The Rev. Jerry Alexander Moore Jr. tried to inspire voters lined up at the Montgomery School polling place on election day with an arm-shaking, preacher-pacing chant: "Write in! Punch! Vote for Jerry Moore!" With lipstick on his cheek and sample ballots in hand, Moore, 66, was getting into the groove when suddenly one of his aides waved for him to get back inside the campaign car. His time was up, the aide said; Moore had to move on.
"Just when I was getting cranked up, you tell me it's time to go," said a disappointed Moore, climbing inside a Cadillac bearing license tags reserved for members of the D.C. City Council, a distinction Moore has held for 15 years. "But if you say go, I'll go."
With the roar of an engine, Moore was gone. And by the end of the day, it appeared as though another machine, powered by challenger Carol Schwartz, had driven the District's only elected black Republican out of office.
From the beginning, Moore never seemed overly concerned about the outcome of the election. Even when he lost to Schwartz in the Sept. 11 primary, Moore said he was prepared to "bow out gracefully," but was later informed that he had substantial support for a write-in campaign.
"I had to respond to the will of the people," Moore said during his tour of voting precincts, where the elderly greeted him with kisses and handshakes. "Every morning when I wake up I just pray, and the Lord says he will walk with me. Whatever the outcome, it will be God's will."
Meanwhile, campaign workers had scrambled through more than 150 churches, attempting to teach the elderly -- Moore's strongest supporters -- how to use a write-in ballot. His staff ordered more than 200,000 pencils and a half-million sample ballots. Residents of senior citizens' homes were bused to the District Building, courtesy of City Council member William Spaulding (D-Ward 5), to file absentee ballots for Moore.
But time was running out. Although the write-in effort had been announced on Oct. 5, the first fund raiser was not held for two weeks. Money for the first radio ads wasn't received until last Wednesday. And only 10 days were available for the voter education campaign. So much time had been spent explaining how to vote for Moore, that rarely was it mentioned why people would want to.
Through it all, Moore, pastor of the influential 19th Street Baptist Church, had remained characteristically reserved, seemingly resigned to fate as he recited Bible verses and spoke of "God's will." He maintained that a candidate who had been "drafted by the people" did not have to engage in a campaign of "personal self-aggrandizement."
By midday Tuesday, he appeared ready to fall asleep while being chauffered around the city -- a man who seemed incongruously serene, almost oblivious to the political hurricane around him.
He had been rejected by his own party, which preferred a candidate who pledged to be a "real Republican" and a thorn in the side of the ruling Democrats at the District Building. Six Democratic City Council members had crossed party lines to support his extraordinary write-in campaign. The city's black ministers had thrown their weight and prestige behind an uphill battle to save one of their own.
Those monitoring election day activities from Moore's headquarters at 666 11th St. NW knew that Moore's popularity in this predominately black, Democratic town was not enough. Technical problems associated with a last-minute write-in campaign, the appeal of labor activist Josephine Butler to the same voters Moore had to win and a perceived feeling of solidarity among D.C. Republicans, most of whom are white, all worked against Moore.
"If you look at the Carol Schwartz vote and where it came from you can see a certain pattern," Ofield Dukes, a spokesman for the Moore campaign, said yesterday. " CBS commentator Bill Moyers stated eloquently that people at this point in time have voted not only their perceptions, but their emotions."
But Clarence McKee, chairman of the Reagan-Bush campaign in the District, took a different view, saying, "It Moore's defeat just shows the need for more blacks to get involved in the Republican Party. You can't blame his loss on racism. It's all in the numbers."
Moore apparently came in fourth in a field of six, in a race where the top two finishers won seats on the council, according to unofficial returns. A final tally of write-in votes will not be ready for at least a week. He attended two election-night victory parties, but had nothing to tell his supporters.
Dukes said council member Moore was not expected to make a statement about the election until after the final count is done.