WASHINGTON: Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams has completely retooled his reelection effort after a scandal among his volunteers removed his name from the ballot, forcing the incumbent to wage the rarest of things: a write-in reelection campaign.
Even incumbents in Washington need to collect several thousand signatures in order to get their name on the ballot. Last month, when it was discovered that some of the mayor's volunteers had forged pages of those signatures, the board of elections voted to remove his name, emboldening his few opponents, and forcing Williams' communications workers to change their strategy literally overnight.
Gone were the boasts of his accomplishments and vision for the future, replaced with lessons on how to spell the mayor's name.
Further complicating the effort is the fact that DC, which is introducing new ballots this year, has a large population for which English is a second language, and a 35% illiteracy rate.
"Over the last three weeks, we've gone to the community and really asked voters and residents, 'What would make this process easier for you?,'" said Ann Walker Marchant, president of the Walker Marchant Group, which is agency of record for the Williams campaign. Based on that feedback, campaign workers are now distributing pencils bearing the mayor's name and self-inking stamps.
In addition, because the board of elections will accept few variations on the mayor's name, all campaign materials are being rewritten to ensure consistency. "We had 'Mayor Williams,' 'Tony Williams,' and 'Anthony Williams,' said Walker Marchant.
Williams, who is still heavily favored to win the nomination, mailed a letter of apology to 77,000 District homes last week. His next mailing will be a mock ballot that will explain the process of writing in a candidate's name.