- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday that his campaign submitted enough legitimate names to be on September's Democratic primary ballot despite thousands of apparently falsified signatures on his re-election petition.
But he said he accepted responsibility for the "insufficient" supervision of his campaign that led to three separate challenges of the signatures.
"I am deeply troubled. I am angered, sickened by alleged violations of law with respects to gathering of petitions for my re-election effort," Mr. Williams told reporters during a special press briefing at his campaign headquarters at Seventh Street and New York Avenue NW.
"Mistakes were made by this mayor, by this candidate," he said. "I have to take responsibility for those mistakes."
Senior campaign adviser Charles N. Duncan has resigned in the wake of the scandal, and the mayor said he placed several of his campaign staff members responsible for collecting the signatures on leave while a full investigation is conducted.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is reviewing the signatures and will decide whether Mr. Williams has the required 2,000 valid signatures to be put on the primary ballot. It must make its ruling by July 30.
If the board a three-member panel appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council finds that there are not enough valid signatures, Mr. Williams will be scratched from the ballot.
The mayor would not be required to drop out of the race, but he would be limited to running as a write-in for the Democratic primary, or he could leave the party and run as an independent in the November general election. If he were to run as an independent, Mr. Williams would need to collect 3,000 new petition signatures.
Mr. Williams said yesterday that he has no intention of leaving the Democratic Party, but said he would examine all of his options.
"I am prepared to look at every contingency to carry my message to the voters, but I am confident that I have more than the required signatures to compete as a Democrat in the Democratic primary," he said.
Uncertainty about the petitions has turned what once looked like an easy re-election for Mr. Williams into a "free-for-all," observers say, with previously unknown candidates scrambling for an edge in the primary.
Mr. Williams, who would not answer questions about the petitions at his weekly news conference earlier in the day, told reporters he scheduled the special briefing to create a "clean slate."
Asked whether he believed problems with his petition signatures were the result of internal sabotage to his campaign, the mayor said: "I've heard that said, but because some of the [signatures] were so ludicrous I mean just preposterous it just strains credibility that someone would actually do them on their own accord. But I've actually seen some stupid things done."
Moments later, he added, "It is clear that this couldn't have been done by someone acting innocently on my behalf."
When asked whether he remembered signing his name on his petition for re-election, Mr. Williams said that he could not remember. He also said that he does not know Crystal Bishop, whose name is signed as a witness to his signature.
Mr. Williams said it has been difficult to generate enthusiasm for the campaign. He said that running a campaign for re-election has been "much harder" on him than when he ran for a first term four years ago.
Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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