- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Local Democratic Party leaders, angry about accusations that Mayor Anthony A. Williams' campaign falsified thousands of signatures to secure a spot on the primary ballot Sept. 10, say the miscues could turn what once looked like an easy re-election for the incumbent into a "free-for-all."

"If the mayor decides to drop out or is taken off the ballot, it will be a free-for-all," said D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, a Ward 4 Democrat who has been called a potential rival to Mr. Williams.

Democrats say Mr. Williams could face a legitimate threat on Election Day in November from one of the five no-name Democrats in the primary, one of the candidates running as an independent, a third-party candidate or a so-far undeclared write-in.

"The others have gotten a boost," said Norman Neverson, chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, referring to the Democrats.

The depth of the mayor's political problems depends on whether the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics rules this month that the campaign has the 2,000 valid signatures necessary to put his name on the September ballot, Mr. Neverson said.

The mayor's stumbles have leveled the playing field for the incumbent and the five previously little-known Democrats vying to unseat him as the party's nominee, candidate Tricia Kinch said.

Miss Kinch, a disenchanted former Williams staffer who is seeking the Democratic nomination, predicted that the mayor's fund-raising edge will disappear once the campaign is punished for forging signatures on the petitions.

"Most of that money will now be spent paying fines," said Miss Kinch, who is running a bare-bones campaign with her own funds.

Miss Kinch and two other Democratic candidates, Douglas Moore and Robert Moore, who are not related, laughed at the notion that potential challengers were intimidated by Mr. Williams' $1.3 million campaign war chest.

Robert Moore, who is also running on his own money savings of a little less than $11,000 said the mayor will need more than that $1.3 million to pay his legal bills.

And Douglas Moore, who is using funds he earned from 20 years of selling coal and oil, said the $50,000 he has will be more than enough to take on the incumbent.

Voters, they say, are fed up.

"People are proud to sign my petition," said Miss Kinch, 49.

Miss Kinch, a former public relations specialist with the Federal Communications Commission, said there is a strong "anybody but Williams" contingent in the city.

She said residents are angry about Williams' role in the closing of D.C. General Hospital and his inability to fix public schools.

"You can go down the line on schools, affordable housing opportunities, to the summer job program," Miss Kinch said.

Former D.C. Council member Douglas Moore, 74, also once supported Mr. Williams.

The Methodist minister, who has been out of public office since 1978, said "I never wanted to be a mayor."

"The best candidate would have been D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous," Mr. Moore said of the Ward 7 Democrat.

But when Mr. Chavous bowed out, Mr. Moore decided the incumbentmayor could not be allowed to "get a free run without the issues being discussed."

Miss Kinch also waited for a council member to take on the mayor. When that challenger did not materialize, she decided to run.

"We deferred to Adrian Fenty, but he said he was committed to serving out his term," she said.

She added that Mr. Fenty was the only other candidate she would have trusted.

There is rampant speculation that some members of the council will throw their hats into the ring as independents or write-ins if Mr. Williams is pulled off the Sept. 10 primary ballot.

Sources close to Mr. Chavous said he hasn't ruled out a last-minute bid.

Mr. Fenty reiterated that he is "committed and satisfied with serving the constituents" of his ward, but he did say the mayor faces a difficult fall, especially if he has to run as a write-in.

"He'll probably still win, but write-in campaigns are difficult," he said.

Independent candidate Robert Moore said he never considered the mayor unassailable.

Mr. Moore is a former radio journalist and is now a multimedia publications specialist and said he is running because "people want better leadership."

"Many of the Washingtonians I've spoken with have expressed a range of simple to detailed correlations between their inability to succeed in the District and the advent of the Williams administration," Mr. Moore said.

Mr. Williams is expected to be peppered by questions about the problems with his campaign when he holds his weekly press briefing today.

He has said the situation has "nauseated" him.

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