Mayor Anthony A. Williams declared yesterday that voters had awarded him a mandate in Tuesday's vote to keep the D.C. government on the same track, with little more needed than fine-tuning in such areas as customer service and job training.
The day after sweeping Republican Carol Schwartz in all eight of the city's wards, a visibly fatigued Williams opened his weekly news briefing with a weary smile. "Welcome to the first [day] of another four years of me," he joked in a voice husky after a late-night victory party.
Williams faces a full plate as he moves into the transition for a second term, beginning officially in January. He said he does not plan widespread remaking of his cabinet, but he has vowed to improve the functioning of a range of government agencies.
Whatever initiatives the mayor embraces for his second term will be complicated by Tuesday's results in congressional elections, which gave new power to Republicans.
"I think it's more difficult now," Williams said.
The 18 months in which the city enjoyed support from the Democratic-controlled Senate came to an end when the GOP took over that chamber while strengthening its majority in the House. And a standout Republican ally, Maryland Rep. Constance A. Morella, lost her seat and the chairmanship of a subcommittee with oversight of city operations.
Among the items caught in limbo are the city's $5.8 billion budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. City officials are holding spending to last year's levels or below pending approval, but the fate of the overall budget and the $323 million of fixes approved last month remains uncertain as Congress scrambles to reorganize itself.
Republicans also are less supportive of creating a federal payment for the city, and most oppose congressional representation for the District, two of the mayor's biggest stated priorities. Under Democratic leadership, the Senate had at least held hearings into greater representation for the city.
Congressional aides said that with a cool economy and with the White House setting a firm line on spending limits, it will be increasingly difficult for the Williams administration to make a case for an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal aid.
All four subcommittees with oversight over city affairs will have new chairmen, which could set back a relationship between the city and Capitol Hill that has improved in recent years.
The new lineup also probably spells doom in the near term for District efforts to gain budget autonomy to spend locally raised tax dollars without congressional approval, which Morella supported.
Schwartz declined to comment on how Republican control of Congress would affect city initiatives on Capitol Hill. "I really don't feel like getting into that," she said.
As Congress went to the Republicans, Williams won reelection by 61 percent to 35 percent, and he took all but two of city's 142 precincts. Schwartz nudged him out in Precinct 80 near Kingman Park and Precinct 131 near the Navy Yard. Williams's edge was less than in 1998, when he got 66 percent to Schwartz's 30 percent, but he said the will of voters was clear.
"The voters really decisively, overwhelmingly said they are confident about the way this city is going," he said.
Throughout the campaign, Williams said voters asked for better customer service from government officials and more effective job training for city residents. Voters also want an end to the ethical troubles that marked his first term and his reelection campaign, the mayor said.
"There were too many stupid fumbles," said Williams, paraphrasing the concerns of voters. "I hear what you're saying."
The mayor said he would use some of his political clout to push Congress for an elected district attorney, a change to the city's home-rule charter that voters overwhelmingly endorsed in a ballot question Tuesday.
Williams also announced he would go to court to prevent implementation of a second ballot question, which would give defendants in drug cases the right to treatment in lieu of jail time. Prosecutors have said that the change, which Williams called "wrongheaded," would undermine the city's drug court, which uses the threat of jail time to encourage treatment.
The city filed suit last month to block the ballot question but agreed not to pursue the case unless the proposal passed with voters, as it did by 78 percent to 22 percent.
Election Day also boosted the fortunes of Republican D.C. Council member David A. Catania, who burnished his credentials as heir apparent to Schwartz. On Election Night, she said her fourth loss demonstrates that she can't win a race for mayor in Washington, where Democrats have a 10-1 registration edge.
Two of the at-large council seats are reserved by charter for non-Democrats, so to stay on the council, Catania needed only to come in second. Catania, who is white, did best in Wards 2 and 3 and worst in Wards 7 and 8, which are overwhelmingly African American. Overall, he won 27 percent of the vote, up from 21 percent four years ago.
"That's exciting to me," Catania said. "It's a nice increase."
He declined to speculate about whether he will someday run for mayor, but at 34 he's young and energetic and is the most visible Republican aside from Schwartz in D.C. politics.
"The city would be well served by more competitive races and more ideas in the campaign," Catania said. "It is incumbent on us to start recruiting candidates earlier for elections, to identify candidates who can run for [neighborhood commissioner] and school board, and who can then move their way up the political ladder. Often, we look for candidates a few months before the general election, and that's not a recipe for success."
Beating Catania and all other comers was D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D), who took all eight wards. In no ward did his vote total top 50 percent. Catania outpaced challenger Eugene Dewitt Kinlow in each ward, even though Kinlow, who is black, lives in Ward 8 and tried to make race and class an issue in the campaign.
City GOP Chairman Betsy Werronen said that she would not put the mantle of mayoral prospect on Catania just yet. "We'll let David enjoy this victory," she said. But, she acknowledged, the Republican Party needs "more candidates, there's no question."
Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.