“Carol, aren’t we getting a little old for this stuff?” I was tempted to ask. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and did as I had done 28 years ago, when, as a Post editorial writer, I first watched D.C. mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz greet passers-by on upper Georgia Avenue NW.
There she was Wednesday morning, nearly three decades later, in front of the CVS and Safeway stores at the East River Park shopping center at Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue NE, selling her candidacy to shoppers.
Schwartz still has all of the moves: Advance with a broad smile, hand extended, and say to anyone who walks by: “Hi, I’m Carol Schwartz. I’m running for mayor. I hope you will consider me on Election Day.”
Her reception was positive, just like the one she received on Georgia Avenue in 1986. Nobody frowns and walks away from Carol Schwartz. People like her.
Still, what makes her run? There’s more at work than motive, opportunity and means.
Sure, she wants to be mayor of the District. She’s made that clear, running as a Republican and losing four times, in 1986, 1994, 1998 and 2002. This time she’s running as an independent against, as she described her chief opponents to me at brunch this week, “two youngsters, neither of whom deserves” to be mayor.
Schwartz earned the opportunity to run when she turned in twice the number of signatures required to get on the November ballot.
And she has the means to make a go of it. But only barely.
With only $50,000 on hand entering the fall campaign ($33,000 of which is her own money), Schwartz trails well behind Bowser’s $1,026,632 and Catania’s $464,983. She isn’t about to flood the streets with her message, which she said will be: “Carol can prove she can take care of business and take care of people.” But Schwartz says she has plenty of foot soldiers, in the form of more than 75 volunteers. Two more signed on at the East River Park shopping center while I was there.
But that doesn’t explain a fifth bid.
Simply put, Schwartz is convinced that on the basis of experience, maturity and “ability to rally people,” she is the best person for the job.
She can recite a litany of legislation that she introduced and got passed while serving on the council, ranging from property tax relief to tighter campaign finance rules to reform of child welfare laws.
Schwartz, indeed, was no empty suit during her years as a council member. Because of her, the city has a Department of the Environment. She got the income tax rate lowered, passed the city’s first sick-leave law and fought against legislative earmarks, sole-source contracts and sweetheart government deals — all before opposition to such thievery became the correct position to take.
Schwartz is running for mayor, however, because she believes many voters still want her in the job. That remains to be seen. But she does have — or at least once had — a base of support.
She lost to Marion Barry in the 1986 mayor’s race but won 42,354 votes. She challenged him again in 1994, losing again, but capturing 76,902 votes.
In her two losing bids against Anthony Williams, in 1998 and 2002, Schwartz racked up 42,280 votes and 45,407 votes, respectively.
Even running as a write-in candidate in the 2008 general election for at-large council, which she was forced to do after losing the Republican primary to Patrick Mara, Schwartz still won 39,493 votes. Mara, who had the Republican line on the ballot, got only 37,447.
Schwartz contends that those numbers make her viable.
But she’s been out of the game for five years — five years in which the city has undergone dramatic demographic, economic and cultural changes.
Is she in touch? Candidate forums can help provide an answer.
Schwartz, undoubtedly, has the life experiences to work in the racially, socially and ideologically diverse stew that is our nation’s capital.
She’s also encountered her share of bears in the woods — anti-Semitism during her Midland, Tex., childhood, the agony of a husband’s sudden death, being a single mom having to make a living while guiding three children through the D.C. public schools and on to adulthood. Along the way, she’s enjoyed both political victories and bitter betrayals.
The words tough, courageous and compassionate fit Schwartz like a glove. She is one candidate who can claim to be “unbought and unbossed.” Nobody pulls her strings.
And after close to 30 years of casual observation, this much I can say: Right or wrong matters to Carol Schwartz.
In this city, that’s saying a lot.