- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

District business groups are overwhelmingly supporting D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp’s campaign for mayor, hoping Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ endorsement means she will continue the economic growth of his administration.

Mrs. Cropp has rounded up endorsements by the Greater Washington Board of Trade, D.C. Building Industry Association, D.C. Chamber of Commerce, D.C. Association of Realtors, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., among others.

The other front-runner in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election, Ward 4 Democrat Adrian M. Fenty, has one business endorsement, from SEIU Local 32 BJ, a janitors union.

Political analysts say business groups look at their endorsement decision as they do any other in business: What’s going to protect my interests?

Many District businesses enjoyed economic prosperity under Mr. Williams’ term and many see his endorsement of Mrs. Cropp as a sign that that growth will continue under a Cropp administration.

“They like Anthony Williams’ relationship to growth and business expansion in the downtown area,” said Lorenzo Morris, professor of political science at Howard University. Mrs. Cropp “has done nothing to threaten housing development, office development, hotel development, sports development in the city. It’s the same things he supported.”

It’s a sentiment echoed in the Greater Washington Board of Trade political action committee’s endorsement of Mrs. Cropp.

“The PAC fairly firmly believed that Linda Cropp offered the best opportunity to continue the growth of the city, with the economic development in the various wards that began under the Tony Williams administration,” said Scott Sterling, vice president of government relations at the Greater Washington Board of Trade and a staff member of the group’s PAC.

The Board of Trade is the region’s largest business group, encompassing more than 1,100 area businesses.

In the council, Mrs. Cropp has supported a number of business-friendly initiatives, including the Nationals’ new baseball stadium and economic development downtown.

Business groups for the most part chose not to support Marie C. Johns, former president of Verizon Washington, D.C., and former president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

While she is relatively unknown in politics, her business background made her known to many of the business organizations.

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington was the only business group to endorse her.

“She brings the business background and experience that’s lacking for the most part on the council and in this particular situation, the administration,” said Robert Zinsmeister, director of governmental affairs at the ABC.

The construction group’s most important issue is the use of project labor agreements, which construction companies must sign before bidding on a government project, that make the employees essentially unionized for the duration of the project. She promised not to support them, Mr. Zinsmeister said.

But the group realizes Mrs. Johns is now polling in the single digits.

“We’re realistic,” Mr. Zinsmeister said. “Obviously we knew she would have a long way to go to overcome the numbers. We decided to go with who we thought would do the best job instead of just picking a winner.”

Mr. Morris said Mrs. Cropp and Mr. Fenty’s front-runner status likely contributed to Mrs. Johns’ lack of endorsements.

“However big the business is, businesses like to support winners,” said Mr. Morris, who donated to Mr. Fenty’s campaign.

“There is no reasonable expectation that she would win.”

Mr. Morris said that in the District, where many people work in government or in professional organizations, union endorsements don’t carry as much weight as they might.

“It may matter, but … business endorsements don’t do that much, besides newspapers, in determining the outcome.”

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