- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

D.C. voters yesterday said they were going to the primary polls to ensure they continue to see change.

Supporters of Mayor Anthony A. Williams said they want to continue the changes he has implemented in his first term, while backers of the Rev. Willie F. Wilson said they want new leadership in the mayor's office.

"I am here to express my dissatisfaction to the closing of D.C. General [Hospital]," said Robert Coleman, 56, a public school counselor from the Penn Branch area of Southeast. "I'm going to decide when I get in there. I know it won't be the present mayor."

"I have lived in D.C. all my life, and we are finally seeing some positive changes," said Williams supporter Debra Burns, 43, an executive assistant who lives in the Washington Highlands in Southeast. "There is new affordable housing in my neighborhood. I was planning to move to PG County. I've changed my mind."

Many voters said they support Mr. Williams because they want to see the city continue to progress, but they hope Mr. Williams will make changes within in his own administration.

"We came here to vote for the mayor and hope he continues to do a good job," said Herbert Stone, 70, a retiree who lives in the Eastern Market area of Capitol Hill.

"Maybe this time he can pay more attention to the people he hired," Mr. Stone said, noting problems within the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Bob Green, 65, owner of Uptown Offices in Northwest, said he voted for Mr. Williams. Mr. Green, captain of Precinct 38 at Bruce Monroe School on Georgia Avenue NW, said he has a philosophy: "You don't need to change horses in the middle of the stream."

"I voted for Anthony Williams because we are already messed up, and we don't need to go back to rookie school. [The mayor] has already made some mistakes which have caused some problems. Why teach a new man? We don't have time for this," Mr. Green said.

Sharif Yelverton, 33, cast his vote for Mr. Wilson at Bancroft School at 18th and Newton streets NW. He said he believes the pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church will help black people who live in the District.

"I believe Willie Wilson will be inclusive and not just [cater] to one segment of the District's population. I think Wilson is for everybody across the board. I believe he has an eye on the community, and is aware of what's going on in the District, especially, in terms of poverty, the drug problem, even loitering on the streets. I think he has a plan for D.C.," said Mr. Yelverton, a supervisor at Siemens Security in Gaithersburg.

Bennie R. Coleman Jr., who changed his name to TOP, voted for a candidate whose named appeared on the Democratic mayoral ballot: the Rev. Douglas E. Moore.

"It is a process of elimination," said TOP, 62, a Northeast resident. "When I started reading about all the trouble the mayor had with his petitions, it worried me. He should have been checking on his people."

The Democratic primary became competitive after Mr. Williams was forced to run a write-in campaign when his name was removed from the ballot because of forged signatures on his nomination petitions. Mr. Wilson, who was endorsed by former Mayor Marion S. Barry, began his own write-in campaign last month.

Yesterday the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics was having trouble with some of its new voting machines, which scan ballots but cannot read handwritten ballots.

The machines jammed at three precincts in Ward 8 precincts and the polling station at Shiloh Baptist Church in Shaw, forcing voters to place their ballots in a box so the they could be scanned later.

Elections board spokesman Bill O'Field worked on the machine at Shaw so that it could continue scanning. He said the problems appeared to be isolated, but campaign workers for the Williams and Wilson campaigns said voters were turned away because the machine malfunction at Precinct 125 at Hendley Elementary School in Southeast.

"There were 15 to 25 people who left because they had to get to work," said Patricia Brittingham, a Williams campaign volunteer.

Denise Barnes contributed to this report.

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