- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday that his re-election bid stumbled because it faced no serious threats, but he added that the flap over forged petition signatures and the appearance of a significant opponent have rejuvenated his campaign.
"We've restarted our campaign, because the first one wasn't working very well," Mr. Williams told about 40 residents of the Garfield Terrace Senior Home in Northwest, where he stopped by an ice cream social in the second of three campaign appearances.
"One reason why it wasn't working well is because everybody was doing fine, we didn't have any opposition, we could just be relaxed about everything, and you know what happens when you're too relaxed about everything you don't have your ear to the ground," Mr. Williams said.
"If you don't have your ear to the ground, you're not listening to the people, and your power source is cut off," he said.
"The lesson I've learned over the last couple months is that you've got to have that connection for things to work well."
Mr. Williams is running as a write-in candidate in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary because the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics removed his name from the ballot last month after determining that thousands of the petition signatures submitted by his campaign were forged.
Campaign volunteers handed out blue visors, paper fans and key chains inscribed with the slogan: "Re-elect Williams." They also gave each resident a sample ballot and walked them through how to write in Mr. Williams' name before the mayor arrived.
Mr. Williams said his daily schedule is sharply different from what it was only a few months ago.
"Instead of around-the-clock governing, it's pretty much seven to God-knows-when campaigning, and I think there is no substitute for getting in direct touch with people," Mr. Williams said.
The mayor was up against four relatively unknown candidates before last week, when the Rev. Willie F. Wilson announced a write-in campaign of his own.
Mr. Williams said that he sees Mr. Wilson, a community activist and pastor of the 8,500-member Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast, as an opponent to be taken seriously.
"I think it's a very significant challenge, and I take it very seriously. It's going to be hard-fought, and people need to understand what's at stake and get involved," the mayor said.
But he said he was not bothered by comments that he is not as much a man of the people as Mr. Wilson is.
"I'm beyond being bothered. I don't have time to be bothered or angry or humiliated or embarrassed. I've got a job to do, and that is connect with people and get my message out to people," Mr. Williams said.
Four years ago, Mr. Wilson supported Mr. Williams, but he parted with the mayor over the closing of D.C. General Hospital and his failed effort to relocate the University of the District of Columbia from Northwest to Southeast.
Mr. Wilson was out yesterday stumping for write-in votes.
At a Northwest Safeway parking lot, he cited "education, public safety and housing" as his top three priorities, the subjects that are "on the minds of people all over the city."
As mayor, Mr. Wilson said he would urge the school board to enact reforms to improve education, increase salaries of teachers and provide funding increases for UDC. That's where three of his four children received degrees.
To strengthen public safety, he said, he would strongly encourage community organizations, schools and churches to collaborate and work closely with police.
He also said more public housing should be provided so all residents live in security and in reasonable comfort.
"It's time for change. It's time for change," two male passengers said through a car loudspeaker as Mr. Wilson arrived at the parking lot alongside Georgia Avenue.
As he walked toward the Safeway, Mr. Wilson shook hands and introduced himself to arriving and departing customers. Several said they would vote for him. Others were noncommittal.
"I'm all for you," said Warren Cortez, 78.

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