The two front-running Democratic candidates for District of Columbia mayor sharpening their attacks in the closing days of a close campaign, blamed each other yesterday for the failure last week of the California legislature to ratify a constitutional amendment granting D.C. full voting representation in Congress.
The verbal sparring between supporters of Mayor Walter E. Washington and City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker came at a time when both camps also began playing a game of political tug of war with the third major candidate, council member Marion Barry.
The Tucker organization began a two-pronged effort yesterday, one part of which was aimed at the politically important Ward 3, west of Rock Creek Park, and another part of which was focused at the equally vital Wards 5 and 7 in Northeast and Southeast Washington.
In Ward 3, where Barry is strongest, Tucker workers are hoping to capitalize on strong anti-Washington sentiment and take votes from Barry on the grounds that only Tucker has sufficient citywide support to defeat Washington.
At the same time, Tucker is hoping a new effort, emphasizing the scandals and controversy of the past four years of Washington's administration, will put the brakes on a surging support for Washington in Wards 5 and 7.
The Washington organization, knowing that a strong Barry candidacy is essential to the mayor's reelection success, took a decidedly low-key approach to Barry, while at the same time attempting to paint Tucker and his backer. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, as over-ambitious politicians.
Barry, meanwhile, still buoyed by an editorial endorsement of his candidacy last week by The Washington Post, said that he plans to stay in the - race and can still win it, and accused the other candidates and their supporters of "ganging up on me."
Yesterday, when most city voters returned from summer vacations, the organizations of the major mayoral candidates hustled to put the final pieces of their campaigns into place.
New television and radio ads, encompassing revised political strategies, were unvelied. Telephone banks began operating at stepped-up frequency. And fund-raisers began leaning hard on potential contributors for money - mostly contributions of $500, $1,000 and more at some offices - to finance the essential, last-minute media blitzes.
While all of this was going on behind the scenes, the Washington and Tucker campaigns were publicly pointing the finger at each other for the failure of the California legislature to ratify the voting rights amendment for the District.
First, Del. Fauntroy, on behalf of Tucker, accused Walter Washington of publicly supporting ratification while his aides lobbied California legislators in an effort to postpone ratification and thus minimize the political benefits that Tucker, titular head of the organization lobbying for ratification - might reap of the - measure were passed.
Then Washington's campaign manager, Lacy C. Streeter, on behalf of the mayor, accused Fauntroy and Tucker of a "serious blunder" in going to California two weeks ago to lobby for the amendment's ratification without adequate planning.
Streeter also played a tape of a telephone conversation the mayor had with California Gov. Jerry Brown, urging speedly ratification of the amendment and said he knew of no calls from the mayor's District Building staff or campaign workers urging a delay in ratification.
He said Fauntroy's and Tucker's "attempt to make a political issue" of the ratification effort was "a tragic disservice to the citizens of this city" and could "jeopardize" the overall ratification process.
Fauntroy, seated in front of the burned-out and trash-filled Dunbar Theater at Seventh and T streets NW, had said earlier that California Assemblyman Willie Brown "explicitly heard an aide (of Gov. Brown) tell the governor that 'Mayor Washington was on the phone mad as hell that you are going to meet with Tucker and Fauntroy, and asking you not to take pictures with them.'"
As it turned out, Gov. Brown voiced support for the amendment, which was approved in the California Assembly, but failed in the State Senate when the upper house failed to waive its rules to allow for a quick vote on the measure.
Leonard Grimes, a member of Gov. Brown's cabinet, said aide to Mayor Washington called the governor's campaign office to inform it of the political ramifications of Tucker's and Fauntroy's lobbying effort in California, but that no request was made to delay a vote on the amendment.
Fauntroy's accusations against Washington, made as the campaign entered its final and decision eight days, are part of a new, two-front offensive that the Tucker organization was scurrying to put into operation yesterday though a combination of mass media and community efforts.
On the west flank, Tucker hopes to capitalize on strong anti-Washington sentiment in Ward 3, west of Rock where Barry is leading, and snatch supporter from Barry on the contention that only Tucker has sufficient citywide support to defeat Washington.
On the east flank, the Tucker organization is trying to neutralize Washington surging support in Wards 5 and 7 in Notheast and Southeast Washington. These are considered "must-win" wards by wards by some Washington strategists, and Tucker hopes that by playing up past scandals and snafus of the Washington administration, the mayor's support will be weakenned.
Over the weekend, Tucker workers distributed thousands of leaflets, consisting of a college of newspaper headlines announcing some of the most criticial incidents in the mayor past four years in office.
"City Fails to Allot All Federal Aid For Poor, Elderly, "D.C. Federal Funds for Business Aid Go Begging," "Errors in Water Bills, Thousands Complain" and "ABC Hired Inspector With Alleged Bribery Conviction" are some of the headlines.
"10 Years of Excuses," the flied says at the top, and below that, in large letters, is printed, "Do you really want four more years like this?"
Tucker's campaign planners concede privately that this is a rection to the mayor's campaign slogan, "Let's is catching on. Many in the city are Keep a Good Thing Going," which beginning to feel that the situation in D.C. is not so bad after all, one Tucker campaign official said.
"It's been a quiet summer," the official said. "What we have to do is remind people that if they vote for Walter Washington, they're also voting for (housing director) Lorenzo Jacobs. They're voting for (city administrator) Julian Dugas. They're voting for (former human resources director) Joseph Yeldell. They're voting for four more years of (human rights director) Jim Baldwin."
Beginning today, the campaign official said, Tucker workers will begin an intensive leafletting effort in Ward 3 with literature playing up the Tucker campaign's contention that Barry is not electable.
But the key person in securing Ward 3 for the Tucker organization, according to several campaign officials, is City Council member Polly Shackleton, the 68-year-old politically invincible ward representative considered capable of delivering the majority of that ward's Democratic votes to the candidate of her choice in this election.
As of yesterday, Shackleton was still undecided between Tucker and Barry, but clearly opposed to Washington 's reelection. One reason for her indecision is that Shackleton's own organization is sharply divided between Barry and Tucker.
Lee Carty, he former campaign manager, is deputy campaign manager for Tucker, for example. Mary Lampson, for former executive assistant on the council, is a key campaign coordinator for Barry in Ward 3. Shackleton is beleived by most to be closer to Barry than she is to Tucker.
While the Tucker strategy all along has been to keep Barry out of the race, that of the Washington campaign is to keep him in. Washington's strategists acknowledge that a strong Marion Barry candidacy is necessary for them to win.
"If nothing else," one Washington campaign official said yesterday, "Marion ought to realize that it's good for him if the mayor wins because the mayor is only going to be around four more years. Sterling will stay in for eight."
Washington's camp was uplifted by the findings of a Washington Post poll published Sunday, showing that after lagging behind for some time, Washington's now in a neck-and-neck battle win Tucker for the lead in the race.
But Washington strategists conceded privately yesterday that they are also happy with Barry's endorsement last Wednesday by The Washington Post in an editorial that called Tucker a recycled Walter Washington.
One campaign planner said yesterday that the Washington organization has taken a decidedly low-key approach to the next few days in an effort to let Barry get the maximum benefit from The Post endorsement.
The Washington organization believes it is doing better in Ward 3 than the Post poll suggests and does not believe the election can be decided by Shackleton or Ward 3 voters.
For his part, Barry yesterday planned to continue riding the crest of the wave of support he said is coming in from the Post endorsement. He said 50,000 copies of the endorsement are being mailed out and are expected to help him win more votes among whites and middle-class blacks.
Barry spent yesterday afternoon visiting the Potomac Gardens Senior Citizens Center with his mother, Mattie Cummings, who has come up from Memphis, Barry said he does not plan to do anything new in the closing days of the campaign.
"I have enough problems with people being nervous about me, about how they think I might do something unexpected," he said.
Washington Post Staff writer Leon Dash also contributed to this article.