Sharon Pratt Dixon rode a shock wave of voter resentment against Mayor Marion Barry and the District's entrenched political establishment to win an upset victory yesterday in the race for the Democratic Party's mayoral nomination.
With all 140 precincts reporting, Dixon defeated John Ray, the front-runner through much of the campaign, and mayoral hopefuls Charlene Drew Jarvis, David A. Clarke and Walter E. Fauntroy.
Former D.C. police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., running unopposed, picked up the Republican nomination for mayor and will face Dixon in the Nov. 6 general election.
Meanwhile, Eleanor Holmes Norton decisively won the nomination for D.C. delegate, despite a last-minute furor over her failure to file D.C. tax returns for the past seven years. Harry M. Singleton, a lawyer, won the Republican nomination in the delgate's race.
In other key Democratic primaries, D.C. Council member John A. Wilson (Ward 2) handily won the party's nomination for the council chairmanship, while four-term council incumbent Nadine P. Winter lost to lawyer Harold Brazil, and school board member Linda Cropp was nominated for an at-large seat on the 13-member council.
Jesse L. Jackson, who moved to Washington last summer, was easily nominated for one of two newly created shadow lobbying seats to the U.S. Senate.
As hundreds of exultant supporters gathered at the downtown Park Hyatt Hotel, Dixon, a lawyer and former vice president of Potomac Electric Power Co. who was making her first bid for elective office, said she considered Turner a formidable opponent, in part because her gender could be an issue with some voters.
"I do not by any means take it for granted," Dixon said of the general election. "I know I have a race on my hands."
The turnout of 121,706 voters in yesterday's mayoral primary was the highest total for such an off-year election in District history, surpassing the 1982 record of 120,234. Norton's vote total exceeded Dixon's by more than 4,000.
The come-from-behind win by Dixon, who had the least money of the five candidates and was outspent 4 to 1 by Ray, was the product of a number of factors, including her well-timed calls for new political leadership, such as her demand -- issued within days of Barry's arrest at the Vista Hotel -- that the mayor resign.
Dixon also was the beneficiary of a series of editorial endorsements in The Washington Post in the crucial final phase of the campaign, when she performed ably in a series of televised debates. Jarvis last night criticized The Post for what she said was an attempt to "control the outcome" of the election; Ray also described the endorsements as the decisive factor in Dixon's victory.
At the same time, Dixon was her own best weapon, an articulate and telegenic reformer whose message resonated with white and black voters alike.
Barry himself confirmed the groundswell of voter antipathy, telling WRC-TV (Channel 4) that the basic dynamic of the primary was "an anti-incumbent, good guy-bad guy" vote.
"Certainly my case has been an example of what some people are very tired of and I think Sharon Pratt Dixon represented drastic change," Barry said. "There was no in-between."
Dixon also overcame what she and some of her advisers first feared would be strong voter resistance to the candidacy of a woman for the city's highest elective office.
Later, Dixon told supporters in the hotel ballroom, "It was your faith, the faith of the people of the District of Columbia that has allowed us to come this far.
"We did not have at the outset the organization, we did not have the basic political endorsements and we surely did not have the money," Dixon said, adding her election sent a "message."
"And it was not lost on anyone, and that was, 'Clean house,' " she said to wild cheers.
That central campaign theme was a model of simplicity, and some voters said they needed to hear nothing more.
"I voted for Pratt Dixon because they need somebody in there who's not connected to anything that went on in the past -- somebody who'll shake 'em up down there," said John Brooks, 52, an offset printer from Ward 5 who lives in Precinct 66, the city's largest.
In the Democratic mayoral primary, Dixon led the field with 42,194 votes or 35 percent of the vote. Ray won 31,134 votes or 26 percent, and Jarvis had 26,263 or 21 percent. Clarke captured 13,136 votes or 11 percent, while Fauntroy had 8,979, or 7 percent.
Clarke relinquished his 16-year seat on the D.C. Council, where he has served as chairman for the last eight years, to run for mayor, while Betty Ann Kane gave up her council seat in an unsuccessful bid for the delegate's post.
Dixon's victory was promptly embraced by a key Democratic leader on Capitol Hill, where some members of Congress have complained about the deterioration of the city's image and its services.
Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) called Dixon in her suite shortly after 10 p.m. to say he wanted her "to come up on the Hill as soon as everything is clear, to show everybody how pleased we are with the election and how ready we are to turn things around," Dixon said.
In one of the many ironies of the day, Dixon stitched together much of the same coalition that Barry, her political nemesis, constructed in 1978 to capture the Democratic mayoral nomination. Despite his own personal and political troubles this year -- his January drug arrest and subsequent trial this summer -- Barry went out of his way to castigate Dixon repeatedly, which in the end may have backfired.
Asked about the irony of putting together a coalition so similar to Barry's in 1978, Dixon said, "It's not so much an irony as a constituency in our community that traditionally has broken ranks.
"They're younger, they're more easily willing to embrace change," Dixon said.
Turner expressed confidence about his prospects in November, telling WUSA-TV (Channel 9) that he "can handle my own with Sharon Pratt Dixon. I'm not fearful of anyone."
Turner contended his name recognition was higher than Dixon's and that he would garner a greater share of black support than she could.
"I'm talking about far Southeast and far Northeast, where I walk out in those communities and people know and recognize Maurice Turner," he said.END NOTES
Dixon showed extraordinary strength in the predominantly white wards of 1, 2 and 3, in the central core and northwestern quadrant of the city. That area included neighborhoods that chafed for some time under Barry's 12-year dominance of city politics. Ward 3, a key to Barry's success in 1978 which later turned on him, was the most fertile territory for Dixon's message; she won approximately 60 percent of the vote there.
Lillian Rubin, 66, a retired meteorologist who voted at Murch Elementary School in the upper Northwest portion of Ward 3, said she voted for Dixon in part because "she's the only one who can come in from the outside with a good executive background and can do the job."
"She's the only one who said she would cut the fat" in the D.C. government, Rubin said.
In the Southwest section of Ward 2, Jorge Zapata, 41, said he voted for Dixon because "she's been in the private sector and has proven her success."
"She has been an outsider, and that's one of her strengths," said Zapata, an 18-year District resident who works for a trade association. "She's less tainted, less influenced by budget decisions of the past."
Dixon also showed strength in some of the District's predominantly black wards, such as Ward 4, most of which is in Northwest Washington, Ward 5 in Northeast and Ward 6, which stretches from Capitol Hill to Anacostia.
Tayloria Simmons, 35, of Northeast, said she voted for Dixon because "she is one of the ones who hasn't been around."
"She was a fresh face . . . and talked about cleaning house," Simmons said.
Sonja Gordy, of the Brookland neighborhood in Ward 5, said she had been leaning toward Ray throughout the campaign, but switched to Dixon as she drove up to vote at Slowe School.
"She was the only one who had not been involved with D.C. politics," said Gordy, 46.
The Democratic primary, usually a pivotal election in a city where members of that party outnumber Republicans 8 to 1, was the most expensive primary in District history, with more than $2.4 million raised.
Ray accounted for about half the fund-raising dollars, collecting more than $1.1 million, much of it from the metropolitan area's business and real estate development communities.
Some who had been among the large number of undecided voters in the race said they settled on Dixon only late in the campaign, and a few cited the massive contributions from real estate developers to Ray as a reason for voting against him.
"I decided Dixon at the last minute," said Jesse Nash, who has lived on Chesapeake Street SE for the past 24 years. "She said she would get rid of everyone in there now."
Nash added he had been leaning towards Ray, but hesitated after learning about the many large contributions the at-large D.C. Council member had accepted from the real estate industry.
"I figured that with all that money from real estate developers, there had to be some kind of deal in return," Nash said.
Fauntroy at first mounted a vigorous attack against Ray for accepting many large contributions from suburban developers, labeling him the "great white hope" of outside real estate moguls who hoped to turn Ray into the "overseer" of their "plantation."
Fauntroy later abandoned that racially charged rhetoric, but Jarvis, hoping to maintain the momentum she had built during the summer, quickly adopted as her own some of the delegate's attacks against developer contributions.
In a surprise echo of 1985, rent control emerged as a significant campaign theme, with Clarke, and to a lesser extent Fauntroy, berating Jarvis and Ray for their council votes that year in favor of a measure that would have weakened the District's tenant-protection law.
One of Dixon's favorite issues was the size of the D.C. government bureaucracy, and she effectively forced her four opponents to discuss what many District residents say is a bloated public work force.
Dixon advanced the most draconian proposal, the firing of 2,000 middle-level managers. Most of the others denounced Dixon's plan as impractical -- saying that laying off those employees would merely bump out lower-ranking workers -- but the four did agree that the government payroll is too large. They said the annual attrition of hundreds of District employees would largely take care of the bureaucratic bloat.
Although generally free of powerful issues, the Democratic mayoral primary was a watershed election because, with Barry's decision not to seek a fourth term, it marked the most significant changing of the political guard since the first home rule government took over in 1975.
Barry's arrest in January in an FBI drug sting at the Vista Hotel set off a political chain reaction that, for the first time in more than a decade, threw open the races for the city's top elective offices. As a result, a new mayor, D.C. delegate and D.C. Council chairman will be sworn in Jan. 2.
With the departure of Clarke from the council in January, Wilson will be the lone remaining member from the original home rule council. Ray and Jarvis did not risk their council seats to run for mayor.
Staff writers Michael Abramowitz, Tom Bell, Stephen Buckley, Bill Dedman, Lynne Duke, Mary Ann French, Keith Harriston, Nancy Lewis, Nathan McCall, R.H. Melton, Carlos Sanchez, Rene Sanchez, Molly Sinclair, Saundra Torry, Steve Twomey, Linda Wheeler and Michael York and special correspondent Debbi Wilgoren contributed to coverage of the District's elections.