The throw-the-bums out mood of the September primary has left District of Columbia voters facing a confounding mix of new faces vying for seats in local government.
The all-important mayoral contest gives voters a chance to effect substantial change in a city plagued by drugs, crime, corruption and a worsening financial quagmire. The candidacy of Democrat nominee Sharon Pratt Dixon, perhaps more than the populist, "get tough on crime" campaign of Republican former police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., promises such change.
Ms. Dixon, a lawyer and former utility vice president, has broached thoughtful ideas on a raft of reforms from trimming the fat at the District Building to a return to police beats on city streets. She has laid out an ambitious economic development agenda, one that calls for scuttling the old partnership between city government and developers and replacing it with a new tax base built on high technology firms and small, minority businesses.
A major disappointment in D.C. politics this year has been the campaign of Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Georgetown University law professor and former Carter administration official whose distinguished record of achievement and public service has been sadly compromised by the disclosure that she and her husband failed to pay District taxes for eight years. Ms. Norton -- who has since made back payments of $88,000 -- says her husband handled family tax matters and procrastinated in filing after a 1982 dispute with the D.C. revenue department.
Ms. Norton apparently considers the matter closed. But it continues to bedevil her candidacy, providing ready ammunition from Republican Harry M. Singleton, a former assistant secretary of education for civil rights in the Reagan administration. Mr. Singleton, himself derided as ineffective by former colleagues, claims Ms. Norton's tax problem would be a "cloud over her head" that would undermine her ability to lobby Congress for additional District revenue.
Even more troubling is freshly sentenced Mayor Marion Barry's full-court press for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council against front runners Linda W. Cropp, the Democratic nominee, and elderly incumbent Hilda H.M. Mason, a Statehood Party member seeking her fourth term. Mr. Barry's attempt to salvage his tattered political career is both embarrassing and potentially worrisome for a city eager to be rid of his influence.
The against-all-odds candidacy of Ms. Dixon and even the troubled bid of Ms. Norton symbolize a new day for the nation's capital under the leadership of capable women who have proven themselves in business and government. It is time. After 12 years of the Barry machine, the District deserves better.