- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

A candidate in the Alexandria mayoral election said yeterday the city will soon have a black mayor for the first time in its 253-year history, even though independent Townsend A. Van Fleet is white.
"We're making history here in Alexandria," said William D. Euille, the Democratic candidate and a City Council member. "For the first time the city will have someone of color. It's a city going in the right direction."
Mr. Euille, 52, has emerged as the front-runner in the May 6 election in which he faces William C. Cleveland, the Republican candidate and the city's vice mayor, and independent candidate Mr. Van Fleet, a Washington lobbyist and businessman.
Mr. Cleveland, 54, agreed with Mr. Euille, saying Mr. Van Fleet is "no factor" in the race. However, his supporters are less confident.
"Mr. Euille and Mr. Cleveland are bona fide candidates, longtime residents and involved in the community," said Linda Couture of Alexandrians for Sensible Growth. "But in the forums Mr. Van Fleet has come across more sober and gravitas. He has a lot of money so there are lots of [campaign] signs, and people who don't pay much attention to the race may think it's a good idea to have an independent in office."
She also thinks Mr. Van Fleet has at least gained enough ground to take away votes from Mr. Cleveland.
"I fear the Ross Perot metaphor," said Miss Couture, referring to the 1992 presidential election, which some political analysts say President Clinton, a Democrat, won because the campaign by Mr. Perot, an independent, took away votes from Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush.
Furthermore, she thinks a low voter turnout in a city that has twice as many Democrats as Republicans could also hurt Mr. Cleveland.
Mr. Cleveland dismissed the analysis by saying, "There is no Ross Perot effect. The people of this city are going to vote for what they know. I have a track record and Bill Euille has one. Mr. Van Fleet has no track record."
Mr. Cleveland also thinks he can compete against Mr. Euille because he won more votes than Mr. Euille in last year's City Council election, despite the city's Democratic majority. And he expects to win because of his work on such issues as controlling growth and creating affordable housing, improving rush-hour traffic and protecting the city's dwindling open space.
"I am winning on the issues," said Mr. Cleveland, who has served on the City Council for 15 years. Mr. Euille has served nine.
Alexandria, a city of 83,896 registered voters, also has a population that is 54 percent white and 22 percent black.
Mayor Kerry J. Donley is not seeking re-election after 15 years on the City Council, including the last eight as mayor. Mr. Donley has said he wants to spend more time with his family.
A key issue in the election has been property taxes, which increased an average of 25 percent this year after 15 percent and 13 percent increases in 2002 and 2001, respectively.
Mr. Cleveland has proposed a cap on the amount homeowners can be taxed and wants the city to rely less on real estate taxes for income, though he acknowledges the city will need help from state lawmakers.
Mr. Euille said that proposal is "irresponsible."
"Unless we know and have a holistic approach to knowing the budgetary implications, we may be creating something that will cause us harm in subsequent budget years," he said. "It sounds good, but look where the state is budgetwise, with heavy deficits."
Meanwhile, Mr. Van Fleet, 68, said Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Euille have underestimated him.
"
They don't even recognize I'm in the race," he said. "But I'm the only guy who's got any plans to do anything."
One of his plans is to impose a moratorium on development like ones in Frederick, Md., and Rockville.
"Until you correct the infrastructure, we ought not to be doing a lot of building," he said.
The decision by council member David Speck not to seek re-election leaves three seats open on the City Council. Democrats Joyce Woodson and Redella Pepper, and Republican Claire Eberwein are the incumbents.

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