- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

In Washington, there is an intersection, MLK Avenue and Good Hope Road SE, that I call the Crossroads. I call it that because it is in the most densely populated quadrant of the city, mostly black, mostly poor and long associated with all that is wrong with the nation's capital. Yesterday morning, a white Republican stood at that junction, with long-ago boarded buildings in her midst, and announced that she is running for mayor. It was obvious why Carol Schwartz announced where she did (she needs those particular voters more than they need her) and why she announced when she did (final ballots will be decided next week).

Over lunch yesterday with Mrs. Schwartz, just breaking bread and chatting away as women do, I was reminded of what a caring politician Mrs. Schwartz is. A true breath of fresh air.

"I have a … demonstrated history of fighting for the right of all our people black, white, Latino, Asian, gay and straight, rich, middle class and poor … fighting for good government, for honesty, for compassion and for competence in the public life of the city long before it became fashionable to do so," she told supporters.

Indeed, Mrs. Schwartz did a lot of other things before they became fashionable, too. She and her husband put down roots in the District in the1960s, when other whites were pulling up stakes. She sent her children to public schools when other families even those with barely two nickels to rub together sacrificed and sent their children to parochial schools. And, when signs that the fashionably liberal (or is that socialist?) politics were becoming the city's undoing, Mrs. Schwartz voted no on Barry budgets in the earlier and later years.

Those later years, of course, were Marion Barry years. He was Democratic mayor, and Mrs. Schwartz was a Republican lawmaker natural enemies in this Democratic stronghold. Still, the Barry-Schwartz tug-of-war and, frankly, the Schwartz-Tony Williams one, too, aren't what you might expect. They aren't even liberal vs. conservative, since each is as socially conscientious as the other.

These tugs-of-war have always been about an ascension in City Hall. Mrs. Schwartz's stock should have risen by now, since she came from somewhere else just like Mr. Barry and Mr. Williams.

So, enter Mrs. Schwartz, via the Rev. Willie Wilson, who, in a month or so cobbled together a campaign against a not-so-formidable incumbent. The Wilson campaign pounded Mr. Williams' negatives and whipped out the race card. So, in a sense, Mrs. Schwartz has much to thank Mr. Wilson for.

On the other hand, she has a lot to learn, since she has had a hand in both the good and bad policies. So, she has to do far more than point up the mayor's weaknesses. For example, she can't merely blame the mayor for the deficit, or incompetence at the motor vehicles department, or troubled D.C. schools. Considering Mrs. Schwartz is a former member of the Board of Education, she knows first-hand that the mayor has no control zip, zero, zilch over how the board spends funds.

What must she do to grab voters' attention? Mrs. Schwartz must come out swinging. She needs to carefully articulate to voters on issues that link Schwartz solutions to the very problems she believes plague the city. She has to, for example, explain why she doesn't think the housing legislation passed in the last four years fails to translate into what she calls "affordable housing." She needs to explain how, as mayor, she would take the boards off those abandoned storefronts. She must explain that, while she is only one of two Republicans on the D.C. Council, her compassionate conservatism is the same as President Bush's.

More importantly, Mrs. Schwartz must broaden her appeal to that class of voters who are the bread and butter of this and every other major metropolitan hub in America the middle class.

While the diverse crowd cheering her on yesterday at the Crossroads proves voter interest is there, Mrs. Schwartz must not make the mistake of thinking voters owe her anything. If anything, the opposite is true.


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