WITH ONLY TWO WEEKS to go until the special election, the campaigns for two seats on the District council and one on the school board have yet to capture people's attention. Why should they? It's an odd time of year and besides, we're only talking about 2 of 13 council seats and 1 of 11 school board seats. It's true that the results of these elections aren't likely to produce any drastic changes. Still, there are some solid reasons for voters to participate once again in the shaping of the local legislature as well as the group that makes important decisions about public education in this city.
There are nearly a dozen candidates running for the at-large council seat vacated by Marion Barry (the other contest is in Ward 4). The at-large race boils down to a contest between Douglas E. Moore, who was resoundingly rejected when he ran for council chairman in last September's Democratic primary, and John L. Ray, who has served on the council by interim appointment of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. There are fundamental differences between these two candidates-which point to John Ray as the vastly superior choice.
Mr. More, during four years on the council, accomplished amazingly little; there was not one bill he could rightfully claim to have introduced and seen through to enactment. Last fall, his campaign was a string of reckless statements around the city about other members of the council and about various whole classes of citizens. Now, a new team of advisers is marketing Mr. Moore as a different man-he has muted the racial innuendo, the lambasting of the board of trade, of homosexuals and of gambling and is talking more about housing, taxes and jobs. That's an improvement and a relief. But it comes late, as another in a series of political poses that, when it comes to constructive council work, still adds up to a big nothing.
Mr. Ray, in contrast, has made a good impression on his colleagues in only a brief time in office: Mayor Barry and all but three members of the council have endorsed his candidacy. So far, Mr. Ray has been a serious and industrious councilman; and his campaign properly emphasizes the importance of electing someone who will work with the mayor and council rather than merely railing about problems.
So far, there has been only a handful of candidates' forums on the school board contest and apparently only mild voter interest. While that may be because there are no fewer than 11 relatively unknown candidates or because people may be enjoying a short breather after the teachers' strike, these should be precisely the reasons for special interest in this contest. In the remaining days of the campaign, there are many subjects on which the candidates' responses should be weighed. For example, does the teachers' contract restrict the ability of the board to improve the schools, and if so, how? What changes should there be in the way teachers are hired, assigned, trained and evaluated? How about principals? Should there be more specialized high schools? The candidates' ability to answer those questions with more than just lip service to "quality education" could stand some testing in the next two weeks.