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SCHWARTZ FOR MAYOR (OF REHOBOTH)
By 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Carol Schwartz had put the top down and turned her red convertible Chrysler toward home. The four-time Republican mayoral hopeful, who launched her latest campaign for D.C.’s top job less than six weeks before the general election, skipped out on the last two hours or so of hugging, handshaking, and cajoling.
Schwartz already knew her fate: D.C.’s mayoral-candidate-for-life.
“After a 30-year career, the last few hours won’t make a difference,” Schwartz confided, when LL reached her at home a little before 7 p.m. “If I can’t have it now, I don’t know if I’m going to have it ever.”
When she entered the Capitol Hill Holiday Inn ballroom around 9:30 p.m., there was no doubt: Democratic incumbent Anthony A. Williams led Schwartz by 60 percent to 34 percent, with 90 out of 142 precincts reporting.
The only question left was: Just how devastated would Schwartz be?
After her last defeat to then-CFO Williams in 1998, she threatened to exit the D.C. political stage altogether. She was crushed. The only thing that prevented her from packing up her at-large council office right then and there was the $350,000 D.C. taxpayers would have to foot for a special election to fill her seat, she said at the time. And after three tries at the mayoralty, two tours of duty on the D.C. Council, and a few runs for school board, Schwartz had worn out her raspy voice decrying wasteful government spending.
That’s why her 2002 Hail Mary candidacy seemed so irrational. Couldn’t Schwartz have foreseen the fait accompli six weeks ago? The District, after all, is 77 percent Democratic. “You know, some people say, ‘Why do it? Why put yourself out there against such crazy odds?’ It’s a good question, and don’t think I haven’t asked myself that over and over—like right now,” Schwartz told supporters Tuesday night.
LL has the answer: Schwartz craves attention the way her two-time rival Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. craves attention.
Even when these folks know that their political career has crested, they insist on putting their names out there. In this respect, they differ sharply from Williams, whose greeting to voters in his yellow rain slicker Tuesday night was obviously strained.
Schwartz’s personal cravings, though, serve a public good. By putting her name on the ballot, Schwartz kept her Republican Party in the District’s civic discussion, albeit on the fringes. And that’s by no means a new undertaking for Schwartz: For the past couple of decades, she’s been a stalwart preventing the local GOP from disappearing altogether.
Never mind that she rejects many planks of the Republican platform, along with national GOP money. Some of her most dedicated supporters this time formed a group called Democrats for Carol.
On Tuesday night, Schwartz outlined her political future for LL: This would be her last campaign in D.C. politics. She plans on completing her current council term but doesn’t plan on putting up her yellow-and-black posters in 2004, 2006, or anytime beyond that. Dressed in a stunning plum blazer, Schwartz hugged her way around the room. At one point, one yellow-T-shirted supporter asked what she planned to do next. Schwartz stammered a bit.
What do you plan to do in the weeks after the campaign? he clarified.
“I’m going to Rehoboth,” she said.
EIGHT IS ENOUGH
Back in September, Mayor Anthony A. Williams trounced the Rev. Willie F. Wilson in a historic write-in battle for the Democratic mayoral endorsement. Williams picked up 41,159 more votes than Wilson and declared victory in all parts of the city, except Ward 8.
The storied ward east of the Anacostia River holds symbolic value as the place where politicians connect with real people. It’s the city’s poorest ward, and its residents have heard empty promises from politicians over and over.
The rap on the mayor is that he’s just prolonging downtown’s indifference to Ward 8. Williams, however, complains that the perception—influenced by his Ivy League cred, Gucci Gulch patrons, and Brooks Brothers duds—obscures the reality of how much attention he’s lavished on Ward 8. He touts the Henson Ridge and Wheeler Creek developments and the hundreds of other units of new housing his administration has delivered, as well as planned retail projects at Camp Simms, increased money for public education, and better access to day care.
None of the achievements mattered on primary day. In the end, the mayor won only 3 of the ward’s 16 voting precincts, collecting 2,665 overall votes compared with Wilson’s 3,492.
The snub has stuck with Williams like a canker sore. And as he closed in on assured victory Nov. 5, Williams feared an even bigger embarrassment: losing Ward 8 to mayoral rival Schwartz, a white, Jewish Republican beloved by many in the city’s African-American community for her commitment to social programs and her personal touch.
So on Sunday night, less than 48 hours before D.C. voters headed to the polls, Williams made yet another attempt to commune with the Ward 8 faithful. The event was billed as a dinner/endorsement at Players Lounge, municipal D.C.’s version of the Palm. Williams campaign officials put the confab on the campaign schedule and invited the press along. LL came out, figuring that the evening might easily be as entertaining as the weekly travails of Tony and Carmela Soprano.
You see, the Ward 8 Dems just love melodrama: In April, the party cell censured Williams for his involvement in a fundraiser for Rep. Constance A. Morella, who lost to State Sen. Chris Van Hollen in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District Tuesday. In August, another tempest in a teapot brewed, since the censure prevented Williams from earning the official endorsement of the organization even though a majority of members voted for the incumbent.
In the primary, Ward 8 Councilmember Sandy Allen deepened her ward’s tradition of dissing the mayor. Allen was the only councilmember to endorse Wilson. “Where is the grocery store?” she asked LL when she appeared alongside Wilson in front of Anacostia’s big chair Aug. 23. Allen knew the renegade move would have few repercussions: Being the Ward 8 councilmember means that no matter what stunt you pull, the mayor will never punish you.
When Williams made his grand entrance at Players on Sunday night, he didn’t even rate a nod from Allen, who was eating dinner. And as the mayor milled about, Allen remained steadfast in getting all the meat off her chicken bone.
Before Williams even finished greeting the assembled, District IV school-board representative William Lockridge began the hourlong drama, raising a ruckus about press inclusion in the soiree. The Ward 8 Dems needed to be candid with the mayor, and they couldn’t keep it real with the Fourth Estate lurking, he argued.
So LL was escorted out of the meeting and spent the next hour getting to know the Ward 8 voters congregated at the Players Lounge bar.
In the end, according to sources, the Ward 8 Dems extracted the following secret commitments from the mayor: more minority contracting, more economic development, and more mayoral appointments from east-of-the-river neighborhoods—all promises the mayor has made time and again. But they got something else even more precious: a few moments of face time with the boss. Like any organization in an identity crisis, the Ward 8 Dems live in constant need of affirmation, and a clandestine meeting with Williams fills the void.
Afterward, a few Ward 8 Dems mentioned they might connect the arrow for “Carol” anyway. “At no point did he even ask us for our vote,” complained one Ward 8 Dem, who admitted to being a defector to Schwartz.
On Tuesday, Schwartz earned 3,294 Ward 8 votes—38 percent in a ward that’s 83 percent Democratic. Williams got 4,851, or 56 percent.
That Sunday afternoon, D.C. Democrats gathered at the Lincoln Theatre for a get-out-the-vote rally that seemed to stretch even the far reaches of hyperbole. To wit: D.C. Democratic State Committee Chair Norman C. Neverson pumped up the faithful by appealing to righteous local causes.
When Neverson trumpeted the fight for home rule, the crowd roared.
When Neverson invoked the campaigns of former D.C. elected officials, the crowd roared.
Then Neverson went national, saying, “In 1988, we stayed the course for Michael Dukakis—and we were right!” No one said a thing.
Returning to the issue at hand, Neverson described this year’s D.C. Democratic slate as “10 of the best Democrats ever to come to Western civilization.”
That was bested by Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, who shouted, “Are Democrats in the District of Columbia privileged to have Norm Neverson as party chair?”
Next up, the Urban Nation Hip Hop Choir filled the theater with a gospel-inflected cover of “Lean on Me.” The tune served as a cue for all politicians to break out in a jig and show their light sides to the voters. As it turns out, dancing ability is spread as unevenly around the Wilson Building as is managerial acumen.
Elected Official: Mayor Williams
Dance Style: Seated, with intense staring
Interior Thought: Four more years—of awkwardness.
Elected Official: Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans
Dance Style: Upright, with an occasional clap or two
Interior Thought: They said I was wooden in the ’98 mayor’s race. I’ll show them!
Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous
Dance Style: Rhythmic clapping, kickin’ back arms
Interior Thought: In another four years, D.C. voters will want soul. I’m in!
At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson
Dance Style: Seated in chair holding papers
Interior Thought: Everyone keeps thwarting my clean-air initiatives, goddamnit!
At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil
Dance Style: Childlike clapping, with arms flailing about wildly
Interior Thought: Elections are fun! Bring on “You Dropped the Bomb on Me”!
Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson
Dance Style: Clapping in chair
Interior Thought: I prefer Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” but this rocks, too.
Ward 8 Councilmember Sandy Allen
Dance Style: Rhythmic clapping with foot and hip action
Interior Thought: Jack is acting so white right now.
* On Thursday, the D.C. Council was slated to consider two ceremonial resolutions, honoring Kerry S. Pearson and Lauren Vaughan Pearson.
That’s a wedding gift found off the registry: Last month, council Chair Linda W. Cropp joined Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent B. Orange Sr., Evans, and Allen in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Pearsons’ wedding vows. D.C. politics’ premier money shaker, Pearson has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local politicos.
The location had a local connection: Scottsdale is also home to Doctors Community Healthcare Corp., a Pearson client and the parent to Greater Southeast Community Hospital, the linchpin in the mayor’s new D.C. HealthCare Alliance. CP
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