- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

That Anthony A. Williams. The D.C. mayor and his minions just don't get it. Ever since he came to town on that carpetbagger bandwagon, they have done everything but the right thing. And I'll bet the rent that Teflon Tony will somehow manage to slip out of this latest unethical scrape too.

In case you missed it, the mayor's creepin'-crawlin' campaign managed to turn in about 10,000 signatures at the 11th hour on July 3 to the Board of Elections and Ethics, only for folks to find out later that nearly half of the names on his campaign petitions might be bogus.

With a growing list of ethics violations by Mr. Williams and his appointees, now comes this: "GOP set to contest mayor's petitions." Predictably, he said he is "nauseated, disgusted, distressed by a lot of what happened." He said, "People should be dismissed and people should be held accountable." Right. It's the mayor who is ultimately responsible for the people he hires in his campaign and in his administration.

Again, Mr. Williams has demonstrated he is most adept at passing the buck. But D.C. Republican Chairman Betsy Werronen said it best: "You can't divorce an entire campaign from the candidate."

Even the spurious signature of a wealthy Virginia donor, James V. Kimsey, the America Online executive who just happens to live in Arlington, can be found among the pages and pages of reportedly doctored documents.

Wouldn't it be a hoot if this incumbent mayor who scared off all formidable opposition with a well-oiled war chest of more than $1 million and supposedly solid support west of 14th Street NW had to be a write-in candidate on the September primary ballot because he couldn't do something as basic as get his filing petitions in by the deadline?

Excuse me, but wasn't this supposed savior, who was so touted as the bean-counting bureaucrat who may not have much personality but made the trains run on time? Tell that to the people standing in the lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles these days.

However, when you feel imperial and invincible like the incumbent, you can do whatever you like whenever you like. And whoever doesn't like it, tough Tony.

Except we're not talking about a person's private behavior; we're talking about a public servant. What Mr. Williams has never been able to grasp is that he works for the people, not the other way around.

His bosses could still vote him out of office. It's not likely, but Mr. Williams could end up beating himself by squandering his suspect support. For the biggest problem this incumbent mayor faces is a not a disorganized or disingenuous campaign organization but a disengaged electorate.

Regardless of what the puffball political polls indicate, voters are either unhappy, uneasy or uninterested about this listless, uncontested campaign.

That sets up a scenario whereby the electors could give voice to their frustrations by refusing to participate in the political process. Herein lies the problem.

Neither this mayor nor this city can afford such anger or apathy. So what's the possible motive behind this signature stuff? The misdeeds of a few misguided for financial gain? Perhaps. Disregard or disdain for the system? Probably. Or did the loose, lackluster Williams campaign feel the need to show strong support where there is none? Regardless, when you pay people to collect signatures, you're asking for trouble.

Still, the Rev. Douglas Moore, one of those bold, bothersome mayoral non-challengers, stood before a crowd gathered at the People's Congregational Church two weeks ago and asked them rhetorically if the mayor is so popular and unbeatable, then why is he having so much trouble with his petitions? Later, when I asked him what he meant, he said, "Our people were all over the city and didn't see his folks, so we knew something was wrong."

Others, like Ward 8 activist Absalom Jordan, support his contention.

Community activist Lawrence Guyot who circulated petitions for the campaigns of seven candidates for various city offices said what surprised him was the number of people citywide, black and white, who did not want to sign petitions for "that man," meaning Mr. Williams.

"I've been doing this for a long time, and there's a certain group of people who like to get petitions signed because it's a way to talk to people and pick up different, unrehearsed opinions and impression," Mr. Guyot said.

"It became apparent to me that the mayor had three problems that were being talked about: trouble getting his petitions signed, difficulty in getting people to work in his campaign, and a lot of people who are traditionally out circulating petitions said they were not even asked by the mayor's campaign to circulate his," he said.

Mrs. Werronen couldn't care less about the motivation behind what some are calling the "massive forgery and fraud." She just wants the law upheld because "the people have to trust the system." Further, she was "astounded" by the "total and complete ethical lapse" that demonstrates the "the arrogance" of this mayor who "time after time fails the voters."

Mrs. Werronen believes that having one party, the Democrats, having a lock on the political process means "there are no checks and balances."

It is only one part of the problem here. Having "no credible" contenders with guts enough to challenge this mayor is an even bigger issue.

For the only thing this mayor and his minions have ever concerned themselves with is winning. Governing for the greater good of all people, even the poor ones, be damned.

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