- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

Leadership emerged as a key issue in a debate last night among the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for D.C. mayor.
"Under my leadership, the [financial] control board has been removed, five receiverships have been removed, and the groundwork has been set for full home rule in the future," Mayor Anthony A. Williams told an audience of about 100 at George Washington University.
Mr. Williams, who left early to attend a party his daughter was hosting for him, said the majority of money he had spent in his administration was used to meet human needs. He noted the construction of 12,000 affordable homes, 900 new day care centers, cleaner streets and safer neighborhoods as examples of his success but added that he needed four more years to complete his work.
But the Rev. Willie F. Wilson, citing his leadership of the 7,000-member Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast, criticized Mr. Williams for closing D.C. General Hospital and for a lack of affordable health care for the city's poor.
"Just last night a member of my church was hit by a car in Southeast and had to be taken to Prince George's Hospital [Center], and she died because D.C. General was not open," Mr. Wilson said.
He compared himself to Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier as someone who has been a successful leader wherever he has gone.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Douglas E. Moore, considered the front-runner among those whose names appear on the ballot, argued that his leadership qualities were what the District needed most.
"I am the only person here who has served on the city council, and as the council's first budget committee director, I passed two $2 billion budgets without a penny being removed by Congress," Mr. Moore said.
Mr. Moore said he alone has the experience to lead the city into the future and his platform to combat predatory lending and renting will stem the flow of "low-income residents being pushed out of the city."
The debate was part of the "Your Voice. Your Choice. Your Vote." campaign sponsored by the GW Student Association to increase student involvement in local politics.
Denise Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer, moderated the debate, which was open only to university faculty, staff and students. Media panelists were Elissa Silverman of the Washington City Paper, Kate Stephen of the GW Hatchet and Hamill Harris of The Washington Post.
Mr. Williams and Mr. Wilson are considered the front-runners in the primary contest, even though both men are running write-in campaigns for the Democratic nomination. The primary will be held Tuesday.
Mr. Williams has received endorsements from several groups, including the DC Chamber of Commerce, the Minority Business Coalition, The Washington Times and The Washington Post. Former mayors and several D.C. Council members are expected to express support for Mr. Williams during a press conference this morning.
Recent polls that have placed Mr. Williams far ahead of the other candidates also note a large percentage of undecided voters.
Mr. Wilson received endorsements from council member Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, and former Mayor Marion Barry, who began campaigning with the Baptist pastor last week. Mr. Barry, who maintains popularity among many blacks and seniors, has said he will use his political organization to help elect Mr. Wilson.
After serving a six-month sentence for a misdemeanor drug conviction in 1991, Mr. Barry returned to the mayor's office in 1995 for his fourth term. The former mayor has not said what role, if any, he would play in a Wilson administration.
Mr. Moore has been endorsed by the Ward 8 Democrats. He is the only candidate to receive an endorsement from any of the District's Democratic committees.
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Williams have been unable to receive Democratic committee endorsements because their names do not appear on the ballot.
The other three candidates James W. Clark, Osie L. Thorpe and Faith have run in previous elections with little success. Faith, an arts coordinator known for her campaign ditties and blowing her bugle during debates, has run for mayor six times.
In the past few days, Mr. Williams and Mr. Wilson have been campaigning hard. Both have been touring different neighborhoods every day and attending forums and meetings each night to make face-to-face appeals to voters.
Mr. Wilson, who supported Mr. Williams' candidacy in 1998, criticized the incumbent for suggesting moving the University of the District of Columbia east of the Anacostia River and for closing D.C. General Hospital, which had long provided health care for the city's poor.
The outspoken pastor entered the mayor's race last month after the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics decision to keep Mr. Williams' name off the Democratic primary ballot.
Mr. Williams appealed to the court after the elections board's decision in July. Citing thousands of forgeries among the signatures on Mr. Williams' nominating petitions, the board opted to deny the mayor access to the primary ballot. The board also fined the Williams campaign $250,000, the largest such fine in the city's history.
Meanwhile, Mr. Williams has redoubled his re-election efforts by beginning a new contribution drive and buying several television ads.


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