- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

The Rev. Willie F. Wilson announced yesterday he will run as a write-in candidate for the Sept. 10 Democratic primary, saying he is disappointed with what Mayor Anthony A. Williams has done for the District.

"After much serious prayer and anguishing over the plight of our city today, I announce my candidacy for the office of mayor," Mr. Wilson said, speaking to hundreds of supporters outside D.C. General Hospital.

Mr. Wilson, who is the pastor of the 8,500-member Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast, said he chose the site because it was "symbolic of the mayor's lack of visionary leadership and insensitivity" toward residents. Last year, Mr. Williams led the effort to close D.C. General, the city's only public hospital.

At yesterday's rally, supporters waved kinte-cloth banners and shouted, "It's time to make a change. Reverend Wilson, he can do it."

Mr. Wilson, who supported the mayor in the 1998 election, said the submission of forged nominating signatures by Mr. Williams' campaign was "the straw that broke the camel's back for thousands of citizens across this city and for me."

He said he was disappointed and infuriated with what Mr. Williams did during his first term, hammering the mayor on the closure of D.C. General, the noise pollution from last month's Grand Prix race at RFK Stadium and the proposal to move the University of the District of Columbia from Northwest to Southeast.

"What you can do as voting citizens is write in my name and take a stand for strong hands-on, effective leadership," he said.

Mr. Williams was considered a shoo-in for re-election until the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics voted late last month to remove him from the ballot because of the invalid signatures on his nominating petitions. On Aug. 7, the D.C. Court of Appeals rejected Mr. Williams' appeal, forcing the mayor to run as a write-in candidate. He has been hitting the streets recently to gain support, primarily in communities where he has polled poorly.

He played a pickup game of basketball in Eastern Market on Sunday, and yesterday toured homes and businesses on Georgia Avenue in the Shepherd Park neighborhood in Northwest. He also met with residents at the Takoma Park Metro station.

The mayor could get more bad news tomorrow.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is expected to announce how much it will fine Mr. Williams' campaign for the forged signatures it submitted. It could be as much as $1.3 million.

Before Mr. Wilson joined the race, Mr. Williams' opposition consisted of a former council member who has been out of office for 20 years, a ballet dancer, a corrections officer and a community activist.

Political analysts say that with Mr. Wilson and Mr. Williams vying for the nomination, issues of race will certainly come into play, though both men are black.

"It's a race between the kinte cloth and the Pendleton plaid," said Joe Madison, political analyst for WOL-AM, referring to Mr. Wilson's affinity for African-style robes and Mr. Williams' off-work attire of casual shirts.

While he has never sought a citywide office, Mr. Wilson has long been active in D.C. politics.

His endorsement helped secure Mr. Williams' victory in 1998, and he is credited with helping Marion Barry win a fourth term after the latter's drug conviction.

And 20 years ago, Mr. Wilson founded Unifest, a two-day annual black cultural festival in Southeast that draws tens of thousands of people.

But Mr. Wilson has been accused by several politicians and community leaders of trying to incite violence and racial division in the city. He once likened three white congressmen to the Ku Klux Klan and said he would have decapitated an Asian shopkeeper if he hadn't forgiven the man for threatening a black customer with a gun.

Several residents said Mr. Wilson has a good chance of winning the write-in vote.

"No one perceives that residents east of the river will write in Tony Williams' name, but they will write in Willie Wilson's," said Malik Zulu Shabazz, a lawyer and city activist.

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