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DECISION '98

Newcomer Sweeps D.C. Mayoral Election

November 04, 1998| From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Anthony Williams, a political newcomer who helped pull the nation's capital out of a financial mess, was elected mayor Tuesday in a landslide.

The Ivy League-educated lawyer and financial manager easily defeated Republican Carol Schwartz, a member of the City Council, rolling up a 2-to-1 victory margin.

The election brings to a close Marion Barry's 20-year dominance of local politics here. Barry has been mayor for 16 of those years and won a fourth term in 1994 despite a cocaine conviction. He decided not to run for reelection this year.

Williams, 47, the city's former chief financial officer who was previously a municipal official in New Haven, Conn.; Boston and St. Louis, emerged from a crowded field to win the Democratic nomination in September after just three months of campaigning.

"A voice was heard from across our city. Our entire city spoke with one voice," Williams told a crowd of supporters at a downtown hotel. "They said we want our city back."

"If you are someone who's looking for a government to work for you, and answer your phones, and clean your streets, help is on the way," he said.

Williams, a former Los Angeles resident, vowed not to waste any time during the transition in the district, which has been plagued by fiscal problems, the flight of middle-class residents to nearby Virginia and Maryland suburbs and a rocky relationship with Congress.

The district was hovering near bankruptcy in 1995 when Congress installed a financial control board that stripped the controversial Barry of most of his powers. The city is now running a surplus, thanks in part to budget and payroll cuts made by Williams.

"We can govern ourselves, and effectively at that," Williams said. "Tomorrow we have to begin the transition to rebuild this government and move the city forward."

The extent of the city's lack of control over its own business was underscored once again on election night, when a congressional decision blocked the city's board of elections from releasing the results of a ballot initiative to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

But now the control board is getting ready to hand much of its power back to Williams, a plan strongly backed by control board Chairwoman Alice Rivlin, who is also vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board.

The control board's plan to empower the mayor-elect is designed to permit the election winner to work on the city budget, personnel matters and other critical issues during the transition period ahead of January's inauguration.

Williams will be working with a City Council that, for the first time since the city got home rule in 1974, will have a white majority, with seven whites and six blacks elected by voters in a city with a majority black population. Incumbent Councilman Harold Brazil, who is black, said that means voters put race aside and did what they thought was best for the city.

The city's delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, also handily won reelection to a fifth term Tuesday.

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