Democratic mayoral nominee Sharon Pratt Dixon ridiculed some of the anti-crime rhetoric of Republican rival Maurice T. Turner Jr. yesterday as "empty macho conversation," while Turner said he would "beg" District voters for their support in the Nov. 6 election.
"I beg you to vote for Maurice Turner," the former D.C. police chief said at the close of a 30-minute mayoral debate sponsored by WRC-TV (Channel 4).
The debate, which is scheduled for broadcast tomorrow evening and Sunday morning, broke no new ground, but did afford viewers a chance to see some thematic and stylistic differences between the two major candidates.
None of the nine other candidates in the mayoral field participated in the debate, which will be aired at 6 p.m. tomorrow and at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
Dixon repeated her pledge to clean house in District government, in part through the planned firing of 2,000 non-tenured city workers. She also called on D.C. Democrats, who outnumber registered Republicans by nearly 9 to 1, to rally around her candidacy in the final 10 days of the campaign.
"We cannot afford to go asleep at the wheel," Dixon said of the party.
Turner said his 32 years as a District police officer, the last eight as chief, made him more qualified than Dixon. He also said she had sidestepped the issue of identifying which city workers would be fired from her administration.
Dixon said she intends to begin a "management audit" to identify the workers she will fire. Turner said he would reduce the government payroll through the attrition of 7,000 workers, rather than by firings.
In an apparent reference to the supporters of Mayor Marion Barry who have joined the Dixon camp in recent weeks, Turner said at one point during the debate, "The cronies are now flocking to other people."
Dixon, who did not respond to Turner's comment, made a veiled dig of her own at him, saying she hoped to reverse the "sad record" of high homicide rates and other drug-related crime the city experienced in the last decade; Turner retired as police chief in the summer of last year.
Dixon dismissed as "empty macho conversation" Turner's repeated assertions that she would be soft on crime.
Dixon also said she supported a proposal, pending in the D.C. Council, to extend health and other employee benefits enjoyed by the spouses of District workers to unmarried "domestic partners" of city workers.
The measure has been one of the most highly prized legislative goals of Washington's gay community. Proponents also say it would affect numerous unmarried heterosexual couples who do not now receive the same kind of worker benefits that married couples do.
Although Dixon said the domestic partnership proposal was "more than appropriate," particularly in view of the AIDS epidemic, Turner declined to state any position on the measure when interviewed about it after the debate.
Turner, who is courting the support of a group of black ministers, several of whom are opposed to the proposal, said he would state his position on domestic partnership later.
On another topic, Turner said he would reduce the size of the mayoral security detail if he wins election because he already feels "safe and secure" on the streets of the District.
He also sought to distance himself from President Bush's veto of the 1990 Civil Rights Act, saying he thought the measure as approved by Congress was "perfect."
"I make my own positions," Turner said. "I support my own positions."