Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, promising more federally financed jobs to a group of women construction workers in far Southeast Washington, began a last-minute blitz of campaigning yesterday for Tuesday's D.C. Democratic primary.
Mayor Marion Barry, meanwhile, stumped for President Carter at a noontime rally downtown. About 300 persons -- including many White House staffers on their lunch hour -- heard Barry declare, "The president has not been perfect, but he's better than anyone else. And that's what is important."
The two appearances launched what is shaping up as five final days of frenzied campaigning in an otherwise passive presidential primary. The presidential contest has been overshadowed by a referendum on legalized gambling that is also on the ballot, and plagued by what some political observers see as a general lack of enthusiasm for all the candidates.
Kennedy's trip to the site of the government-funded apartment rehabilitation project near Ridge Road and C Street SE yesterday morning was his third campaign appearance in the District.
The workers, all wearing yellow hardhats, are in the fifth week of a program in which they are learning building trades while renovating the apartments. Kennedy visited two worksites in the small complex.
Kennedy noted that the project was funded by the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program, in which Cater has proposed deep cuts.
"This is the kind of CETA program that should not be cut," Kennedy said. "It seems to me this program is deserving of continuity and support, and should be continued and expanded."
Kennedy said the program, sponsored by Wider Opportunities for Women Inc. -- a Washington-based non-profit job development firm -- has placed up to 90 percent of its participants in jobs. "But what I think is more important than statistics," he said, "is what this means for these women and their families."
"That's right," a man shouted from a window. "Did I say it like it is?" Kennedy yelled back in his stiff New England accent.
Kennedy then dashed off for local television appearances. Tomorrow, he is scheduled to attend a 10 a.m. rally at the Tenth St. Baptist Church in Northwest D.C.
Afterwards, most of the women workers said they like Kennedy and plan to vote for him. "If anyone can change the econmic situation, he can," said 26-year-old Toni Gilchrist of Anacostia, who is learing to be a carpenter.
But 30-year-old Ernestine Hayes cocked her hardhat to one side and complained that the D.C. government, which also is involved in the program, has been slow to supply building materials, particularly the pipes and fittings she needs to learn plumbing.
"If he's going to come out here, he ought to bring some materials," she said of Kennedy. "He's using us, so he ought to get us the things we need."
Barry, wearing a big button that read "Barry Backs Carter" and with Carter re-election posters plastered on the doors of his city limousine, was the main speaker at the noontime rally, held outside the Carter campaign headquarters at 1215 G St. NW.
To the cheers of the crowd, many of hwom had put suburban addresses on the sign-in sheets, Barry predicted a Carter victory on Tuesday.
Barry said he plans to canvass his own Southeast Washington precinct -- Precinct 100 at Anne Beers Elementary School -- all day Tuesday to be sure his neighbors get out to vote.Janette Harris, the Carter campaign's D.C. coordinator, said about 800 volunteers will pass out literature in front of supermarkets and will canvass neighborhoods over the weekend.
The highest ranking member of the Carter administration at the rally -- who did not speak -- was Sterling Tucker, assistant secretary of housing and urban development. Then City Council chairman, Tucker was an unsuccessful candidate for the mayoral nomination won in 1978 by Barry.
The Carter campaign organization has sent virtually no high-ranking surrogates or family members to campaign in Washington. The president has made no local campaign appearances in the city.