- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

William C. Cleveland, Republican candidate for mayor of the overwhelmingly Democratic city of Alexandria, sees himself as the people's champion fighting the establishment, not as the underdog.
"The people know I'm a Republican, and I'm the one they go to get things done on the City Council," said Mr. Cleveland, 54, currently the city's vice mayor and a 15-year veteran of the council.
Mr. Cleveland and his opponents, William D. Euille, a Democrat, and Townsend A. Van Fleet, an independent, along with the candidates for City Council, attended a meeting yesterday at T.C. Williams, the city's lone high school.
Candidates stood in front of tables with literature, signs and balloons, engaging students in conversation and debate. Mr. Cleveland, a 28-year member of the U.S. Capitol Police, was energetic, compared with the more subdued Mr. Euille, 52, a native of Alexandria who attended T.C. Williams, and owns a construction company.
Jack Henes, a teacher at the school, said the event was great for students, who were challenged by their teachers to ask tough questions.
"We're getting them out of the textbook and into the real world," he said.
Mr. Cleveland said he didn't think Mr. Euille had a home-field advantage at his alma mater, but one or two students wore T-shirts supporting Mr. Euille and a faculty member spent most of the session helping out at Mr. Euille's table.
If either Mr. Cleveland or Mr. Euille wins the election next Tuesday, the city, a former slave-trading port that is 54 percent white and 22 percent black, will have its first black mayor. Both men have said they consider the third candidate, Mr. Van Fleet, a non-factor, though some of Mr. Cleveland's backers have expressed concern that Mr. Van Fleet may weaken Mr. Cleveland's chances by taking some of his votes.
Mr. Van Fleet, 68, a Washington lobbyist and businessman, has said he is "the only guy who's got any plans to do anything."
Mr. Cleveland has championed a cap on the yearly amount that homeowners can be taxed, without capping assessments or tax rates. Property assessments rose an average of 25 percent this year the highest in Northern Virginia. But opponents have attacked Mr. Cleveland's idea as irresponsible, since he has not offered details on how the city could recoup lost revenue.
He is also running a three-pronged platform of controlling development and city growth, open and responsive government, and city safety and security.
The cap on taxes and his agenda for bureaucratic openness are Mr. Cleveland's favorite ways of portraying himself as a populist and spokesman for the common man. He wants to post results of City Council votes on the Web site, instead of requiring citizens to come to City Hall to find out how council members voted.
"The majority of the council is used to doing things their way," Mr. Cleveland said. "This is the time to break that egg. People are asking for a way for them to be included."
Mr. Euille rejected the idea of Mr. Cleveland as the people's choice.
"If that were true, then I'm sure that I wouldn't have the strong support base that I have for the campaign, and I know without a doubt that I will be victorious on Election Day," Mr. Euille said.
"It's election time and you do what you have to do to create issues in an attempt to be heard, rather than responding to the issues that are already before the public," he said.

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