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In the Sept. 10 DC Primary

Thursday, August 29, 2002; Page A30

DISTRICT DEMOCRATS have an easy decision when it comes to the selection of a delegate to the House of Representatives and a chairman of the D.C. Council in the Sept. 10 primary. Both incumbents, as testament to their outstanding records of service and strength among the voters, are running unopposed in their party primary. In addition, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton faces only nominal opposition in the Nov. 5 general election, and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp will enter that contest unchallenged as well. That is as it should be. Mrs. Norton and Mrs. Cropp are highly deserving of reelection.

Mrs. Norton has been everything District residents could want in a representative on Capitol Hill. It is not her fault that she lacks a vote on the House floor or that the District is not represented in the Senate. Mrs. Norton has made the best of her unfortunate nonvoting status, using her considerable legislative and negotiating skills to tirelessly advance the District's interests in both houses of Congress and with the leadership of both parties.

On the local front, we think the D.C. Council has arrived under the leadership of Linda Cropp. It is now a more cohesive and credible legislative body that takes a businesslike approach to the city's problems and challenges. Credit pragmatic Linda Cropp with directing that transformation. Many of the council's successes are the result of her work behind the scenes. The mayor owes a good deal of his legislative achievements -- and escapes from defeat -- to Mrs. Cropp and her ability to quietly find common policy ground on which the executive and city lawmakers can stand. Given the financial and social challenges confronting the District, Mrs. Cropp's leadership on the council and Mrs. Norton's presence in Congress will be needed more than ever.

The decision in the Democratic primary for at-large council member is much more difficult. Four years ago, we endorsed real estate lawyer Beverly Wilbourn, a newcomer to D.C. elective politics. We found her to be bright and vibrant with strong business skills and a sensitivity to grass-roots interests that would make her an asset on the council. Today, we regard Ms. Wilbourn, who is running again, in much the same way. What's missing, however, is a strong record of sustained and broad city service during the intervening years. That is disappointing because Ms. Wilbourn strikes us as having many of the qualities needed in public office -- honesty, intelligence and a dedication to people, especially the underserved. The incumbent, Phil Mendelson, while more understated and less noticeable in a crowd, has nonetheless been an active council member on the dais and in the community. He does his homework, diligently attends to his legislative duties and keeps long hours in behalf of his constituents. He does have a tendency to make tasks look more difficult than they are -- he handled the council's redistricting chores with far more angst than Mrs. Cropp exhibited 10 years ago. And we don't agree with all of his decisions, such as on Klingle Road, which we favor reopening. But Mr. Mendelson has compiled a record of credible service on the council that cannot be discounted.

A third at-large candidate, school board member Dwight E. Singleton, is long on ambition and sloganeering but woefully short on substance and ability. In a close call between Beverly Wilbourn and Phil Mendelson, the incumbent gets the nod.

2002 The Washington Post Company

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