ELEANOR NORTON won an impressive victory in the Democratic primary for D.C. delegate Tuesday, and, having opposed her, we congratulate her. Mrs. Norton won on the strength of a career whose remarkable achievements, for many, obviously either overwhelmed the disturbing information that came to light in the last few days of the campaign or made it seem an acceptable price to pay for having a person of her stature representing the District on the Hill. We hope that insofar as she can she will now deal with the reason for so many people's reservations and/or opposition -- the fact that for most of the 1980s she and her husband failed to file tax returns with the D.C. government whose congressional spokesman -- and fundraiser -- she seeks to be.
Mrs. Norton erected a number of hasty defenses after her tax troubles were leaked to the press last Friday. Some did her more credit than others. She said that her husband had always done the family taxes; that she had been unaware a problem existed until confronted with a copy of a city certificate of delinquency Friday afternoon; that she was hiring an accountant to straighten things out and would pay any back taxes owed (she wrote a check for more than $25,000 in 1982 taxes, penalties and interest Saturday morning); and that (apart from the buildup from 1982) the family might not owe anything, might even be overpaid by virtue of sums that had been withheld from her Georgetown law professor's salary and estimated payments her lawyer husband had made. She also complained that she had been the victim of a dirty trick, in that the anonymous leak had not occurred until the closing hours of the campaign, when it was thought she would not have time to repair the damage.
Now she does have time -- all she needs. She owes more than money and an up-to-date set of returns (her campaign disclosure statement that she had more than $300,000 in income last year, much of it in speaking and director's fees, suggests it is unlikely her full liability has been withheld). For her own sake as well as the city's, she needs to give a more complete and satisfactory explanation of what happened than she has been able to do thus far.
The city has a chance for a new start in Congress; Mrs. Norton has the ability to be a forceful advocate. But in order to make the central case that the federal government should increase its payment to the city, she first must dispose of the story that for too long she failed to make her full payment.