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“Write In and Connect,” Carol: That’s what you need to do!
That was the idea behind Mayor Anthony A. Williams‘ 2002 write-in push, the only successful such campaign for major elective office in District history. “Write In and Connect” was a mantra in community meetings, a slogan on campaign mailers, and a jingle in radio spots that accompanied a big educational push from the Williams campaign. The push was so successful that he not only won the Democratic nomination for mayor, but the Republican nomination, too. (Since he remained a registered Democrat, he could not appear on the general election ballot as a Republican.)
Tony Bullock, a former aide to Williams, says the write-in campaign was “like a public education project.”
“We actually had ward meetings and pencils were provided for poeple and how-to mailings. This is how you do it. At the end of the day, we didn’t win every precinct, but we won every ward,” says Bullock, who says Schwartz has a chance: “It’s an achievable event. Carol Schwartz as a write-in has a very good chance of winning because she’s so well-known.”
So why can’t Schwartz rebottle lightning? There are some issues:
- Williams had light competition. His prime challenge came from Union Temple Baptist pastor Willie Wilson, who mounted a write-in campaign of his own. Of four Democrats actually on the ballot, two were unknowns and the only two were, shall we way, of dubious credibility. One was Faith, the single-named trumpetress and former exotic dancer, and the other was former at-large councilmember Douglas E. Moore, best known for biting a tow truck driver in 1976.
- Williams had a bunch of money, with a mayoral war chest allowing him to spend about $1 million to educated voters on how to cast a write-in vote. (Schwartz had about $85,000 on hand a week before the primary.)
- Williams was mayor, and a mayor well-loved by folks who could keep his campaign coffers fat for an expensive write-in campaign. Says Bullock, “There’s a lot of people who have a vested interest in keeping a mayor in office rather than a councilmember in office.”
There is another instructive historical precedent here. That would be the 1984 general election for the at-large council seat, where incumbent Rev. Jerry A. Moore Jr. lost to Schwartz, running to the right in the Republican primary, and then decided to mount a write-in challenge for the general election.
Things didn’t turn out so well for Moore: Schwartz won 50,892 votes, and only 42,282 write-ins were cast.