporters while visiting senior citizens at the Arthur Capper Center in Southeast Washington, lashed out at Dixon's travel, saying the trips prove she is neglecting Washingtonians. He said she is "setting deals" out of town when "she needs to be here confronting the people of Washington."
"This Sunday, while I'm supporting the Redskins against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pepco lady will be in Los Angeles asking for advice and money and God knows what else," he said. "The District of Columbia needs a mayor who understands the people of Washington . . . . We've had one mayor who thought jet-setting was the way to be. While the Pepco lady is out getting her frequent-flier miles, I'll be in Washington talking to the people."
Dixon, who is scheduled to return to Washington tomorrow, reacted immediately, calling a news conference within an hour of Turner's comments.
"It is unfortunate that my opponent finds himself in such desperate straits that he feels the need to resort to the kind of Willie Horton smear tactics perfected at Republican headquarters."
Turner began referring to Dixon as the "Pepco lady" to emphasize what he called a "half-million-dollar deal" she made with Potomac Electric Power Co. when she quit her job there two years ago.
Dixon received more than $500,000 in benefits when she left, which Turner suggests makes her beholden to Pepco.
Calling Turner's allegation a "perversion of truth," Dixon said she is offended and disappointed that he would call her ethics into question.
She said she is traveling to the other cities to look at programs that could benefit Washington. She said that the Los Angeles entertainment industry could have benefits for Washington and that Chicago has one of the best minority business programs in the country.
She also said that fund-raising out of town is preferable to "being beholden to local real estate interests."
A representative of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, which contributed to both Turner and Dixon during the primary campaigns, said Dixon may be justified in seeking campaign contributions out of town because money available to politicians in the Washington area has dried up. "Most people topped off their customary contributions during the primary, so that there are limited resources for the general election," the representative said.
Traditionally in Washington, the representative said, the primary has determined the victor in local races because Republican opposition was token, but the combination of Dixon's come-from-behind victory and national Republican support for Turner have made the general campaign a tighter race.
Staff writer Mary Ann French contributed to this report.