Williams wins, vows 'help is on the way' Ex-chief financial officer ushers in post-Barry era

D.C. mayor

Election 1998 : Nation

November 04, 1998|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Williams made the end of the Marion Barry era official last night, trouncing his GOP rival with nothing glitzier than a promise of efficiency.

Williams, a Democrat, resoundingly defeated Carol Schwartz in a mayoral election made extraordinary by Barry's absence after 16 years in office. Williams, 47, drew votes across racially diverse city neighborhoods and won victory with his success in balancing the city's books as the district's former chief financial officer.

In his victory speech, Williams mocked his image as a humorless bean counter, staging a stiff "brief moment of exuberance" before getting back to accounting. More seriously, he promised a government committed to accountability, and told those frustrated with failing services, troubled schools and lack of self-government that "help is on the way."

Schwartz, 54, fared poorly as a white Republican in a majority-black city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of nearly 10-to-1.

Last night, Schwartz acknowledged the stiff odds. "Those odds are no joke. I just can't seem to muscle past them." She congratulated Williams, adding, "much now rests on your shoulders."

Williams beat Schwartz by a margin of about 2-to-1. Schwartz fared far better in 1994, when she captured 42 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Barry.

In other matters, voters elected a majority-white City Council for the first time since home rule began in 1974.

To many, last night marks the beginning of a new era. It is the first district election in nearly two decades in which Barry, who is retiring, did not play a pivotal role.

And it marks a turning point for district self-governance: The federally appointed control board, which makes major policy decisions for the district, is planning to restore most of the authority it stripped from city leaders after coming to power three years ago.

The election has focused attention on the increasing power of the white vote in the district as middle-class blacks move to the suburbs and low-income residents feel disenfranchised without a personality such as Barry to unite them. In the primary, wards with majority-white residents showed heavier turnout, with votes largely going for Williams. District observers expected a similar voting pattern to emerge yesterday.

During the campaign, Williams' critics attacked him as the choice of the white establishment who could get along with the control board and Congress but who would not fight for the heart and soul of the district. Williams vowed that he would play the statesman with federal regulators -- with the ultimate aim of restoring self-government.

Williams, a Los Angeles native, last held elected office as a two-term alderman in New Haven, Conn., while enrolled in graduate school at Yale University.

Pub Date: 11/04/98

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