Mayor Seeks Reelection, but Isn't on the Ballot ; Washington, D.C., Chief Is Write-In for Sept. 10 Primary

By Ianzito, Christina | The Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2002 | Go to article overview

Mayor Seeks Reelection, but Isn't on the Ballot ; Washington, D.C., Chief Is Write-In for Sept. 10 Primary


Ianzito, Christina, The Christian Science Monitor


Four years after this city celebrated the end of the mayoral reign of Marion Barry, legendary for being jailed for cocaine possession, the popular Mayor Anthony Williams is up for reelection. But thanks to his own campaign's mistakes, Mr. Williams won't be on the ballot in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. Instead, there will be, among others, a former exotic ballet dancer and a man once convicted of biting a tow-truck operator.

Williams, a bow-tie-wearing Ivy League graduate, has, by most reckonings, added some dignity to the office since he was elected in a landslide in 1998. He's doubtlessly lifted the city government up from the morass of cronyism and scandal that marked the era of Barry (who was actually reelected after his jail term), and he's submitted a balanced budget four years in a row. But a humiliating disqualification during the nomination process this summer means he's been relegated to write-in status, and his downgrade has pushed other candidates into the race.

Now, Williams must use his vaunted conciliatory skills to persuade voters to add his name on their ballots. The whole affair, meanwhile, has the nation's capital starting to fear it may again be known for its farcically inept local politics.

"We set the bar very low for mayor in this city," says local political commentator Mark Plotkin, who's no fan of Williams. He surmises that the mayor was elected - and probably will be reelected - at least in part because he doesn't embarrass the powerful people in this economically and racially divided (though overwhelmingly Democratic) town. "If the DMV works, and garbage gets picked up, then the well-off part of the city is happy."

A Robin Hood signature

A few weeks ago, the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics found that more than half of the 10,102 signatures on the mayor's nominating petition had been forged. This, allegedly, was the work of a few wildly incompetent campaign workers, who'd listed names that included British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Robin Hood, and Billy Joel. The D.C. Court of Appeals confirmed the ruling that barred the mayor from the primary ballot, and fined him $277,700 for petition fraud.

Since then, the pro-Williams forces have had to cobble together and wage an energetic campaign for his write-in candidacy. Posters throughout the city ask voters to "Do the WRITE thing," while in letters to constituents, the mayor takes the opportunity to "personally apologize for the poor judgment and inexcusable actions of my early campaign organization."

The letter also begs voters to "please write in 'Anthony Williams' on the Mayoral line on your ballot. …

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