[Bold Faces] Sharon Pratt Kelly


The former vice president for community relations at Pepco, the city's electric utility, was better known in national politics than locally, when she ran for mayor in 1990. Kelly, who then was using the last name of her former husband, one-time D.C. Councilmember Arrington Dixon, was Democratic national party treasurer and the District's woman representative to the Democratic National Committee when she decided to make her first try for public office. Sharon Pratt Dixon actually launched her 1990 mayoral campaign with a lavish, well-attended party during the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.

In the ensuing campaign, the diminutive candidate with the strong voice came across well at public forums. She showed no hesitation to attack Marion Barry and the four council incumbents in the mayor's race. She promised to fire 2,000 mid-level managers right away and clean house in city government. Dixon won handily after picking up the Washington Post endorsement.

But her first year was a disaster. Her grandmother died, and a trusted friend and adviser died when the city ambulance went to the wrong address. At the end of that year, she unexpectedly married New York City businessman James Kelly and changed her name. But her new husband seemed uncomfortable in the public spotlight, and did not play the supporting role of First Spouse. Mayor Kelly was never able to get control of a city government still loyal to Barry, and she often mistrusted the advice she got from aides. A Barry-backed effort to recall her during her second year in office threw her administration off stride. The recall effort turned out to be more sound than fury, but Kelly backed away from the tough reforms she promised in the campaign.

Instead, she launched harsh attacks on Congress for the city's financial woes and became a champion of D.C. statehood. But her administration continued to founder, and she alienated a Democratic-controlled Congress by withholding information, or providing false information, about the city's finances. Her blunders and ineptness soured voters on inexperienced newcomers and paved the way for Barry's comeback.



Bold Faces

[Loose Lips]

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