Democrat Dixon sails to mayoral win, Barry loses council challenge in D.C.


WASHINGTON -- Sharon Pratt Dixon, who pledged to "clean house" in a city rocked by scandal, drugs and violence, coasted toward an easy victory last night to succeed Washington Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr., who suffered a crushing defeat in a City Council race in the wake of his cocaine conviction.

Mrs. Dixon, the diminutive utility executive who came out of nowhere in September to upset several better-known rivals in the Democratic primary, swamped Republican Maurice T. Turner Jr., a former police chief in the Barry administration, taking 86 percent of the vote. Mr. Turner drew only 11 percent, the worst GOP showing in years in the heavily Democratic city.

Mr. Barry ran a self-styled "crusade" for one of two at-large seats on the District of Columbia City Council, seeking vindication after his videotaped arrest on drug charges in January, his tumultuous trial in August and the imposition of a six-month jail term last month for a misdemeanor count of cocaine possession.

But voters soundly rejected him, his first election defeat ever. The three-term mayor, who chose not to retire voluntarily from politics after his drug conviction, ran as an independent and led the field in only one of the city's eight wards.

Mr. Barry, who rose from the ranks of the civil rights movement to the city's highest office, snared 20 percent of the final vote, compared to the winners, Democrat Linda W. Cropp (38 percent) and council incumbent Hilda H. M. Mason of the D.C. Statehood Party (29 percent).

"My head is bloody but unbowed," he told a sparse crowd of supporters, quoting a favorite verse. Sounding gracious in defeat, he promised an "easy" transition for Mrs. Dixon.

"We've gone against all odds," Mr. Barry added. "You can't take away the last 12 years."

Later, he told interviewers, "I'm amazed I got as many votes as I got."

Even before the votes were counted, the election signaled the dismantling of the Barry political machine and the emergence of new leadership at City Hall.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson won the first elective post of his long political career, easily outdistancing a crowded field of candidates seeking to become one of the city's two "shadow" senators. The former presidential candidate, who acknowledges he may run again for the White House, will be part of a three-member "shadow" delegation to Congress whose sole duty will be to lobby for district statehood.

Another renowned civil rights activist, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, overcame revelations about her city income tax delinquencies to defeat her GOP opponent, Harry M. Singleton, in the race to become the district's non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives. She took 60 percent of the vote, compared to Mr. Singleton's 28 percent.

Mrs. Dixon's campaign centerpiece was a pledge to rid the district government of "municipal bloat" by eliminating 2,000 non-tenured middle-management positions. She was also outspoken since the beginning of her primary fight in suggesting that Mayor Barry should resign.

A 46-year-old native Washingtonian, Mrs. Dixon is new to elective politics -- but not to politics generally. She is a member of the Democratic National Committee and of the National Women's Political Caucus. She is divorced and is the mother of two children.

An exuberant Mrs. Dixon told supporters that district voters gave her a landslide victory for one reason. "The message is clear: They said it is time to clean house," she said.

Voters want "an educational system that works for every child in this town, they at last want some real economic opportunity for everybody in this town, they at last want a government that responds to everyone in this town," Mrs. Dixon said. "And we will make it happen."

Mr. Turner, 55, a lifelong Democrat, had switched to the Republican Party when he announced -- in the White House Rose Garden -- his plans to seek the mayoralty. He retired as police chief last year after eight years in that position and 32 years on the police force.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad