March 15, 2007

Almost running

Sam Smith - In 1974, the capital colony of DC got to elect a mayor and city council for the first time in over a century. Although the city's registration was overwhelmingly Democratic, the young DC Statehood Party, which your editor had helped to start four years earlier, decided to run a hefty slate. I missed the convention, having gone to Philadelphia to visit relatives. There I received a phone call from Jay Matthews of the Washington Post informing me that I had been selected as the party's candidate for city council chair. I replied with one of my least felicitous responses to a press query, "Oh shit, I knew I shouldn't have left town." (The Post ran the response without the expletive). After a week of reflection, I decided to stick to journalism, but couldn't resist holding a news conference at which I attacked my foregone opponent as a "Republicrat" and described the mayor and city council chair as "the political equivalent of Fruit Loops, sweet-tasting cereal circles comprised largely of additives and artificial flavoring wrapped around exactly nothing." Nationally syndicated black journalist Chuck Stone took an avuncular interest in my brief campaign, writing after its demise: "The outside chance for a white city council chairman evaporated when Sam Smith, the irreverent and witty publisher and editor of the bi-weekly DC Gazette, withdrew after a draft (which included a large number of blacks) had been mounted on his behalf. 'Oh dear,' fretted a matronly white woman who had organized a candidates night, 'we did want so much to have a least one white candidate for that office.'"

(Twenty-three years later I would be approached by some Statehood Green leaders about running for mayor. I asked my youngest son what he thought. "Terrible idea," he said. Well, if I do run, I asked, what job do you want in my administration? He replied, "I want to be the incorrible son who gets all the bad publicity." I didn't run)