WASHINGTON -- By becoming the most vocal critic of Mayo Marion S. Barry Jr., Sharon Pratt Dixon was able to overcome formidable political odds and in the end easily won the Democratic mayoral primary.
As a result, for the first time since Barry took office 12 years ago, the local political landscape in the nation's capital has been totally rearranged by a voter backlash that was more forceful and shocking than anyone foresaw.
"The status quo lost," Dixon said yesterday.
Barry, also a Democrat, announced at the start of his recent drug trial, in which the jury divided on the most serious charges but convicted him of possessing cocaine, that he would not seek re-election to a fourth term in City Hall.
Since then he has said he will seek a seat on the City Council as an independent.
"If I were Marion Barry I would get out of the council race right
now because the same big vote that Sharon Pratt Dixon got Tuesday is going to be solidly against him in the fall election," said Joslyn Williams, the chairman of the city's Democratic Party.
Williams and others noted that Dixon, 46, a lawyer and former power company executive who has been active in Democratic Party circles but had never before sought elective office, won unusually heavy support on Tuesday from whites and middle-class blacks.
Like Barry, she is black, as were three of the four other candidates in the contest for the Democratic mayoral nomination.
But Dixon made no real issue of race in her campaign except to warn generally against polarization.
Rather, she had a far different theme that not only helped her but also helped other candidates in other primaries who latched onto it.
She said it was long past time for the city's residents to upend the status quo and break with the Barry political organization and Barry political legacy, which she contended was a fiscal, administrative and ethical embarrassment.
Once the message began to take hold, it catapulted Dixon from last place to first in the the field of five candidates.
Dixon defeated her nearest rival, John Ray, a veteran member of City Council, by a nearly 10-point margin, 35 percent to 25 percent.