- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 19, 2004

The three challengers who pulled off upset wins over longtime D.C. Council incumbents last week trailed badly in the usually crucial race for campaign dollars.

Challengers Marion S. Barry, Kwame R. Brown and Vincent C. Gray each raised a fraction of the money that financed the campaigns of their respective opponents, according to preliminary reports filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

The preliminary reports show incumbents had raised two to five times as much money as their challengers in the late stages of the campaigns. The reports were due one week before the Sept. 14 primary and required candidates to list their donations through Sept. 2.

Political experts say it is unusual for candidates, particularly challengers, who lag so far behind in fund raising, to post such convincing victories.

“In most cases where an incumbent gets defeated, my guess is that they’re outspent,” said D.C.-based political consultant Peter Fenn. “But in this case, money was not the deciding factor. You had a bubbling up and a definite sense among voters of wanting a change.”

In the most notable example, incumbent Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, raised $535,969 compared to $135,686 in contributions raised by his challenger, Mr. Brown, the campaign reports show.

Despite his huge fund-raising advantage, Mr. Brazil lost badly. He captured 18,678 votes, or 32.3 percent. Mr. Brown won 31,380 votes, or 54.2 percent.

“We only had about $100,000 to his [what will] probably be over $650,000 when it’s all said and done,” Mr. Brown said yesterday, comparing his campaign fund to Mr. Brazil’s war chest.

“But we also knocked on over 16,000 doors, so I think we were able to use our $100,000 more efficiently and effectively,” Mr. Brown said. “Citywide, I don’t think this election was about money or even name recognition. I think people were looking for candidates who were going to be more engaged in the issues.”

In Ward 8, Mr. Barry captured more than twice as many votes as incumbent D.C. Council member Sandy Allen. Mr. Barry, who won 4,728 votes, raised about one-fifth of Miss Allen’s $131,580 in campaign donations, the reports show. Miss Allen captured 2,061 votes.

Political observers attribute the former mayor’s strong showing at the polls to name recognition and his loyal voter base on the east side of the Anacostia River.

“Money is essential in campaigns when you’re buying name recognition, when you’re defining a candidate, when you’re stating an agenda,” Mr. Fenn said. “But for good or for ill, Marion Barry’s blackboard was pretty much written on. There is not more left to write about him.”

Money played a less important role in the Ward 8 race compared to most contests, said Jamin Raskin, a law professor at American University.

“[Marion Barry] could have raised even less than he did and won pretty easily,” Mr. Raskin said. “If you put the name Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan on the ballot in some places, you don’t have to spend anything because those names are going to win easily.”

“Marion Barry has that kind of mythic status in some parts of the city,” he said.

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said the typical political roles in the Ward 8 race were somewhat reversed. Mr. Barry had better name recognition than Miss Allen.

“With Marion, you have to consider him as an incumbent,” Mrs. Cropp said last week, reacting to Mr. Barry’s victory.

In neighboring Ward 7, Mr. Gray, who has less name recognition than Mr. Barry, also posted a convincing win, handily defeating longtime incumbent Council member Kevin P. Chavous, a Democrat.

A former head of the D.C. Department of Human Services, Mr. Gray won 5,121 votes, or 50.2 percent.

Mr. Chavous, who raised nearly three times more money than Mr. Gray, received 3,458 votes, or 33.9 percent.

Mr. Gray received $50,313 in campaign contributions, while Mr. Chavous received $138,849 in his re-election bid.

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