[from November 2002 issue]


The mayor did win re-election, no doubt about that. But was it, as stated in Post's Metro section the next morning "a decisive reelection victory" over challenger Carol Schwartz? We think not. Yes the numbers were large, 60.57 percent to Councilmember Schwartz' 34.51 percent. But consider the context: This is an overwhelmingly Democratic Party loyalists stronghold; Schwartz is a Republican--in a city that has historically been stomped on by carpetbagging Republican members of Congress and by more than one mean-spirited Republican president.

Why would anyone in their right mind have voted for a Republican candidate over the incumbent Democrat? Was it because the mayor had supported the Republican Congresswoman from Maryland's 8th Congressional District? Was it because he suddenly started to apologize for his myriad ethical lapses, all the while hoping we wouldn't notice even more that seemed to be getting revealed weekly? (The most recent being the revelation that he accepted untold hundreds of hours of freebie legal services from powerhouse K Street law firms--at his request--to help bail him out of his own primary election fraud mess. That smacks of illegal campaign gifting, yet the mayor seems totally unperturbed that he went out and solicited same. He and his apologists view this as pro-bono service to the Office of the Mayor, not to the candidate for mayor. Wow, do we really buy into that fiction? What a stretch!

But we digress. What we are emphasizing is that, given the politics and demographics of this city, for a Democrat incumbent mayor who supposedly has been doing a bang-up job to have not swept the election should be read by Mayor Williams as something of a slap in the face. Conversely, for Carol Schwartz, not only a Republican (albeit not the kind that we've come to love to hate), but a candidate who jumped in only a few weeks before the general election and yet managed to come way with her impressive numbers has got to send a major caution signal to the mayor.

You are going to be closely watched for real performance and you will not be able to assume that a third term will come as easily as you had assumed a second term would come. Furthermore, the fact that incumbent council members, several of whom have stood up to you with great vigor and questioned many of your actions and actions of your appointees, were so handily re-elected also sends a signal: The voters approve of the city council being vigorous on their behalf and not just rolling over for everything you try to get past them. Carol Schwartz, it should not be forgotten, is another one of our prized council members.

Speaking of the council elections, although it should be clear to readers familiar with our commentaries, we were thrilled with the results. We think every one of the incumbents definitely deserved re-election. While we have sometimes seemed to praise some members more than others, that is not to suggest that we thought less of those not accorded as much ink; we tend to keep our editorial focus on the part of the city we serve. But let the record show that we think highly of at-large member Phil Mendelson who has worked so hard for all our citizens in much the same way as has David Catania, the other at-large member who was soundly re-elected. Their styles are very different, but their commitment to all citizens is genuine. The same can be clearly and unequivocally said about Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham: his commitment to serving all the people is genuine--and he has proven that he is effective in his efforts.

And that leads us to another point of importance. Both those at-large council members, as well as Jim Graham and Carol Schwartz, have clearly proven that race is no longer a matter of political imperative in the eyes of the majority of our citizens. This is a huge and wonderful thing to contemplate. Some candidates tried the old race card thing of the past, but it didn't fly when the voters went to the polls. When we see how enthusiastically Mendelson, Catania, Graham, and Schwartz, for example, have been received by the voters we know that we have moved into a new era for sure.

It should, therefore, be clear to all politicians that from this time forward they should expect to be judged on actual performance and high standards of accountability for their commitment to the public good. Anything else, whether it be race, religion, ethnic heritage, marital status, what-have-you, will have no place in the minds of the voters--only a commitment to good government and honest and fair dealings will count.