- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008

Two of the longest-serving and best-recognized members of the D.C. Council say they are surprised but unfazed by what they say is negative campaigning by their opponents in Tuesday’s primary election.

Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, and Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said the unprecedented attacks appear to show a lack of substance in their opponents’ platforms.

“You can say, ‘Don’t vote for him,’ but you have to give people a reason to vote for you,” said Mr. Evans, 54, who is seeking his fifth consecutive full term on the council.

Challenger Cary Silverman, president of the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association, disagreed with Mr. Evan’s analysis, saying he has used his record to distinguish himself from the incumbent.

“When you run against an incumbent, it’s about accountability, the record and what I bring to the ward,” said Mr. Silverman, 32. “It’s been a matter of the record. It’s nothing personal.”

(Corrected paragraph below:)

Mr. Silverman has questioned Mr. Evans’ ability to be a “full-time” council member, noting Mr. Evans has a day job at a lobbying firm. He said he also is concerned that Mr. Evans’s lengthy tenure has put him under the influence of special-interest groups.

Mr. Evans has largely brushed off the criticism, saying his record, which includes helping revive the Shaw and Logan Circle neighborhoods ravaged by the city’s drug epidemic in 1980s and 1990s, speaks for itself.

However, he acknowledge concern about the race being close if voter turnout is low, as is typical during primaries.

Incumbent supporters typically think their candidate will win easily so they don’t vote.

Mrs. Schwartz, 64, who is seeking her third consecutive term and fourth overall, also is relying on her record, to defend accusations from challenger Patrick Mara.

Mr. Mara, 33, says Mrs. Schwartz has moved away from Republican ideals, particularly by approving progressively larger city budgets and exercising lax oversight on several city agencies under her purview as a council committee chairwoman.

He also said Mrs. Schwartz has failed to grow her party, which he says has alienated D.C. Republicans who are outnumbered 10-to-1 by Democrats.

“The more people who turn out to vote, the better,” Mr. Mara said. “If every Republican came out and voted, [I] would win in a landslide.”

Mrs. Schwartz, who was endorsed by the D.C. Republican Committee, says she has done a good job in office and has never strayed from the party.

“I’ve never broken away,” she said. “I could have been mayor if I had broken away.”

Across the Anacostia River, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Sandra Seegars is looking to unseat council member and former mayor Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, who is running for a second consecutive term and fourth term overall.

Ms. Seegars, 57, a former head of the D.C. Taxicab Commission and a top contender for the seat, said Mr. Barry is ineffective and has failed to deliver city services, the ward’s biggest need.

“Marion Barry had his chance, and he’s not effective anymore,” she said. “We need better leadership and city services. I can deliver that.”

A call made late Sunday evening seeking comment from Mr. Barry, 72, was not returned.

Mr. Barry late last month caught criticism by community activists who said he had squandered his influence, particularly with young people in the ward.

Mr. Barry said the criticism was politically motivated but was confident that he had strong support in the ward.

The other council members up for re-election this year are Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, and Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, who replaced seats vacated last year by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, Democrats.

Malik F. Mendenhall-Johnson, who works at a public relations firm, and Baruti Jahi, a former NASA employee, are among Miss Bowser’s challengers.

Villareal “V.J.” Johnson, a consultant, and Robin Hammond Marlin, a former public health adviser, are among Miss Alexander’s challengers.

Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat, is unopposed in the primary, but will likely face several challengers in the general election in November.

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