- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 28, 2002

The removal of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams from the Democratic ballot has some mayoral hopefuls licking their chops over the vacant spot on the party slate. But not everyone is willing to tug on Superman's cape.
Democratic D.C. Council members who want to take a crack at the mayor's seat are reluctant to do or say anything until they are sure there will be no last-minute reprieve for the mayor.
Mr. Williams is deliberating with political advisers to plan his next move following a unanimous decision Friday by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics not to allow his name to appear on the ballot for the Sept. 10 Democratic primary, citing numerous forgeries among the signatures on his nominating petitions.
The mayor said he will announce his plans "Monday possibly, Tuesday at the latest."
Independent mayoral candidate Robert Moore, 49, said he wasn't surprised by the mayor's ousting from the Democratic primary ballot, "given the massive amounts of fraudulent petitions."
Mr. Moore is one of three candidates who have said the petition scandal has boosted their chances of gaining support to steal the seat. "I guess I won't be the only independent candidate now," Mr. Moore said whimsically.
Meanwhile, council members are staunchly denying all claims that they will throw their hats in the mayoralty ring.
D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, said last week that he would have to consider making a run of his own for the mayor's seat if Mr. Williams were pulled off the ballot. Mr. Chavous is still not ready to commit himself to political war against Mr. Williams.
Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, also has no plans to run against Mr. Williams as a Democratic candidate say political insiders.
Council member David Catania, at-large Republican, has said the time is not right for him. And Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat who predicted a free-for-all mayoral race if Mr. Williams were removed from the ballot said he fully intends to serve out the remainder of his four-year term.
"I am committed to the residents of my ward, and it would not be the right thing for me to do to leave and run for mayor," Mr. Fenty said.
But Terry Lynch, executive director for the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said, "This story isn't over yet.
"It is time to examine what is best for the residents of this city," Mr. Lynch said, "and there are only a handful of council members who can get the horses working toward a strong campaign."
The three-member elections board all appointed by Mr. Williams made its decision Friday after a marathon session. It based its ruling on more than 4,000 forged signatures it found on the mayor's ballot petition and on the decision by Mr. Williams' petition circulators, Scott Bishop Sr. and his son, Scott Bishop Jr., to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, said elections board Chairman Benjamin F. Wilson.
The board ignored the ruling of Registrar of Voters Kathy Fairley that the mayor had 2,235 valid signatures 235 signatures more than he needed to gain a place on the ballot. The ruling opens the door for a legal challenge by the mayor.
The board's ruling has reduced the once-perceived shoo-in re-election campaign of Mr. Williams to an embarrassing fiasco. But the mayor is steadfast that its ruling violates the will of the voters and legal precedent.
"I remain outraged that the board would so willfully violate the law," he said. "This issue with the Bishops should not supersede the will of the voters, and I don't think it was just the Bishops involved in all of this."
The floor is open for debate in the mayor's camp as to how to proceed. He could ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to restore his ballot slot.
But Mr. Fenty said an appeal could be political suicide.
"The mayor has to make a decision to appeal, both legally and politically," Mr. Fenty said. "If you win [the appeal], you already look bad because of the circumstances, but If you lose boy! if you lose, you're not the Democratic candidate."
Mr. Fenty said Mr. Williams' best bet is to run as an independent, because "write-in campaigns" are always big trouble at the polls.
But the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance has said repeatedly that District law would require the mayor to return the $1.4 million to his donors or donate the money to the Democratic Party.
"I am investigating that as part of my overall decision-making process," Mr. Williams said, "but I still disagree with their opinion. It's just wrong."
And there are other concerns. Democratic State Committee members may withhold their support if Mr. Williams decides to leave the party, something the mayor has vowed not to do.


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