Anyone questioning whether the District mayor's race is in full swing need only to have witnessed yesterday's D.C. Council meeting. The three mayoral candidates on the council used rising gasoline prices to try to score political points with voters and to take some shots at one another.
Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), looking squarely into a TV camera, introduced legislation that would refer allegations of price gouging to the city's attorney general.
Fenty called for "swift and decisive action."
Another mayoral candidate, council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), accused Fenty of hijacking his idea, saying he came up with the proposal to crack down on unfair pricing.
"He's trying to steal my thunder," Orange said.
Orange then introduced a bill that would impose a 90-day moratorium on the city's 20-cent-per-gallon tax on gas.
To further show his concern, Orange said he will pump bargain-basement $2-a-gallon gasoline today from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at a station at 3101 Rhode Island Ave. NW. He said the station owner has agreed to take the financial hit.
The District has the highest gas prices in the continental United States, according to Lon Anderson of AAA. The average price is $3.08 a gallon for self-serve regular, compared with a national average of $2.79 a gallon.
Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), who recently announced her mayoral bid, did not introduce legislation yesterday, but she managed to get into the battle.
Orange accused Cropp of playing political games when she used her power as chairman to block his original measure, an emergency bill that would have waived the gas tax for the last 10 days of September.
Those are the last 10 days of the fiscal year, and Orange said his proposal wouldn't have any fiscal impact because the city is expected to run a large budget surplus for the year.
"It wasn't politics," she said, explaining why she blocked the bill. "It was bad budgeting."
Also in the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination are lobbyist Michael A. Brown and former telecommunications executive Marie C. Johns.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has not said whether he will run for a third term.