FOR STUDENTS of politics who can never get too much of it, I have conducted a new an unique analysis of local campaigning in the District of Columbia.
My study was conducted with a long-handled rake.
The District's special election May 1 aroused little enthusiasm except in Ward 4, where 16 candidates contested the City Council seat vacated by Arrington Dixon in his successful bid to become City Council chairman.
Campaign posters appeared everywhere, clustering on light poles and appearing at heights where only a browsing giraffe could make eye contact with them. The election came and went, and with it went many but by no means all of the posters.
Despairing of candidate cleanup of these campaign graffiti, I decided to take citizen action. Armed with a long-handled rake to reach posters appealing for the giraffe vote, I spent one evening taking down posters in our neighborhood, Shepherd Park, eventually filling the back seat of the car with faded political dreams.
Intrigued that the posters might contain political lessons for the time, I conducted an informal survey of the take, which came to 240 posters endorsing 19 candidates in the election for Ward 4 City Council at large, and School Board at large seats. Of the 240 posters, there were 190 from the Ward 4 campaign, 29 from the City Council at large race, and 21 from the School Board at large race. In addition, I picked up two posters from last fall's mayoral race (one each for Sterling Tucker and Walter Washington) and one for City Council candidate Nahikian.
In the Ward 4 election, based on posters alone, Richard Clark ran well ahead of the opposition, leaving behind 58 posters. Vicki Street finised a strong second, with 41 posters. Statehood Party candidate Gregory Rowe came in third, with 26 posters left hanging. Following Barry Campbell's 19 posters and Malcolm Diggs' 14 posters, the remaining candidates accounted for only 32 posters.
Correlating the poster results with the actual voting, the top four poster-leavers finished 7th, 4th, 5th and 11th in the voting. The winner, Charlene Jarvis, tied for last out of a field of 11 in the poster category with only two posters. The number 2 and number 3 vote-getters and five of the other candidates left on posters, to their credit.
Correlation of the Council at large election results with leftover posters, showed that the top four vote-getters were also the principal poster leaves; vote winner John Ray had a commanding lead over runnerup Doug Moore.
In the School Board at large race, top poster-leave Rohulamin "Ro" Quander came in second in the voting.
There a number of lessons to be llearned from this survey. The most important is that the election winners generally acted like winners by having their posters removed within a decent post-election period. The principal corollary (with the exception of the City Council at large race) is that the candidates who left behind the most posters usually finished well down in the voting.
Reasons can be found for the poster-vote results. The top vote-getters generally had the most efficient organizations and the most posters, which the workers took down before an indecent interval had elapsed following the election. The lowest vote-getters had the weakest organizations and the least posters, sparing local residents having to stare forever at an unknown name calling for their support in an election long past.
The principal poster-leavers were candidates with average organizations but a greater than usual number of posters, perhaps reflecting the candidates' "reach" (posters) exceeding their "grasp" (workers and votes). These candidates could not keep their organizations together after their average showings in the election, and there was no one left to take down the posters.
The principal exception to the above thesis is a possible machiavellian angle in the Ward 4 City Council race since Charlene Jarvis' term expires the fall, and there will be an election for a full term at that time. The average candidates may have decided to keep their posters up and thereby reduce an expenditure item a few months hence.
Politics is forever, and there will always be another race. I've got this long-handled rake.