Five D.C. Council members -- all Democrats -- stood up, one by one, before a group of people at the District Building a month ago to endorse a write-in campaign for the Rev. Jerry A. Moore Jr. Moore, the Republican at- large council member, had lost his bid for renomination in the September primary. Since then a sixth council member, also a Democrat, added her endorsement.
These endorsements of a man well-liked by voters in both parties are seen by some as foul play. The Republican voters spoke, say critics of this write-in effort, and now some influential Democrats are moving to repeal the choice of the minority party.
"Jerry Moore is something of a city institution," council member H. R. Crawford of Ward 7 told me recently. "Since I was 3 years old, Moore has been a stabilizing factor in the community. He brings a comforting and religious dimension to the council."
Many of us who have lived all our lives in this town have fond memories of a Jerry Moore who has baptized more babies than anyone can count, made it possible for many young people to stay in school and ministered to the sick and shut-ins for 38 years from the same pulpit, as pastor of the Ninteenth Street Baptist Church. And Moore has demonstrated a lot of guts as a member of the Republican Party in a city where 87 percent of all registered voters are registered as Democrats. All this is true.
But 5,847 Republicans voted in the GOP primary in September, and a majority of them -- 3,401 -- voted the 15-year incumbent out of office. The party nominated Carol Schwartz.
The six Democratic council members supporting a Moore write-in -- Polly Shackleton, William Spaulding, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Wilhelmina Rolark, David A. Clarke and Crawford -- are unhappy with th decision of this "small number of people." According to Clarke, ''the entire electorate should have the opportunity to vote for this man."
The small number Clarke refers to amounts to 32 percent of the registered Republicans in the city. But only 18 percent of those registered as Democrats nominated John Ray in their primary the same day.
Some of these council members say they believe their Democratic constituents would rather have Republican Moore than Republican Schwartz. But Democrats selected their at-large nominee in Ray. They abuse their political power when they resurrect a defeated candidate for the nomination. They already run City Hall, controlling the mayor's office, the city's eight wards, the chairmanship of the council and two of the four at- large seats. They also hold the non-voting delegate seat in Congress.
Last year, when much of the decaying Daley machine in Chicago promoted a write- in campaign for Jane Byrne after she lost the primary to Harold Washington, mny District Democrats were incensed and called it racism. Mayor Marion Barry flew out to Chicago to help Washington quash this effort, which was being led not by the average citizen but by members of the Democratic leadership who wanted to prevail over the will of the people. What is so different here this time?
The home rule charter was written specifically to reserve two council seats for minority voices. The efforts of the Democratic leadership violated this protection. (If the situation were reversed and 11 Republicans and a Statehood Party member sat on the council and the Democrats nominated Marion Barry, would you not hear a cry of racism if the Republican leadership decided to select another Democrat more to its liking?)
My objection is not to a write-in candidacy, but to its being led by the leaders of the Democratic Party. The unwelcome message they are sending is that nominees of the Republican or Statehood parties, or an inependent, must first be stamped "approved by the Democratic Party" before they can expect to win a general election in this town.