A new mayor to lead District of Columbia After Barry: Anthony Williams' stunning victory signals the District's craving for dramatic change.

September 17, 1998

THE REALITY of a District of Columbia government without Mayor Marion Barry didn't sink in until Anthony A. Williams' decisive victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary. In a field of seven, Mr. Williams outdistanced his closest competitor by 15 percentage points.

In selecting the antithesis of Mayor Barry to carry the party standard, Washington Democrats have let the world know that they, too, finally believe enough is enough. They want a mayor who can effectively complete the city's recovery from 16 years of decline under Barry administrations.

A temper tantrum might be the best way to describe District residents' re-election of Mr. Barry four years ago. They didn't much like outsiders telling them who they should elect. So they voted back into office an adulterous fiscal malingerer who smoked crack. He had disgraced himself and the city that belongs to all Americans.

While prayer and a little prison time seem to have helped Mr. Barry cure his addictions, they did not make him any more capable of ending wasteful government spending or repairing the city's deteriorating infrastructure. His attempts to cling to his dwindling authority -- Congress had shifted most power to a federally appointed financial control board -- were counterproductive.

The home rule that Washingtonians covet is once again a possibility with Mr. Williams as mayor. He could restore confidence in city government with the same tough decisions to cut spending that he made as Washington's chief financial officer.

The Republican mayoral candidate is former council member Carol Schwartz, who made a strong showing against Mr. Barry in the 1994 election. But in a city where Democrats are the overwhelming majority, the anti-Barry vote Ms. Schwartz got four years ago will likely go to Mr. Williams.

He needs to show voters more than his fiscal credentials. Washington stood by Marion Barry despite his faults because his visible love for the city was so deep. Mr. Williams can't run only on his ability to govern. He's got to show Washington that he loves it, too.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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