- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 5, 2004

An anti-smoking group is targeting four D.C. Council members for defeat in next week’s primary election, including three incumbents fending off tough challenges, to clear the way for a smoking ban in the city’s bars and restaurants.

Smokefree DC has distributed a voter’s guide for the Sept. 14 primary that encourages voters to “replace” at-large council members Harold Brazil and Carol Schwartz, Ward 7 council member Kevin P. Chavous and Ward 8 council member Sandy Allen.

“The D.C. Council has the power to protect all workers from secondhand smoke, but it is clear that this Council will not act,” the organization’s president and co-founder, Angela Bradbery, said in a press release announcing the guide’s publication. “If you believe everyone deserves to breathe clean air, on the job, change the makeup of this Council.”

Laws forbidding smoking in public are becoming more common throughout the country, with smoking bans in place in California, New York, Delaware, Maine and Massachusetts. On the District’s border, Montgomery County recently outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants — the strictest ban in the region.

However, the District’s anti-smoking push suffered a setback last month when D.C. Superior Court Judge Mary A. Terrell upheld her decision to block a Nov. 2 referendum on the smoking ban.

She had ruled in May that the ban would affect sales-tax revenue, thereby violating the D.C. Home Rule Act’s prohibition of referendum votes on “laws appropriating funds,” a power reserved exclusively for the D.C. Council and Congress.

The initiative’s supporters appealed to the city’s highest court, hoping to get the question on the 2006 ballot.

In the meantime, they vowed to increase pressure on council members to impose the ban, a threat made good with the voter’s guide.

Mr. Brazil, Mr. Chavous and Mrs. Allen are three Democrats in the thick of contentious primary campaigns, and Smokefree DC appears to be capitalizing on the perceived vulnerability by throwing support behind some of their most formidable rivals.

Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican, is considered reasonably safe in her bid for a fourth term.

She has proposed a tax break to encourage bars and restaurants to voluntarily ban smoking, but Smokefree DC is still backing challenger Lauren Ross.

The only incumbent up for re-election to receive the group’s endorsement is Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, who proposed the Smokefree Workplaces Act of 2003 to prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants.

He is running unopposed.

“We are surprised that they would target Councilmember Brazil,” Brazil campaign manager Darden Copeland said yesterday. “We certainly want workplaces, offices and hospitals to be smoke-free. We just do not wish to extend that limitation to restaurants and bars.”

Mr. Darden pointed out that Smokefree DC’s Web site boasts that 282 dining establishments in the District have voluntarily banned smoking. “Clearly, voters have a choice when they go out to eat. We do not believe it is the government’s role to regulate smoking in mom-and-pop restaurants,” he said.

Miss Bradbery said yesterday that Mr. Brazil would fail to protect a large segment of the work force by excluding the food and beverage industry from a ban. “That’s no solution at all,” she said, “because [restaurants and bars are] where a lot of the secondhand smoke is, and that’s where most of the workplace hazard is.”

In the race for Mr. Brazil’s seat, the group is touting challengers Kwame Brown, who has raised more than $100,000, and Sam Brooks, a less-threatening foe with a $35,000 campaign fund.

The anti-smoking group endorsed Vincent Gray, who has raised more than $52,000, and Mary Jackson to unseat Mr. Chavous in the Ward 7 primary.

And in Ward 8, the group favored Jacques Paterson and Joyce Scott over Mrs. Allen.

Smokefree DC did not promote Mrs. Allen’s most prominent opponent, former Mayor Marion S. Barry.

“We are not a radical group, telling people what they can and cannot do,” Miss Bradbery said. “We are just asking them to step outside when they want to smoke.”

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