Monday, June 04, 2007

FROM OUR OVERSTOCKED ARCHIVES: ALMOST RUNNING

[50 years ago this summer, your editor covered his first story in Washington. Throughout the year, the Review will offer excerpts from "Multitudes: The Unauthorized Memoirs of Sam Smith," the full version of which is available on our site]

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 I 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 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.'"

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