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D.C. Mayor Winning Huge Share of Write-In Votes

Election: Incumbent has a substantial lead in the primary as the counting continues. He was barred from the ballot because of phony signatures on nominating petitions.

September 12, 2002|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Mayor Anthony A. Williams had a commanding lead Wednesday at the end of the first day of counting write-in ballots in the city's Democratic mayoral primary.

In his bid for reelection, Williams had 17,299 votes; the Rev. Willie Wilson had 1,958 votes.

Poll workers were to return today to continue, with 32 of 141 precincts tallied from Tuesday's primary election.

"We're going to work on this day to day until we get it done," said Benjamin F. Wilson, chairman of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. Of the 89,618 votes cast, 91% were write-ins.

Williams was barred from the ballot by the election board because of irregularities in his nominating petitions--they included thousands of phony signatures.

The names of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan were among the bogus signatures.

Willie Wilson, a local minister, mounted his own write-in effort.

Most voters in the district are Democrats, so the party's nomination for mayor all but assures election in November.

The four other candidates listed on the official Democratic ballot--including a trumpet-blowing arts advocate named Faith--each received just a handful of votes.

Officials noted that the precincts counted so far were all in districts known to favor Williams and that those expected to be supportive of Wilson had yet to be tallied.

Although Williams was always the favorite to win the party's nomination, the campaign scandal complicated what had promised to be an easy ride to a second four-year term.

The petition flap was an embarrassment for Williams, an Ivy League-educated technocrat who portrays himself as an efficient manager. Wilson jumped into the race after the scandal broke, hoping to tap into discontent among poorer black voters who say Williams has ignored their needs and concerns.

The unusual circumstances of the primary have drawn national attention to the capital, which under Williams had only just begun to shake off a decades-long reputation for zany politics, shoddy services and disastrous fiscal management.

Elsewhere around the nation, Republicans claimed Wednesday that primary victories by John E. Sununu in New Hampshire and Elizabeth Hanford Dole in North Carolina provided momentum to keep two crucial Senate seats.

"There are some good things and bad things that happened to either party," Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, said of Tuesday's hectic primary night.

One GOP expert said Sununu's win in the primary over Sen. Bob Smith, a two-term incumbent, was a major relief for Republicans.

"Republicans strengthen their hand immeasurably in retaining that seat," GOP consultant Rich Bond said. "There's no doubt that John Sununu is a much stronger candidate in the general election than Bob Smith."

Sununu, a three-term congressman, will face Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

As for the Democrats, Ornstein said, they will be ecstatic if Tampa, Fla., lawyer Bill McBride's narrow lead over former U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno holds up in the Florida gubernatorial primary, because he will provide a stiffer challenge to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

Among other races shaping up for November:

* In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott McCallum won the GOP primary and will face Democratic Atty. Gen. Jim Doyle in November. Former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson's younger brother, Ed, faced no competition for the Libertarian nomination.

* In Arizona, Atty. Gen. Janet Napolitano won a four-way Democratic primary for the gubernatorial nomination. Her opponent will be former Rep. Matt Salmon. Democrat Raul Grijalva and Republican Ross Hieb won nominations in a new 7th Congressional District.

* In New York, two-term Gov. George Pataki had no GOP opponent but lost the Independence Party nomination to billionaire businessman B. Thomas Golisano. Pataki competed for both nominations. That means Golisano's name will be on the ballot, along with that of state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, the Democratic nominee.

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