President Carter, considered by many local politicians the early favorite to lose this city's Democratic primary next year, told a hometown crowd of Washington Democrats last night that his anti-Washington rhetoric should not be confused with his true feelings for the District of Columbia.
"Like you, I am proud to be a Democrat and I am also proud to be a Washingtonian," Carter told more than 800 persons attending the Kennedys-King Day fund-raising dinner of the D.C. Democratic State Committee at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Carter's appeal last night to the hometown sentiment of city Democrats marked the first time that the President has made a major speech aimed at residents of the city in which he won his highest plurality during the 1976 election, 82 percent.
Many political oservers in the city -- including some of Carter's strongest Democratic supporters -- contend that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) could handily win in the May 6 District of Columbia Democratic primary if Kennedy decides to run.
Half the members of the state committee, the policy-making arm of the local Democratic Party, are members of the D.C. Committee for a Democratic Alternative, a dump-Carter group. Three persons on the 13-member city council also have announced their support for Kennedy.
Still, there was polite but sustained applause last night when Carter and his wife Rosalynn marched into the ballroom while the McKinley Tech High School band played "Hail to the Chief." Armed with the magic of the presidency, lavish praise for the city's local party leadership, his record of accomplishments on behalf of the District and statements of his undying affection for the city, Carter came on what some of his top staff members said was a mission to prove the political pundits wrong.
"There are really two Washingtons," Carter said. "One is the federal city, which is a national and international center, and hometown Washington where 700,000 people live and work and make a good city function."
"When I campaigned, I often mentioned mistakes of the federal government and I have even had a few things to say about it since I came to live here," Carter said. "But I never confused the two cities, and I have only good things to say about hometown Washington."
The president's 23-minute speech was interrupted by scattered applause 22 times, mostly during his chronicle of the various programs for increased self-determination for the city that his administration had supported.
Carter also praised the contribution of local Democrats to his election, and the quality of the city's Democratic leaders. He proudly ticked off the names of more than one dozen persons in his administration whom he said were Washingtonians.
The president gave his strongest praise to the efforts his administration had made toward securing Congressional approval last August for a constitutional amendment that would grant the District full voting representation in Congress.
"The fight to win congressional approval of this amendment was not easy, but for the first time in history a president is supporting full voting representation for the District," Carter said. "That success was one of the most satisfying victories of my administration."
Carter also said last night that he would work to gain approval of the amendment by the necessary 38 state legislatures. The president said that some opposition to passage of that amendment has been based on misunderstandings of the city and a "tinge of racism."
Carter did not mention his nomination last week of Charles F. C. Ruff to become the next U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. All of the D.C. Democratic party leaders who Carter singled out for praise last night had supported another candidate.
The president also made no reference during last night's speech to his apparent victory earlier in the day in Democratic party caucuses in Florida.
James Dyke, one of the Carter administration's prinicipal staff members for District affairs, said last night that he thought Carter's record in the District would be sufficient for the president to capture the D.C. Democratic primary.
Dyke said winning the District primary would show the president's popularity in an area where there were "purely urban issues" and where the population is overwhelmingly black.
City council member John Ray (D-At Large), one of the three council members who have announced their support for Kennedy, said he doubted if Carter's appearance last night would change many minds. "It would be a joyous night tonight," [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
Most of the local joking at last night's dinner concerned Mayor Marion Barry's controversial proposal to reduce trash collection in the city. "It seems as if we're going to have to reduce the number of trash pickups at the White House, from seven to two days a week, and I have for the president one of these 82 gallon containers," Barry said.
Later, when Carter spoke of his support for the full 100-mile Metro system, he told Barry, "We might have to cut a mile or two off to get a few more garbage trucks."
Coretta Scott King, window of Martin Luther King Jr., also appeared at last night's dinner. Former United Nation's ambassador Andrew Young and Ethel Kennedy, window of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, did not make scheduled appearances.