- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Word has it that the super-duper Teflon substance that provided an impenetrable shield around D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams is fading fast.
"His support is eroding fast, he may be falling apart as fast as he came together," said one D.C. political observer.
Make no mistake. The sharks smell blood in the water. And this scurrilous petition signature scandal is churning into a whirlpool that just might sink "El Supremo," as Mr. Williams once dubbed himself.
"The petition scandal is causing his own supporters to scratch their heads on what's going on here," said community activist Terry Lynch. "And his response to the petition scandal is making it worse because he says it's one set of rules for me and another set of rules for everybody else."
Mr. Williams' response to this scandal, Mr. Lynch contends, "may be a brilliant legal strategy, but politically, nobody likes it," he said.
Political suicide? Maybe not, but I can't help thinking about that old cliche that it's not winning that matters as much as how you play the game. Better yet, how about that often-recited biblical verse that asks, what does it matter if a man wins the world but loses his soul in the process?
Indeed, it does appear that this latest ethical lapse by Teflon Tony has served to embolden his critics and enliven potential challengers. It has done little to serve as a wake-up call for this smug mayor.
Mr. Williams and his high-priced lawyers last week filed a challenge to the challenges and complaints against the questionable signatures, arguing that the entire election process that requires petitioners to be registered voters is unconstitutional.
They also claim that the challenges are too vague.
"First he turns in the bad [petition] signatures, then he piles on the insult by insinuating that somebody was out to sabotage him, and then on top it all that, he challenges the rules after the whistle's blown in a self-serving way," said a community activist. "It's obvious to everyone that he's making a bad political decision."
As evidence of the political free-fall Teflon Tony's re-election campaign is experiencing, take note that at their meeting this weekend, the Ward 2 Democrats failed to endorse this insolent incumbent for a second term.
As further evidence of the scope of the crisis in which the mayor's disorganized campaign finds itself, an attendee at the Ward 2 meeting reports that, to his surprise, neither the mayor nor anyone from his campaign staff or even his administration was even present to speak before the group voted.
Remember, the endorsement of this formerly eclectic and now predominantly white ward was pivotal during Mr. Williams' fledgling first campaign when the group voted to endorse the city's former chief financial officer rather than its own D.C. Council member, Jack Evans, for mayor.
It is premature, but it can only be a troubling sign for Mr. Williams that D.C. residents and politicos are already scrambling in search of alternatives should the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics rule by the end of July that the mayor does not have enough signatures to be placed on the Democratic Party primary ballot.
That mayoral appointed board begins the process of wading through more than 500 pages and 10,000 signatures tomorrow. Meanwhile, the proverbial Washington political guessing game is going gangbusters.
Believe it or not, the community activist went so far as to predict that "even if the mayor makes the ballot, he can still be beat."
Wishful thinking? Probably. Nonetheless, names are being bandied about like tennis balls in Rock Creek Park.
The usual suspects include D.C. Council members Jack Evans, David Catania, Kevin Chavous and Adrian Fenty. One group tried to convince former Metropolitan Police Chief Isaac Fulwood to throw his brass badge in the ring. My favorite phantom challenger is a resurrection of political analyst Mark Plotkin's pipe dream former U.S. Attorney for the District Eric Holder, who is in private practice.
One D.C. Democratic State Committee member claimed that some members are so disappointed with Mr. Williams who they feel has ignored them during his second run that they are preparing to draft and support former D.C. Council member William Lightfoot for mayor should Mr. Williams have to run as either a write-in candidate or an independent.
Folks better put up or shut up if they really think the mayor's that vulnerable.
Republican at-large candidate David Catania has told drafters that he would not consider a challenge. Mr. Chavous, who represents Ward 7, said: "I don't want to run on the mayor's failing. I'd be willing to run only if people were receptive to a voice for change."
University of Maryland political science professor Ronald Walters said Mr. Williams' petition problems demonstrates "his lack of political experience and shows he hasn't seemed to learn yet."
Mr. Walters is not so quick as some others to predict that the mayor is deeply damaged by the petition scandal. However, he said, "it depends on the field" of potential challengers should the mayor be forced to run as an independent. Then, things could "get a little dicey."
It must be noted, in all fairness, that more blacks than whites in the District are expressing their reservation and rejection of Teflon Tony. But one political observer, who is white, said the mayor's white support is also eroding, albeit more slowly.
"I never thought he'd shoot himself in the foot like this," said one party member. "His white vote is not as solid, but his black vote has fallen like a rock."
Right or wrong, Washingtonians hate nothing more than to be viewed as an embarrassment to the rest of the nation. And their storied reformer has turned into a shameful rascal.

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