With Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's meat-cleaver approach to political compromise, many of the city's pundits -- and citizens are calling for a change. A change to someone who can rise above the mudslinging and dirty business.
"My platform is to clean Richmond up and help the School Board, and help the police out," says Dirtwoman, aka Donnie Corker, who may be Richmond's best known transvestite-with-a-heart.
Though the mayoral election is more than a year away, would-be successors to Wilder already are lining up or at least beginning to quietly float their plans. Last month, former Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks was asked to throw his hat in the ring by a group of area ministers. The rumor circuit is rife with big names: Councilwoman Ellen Robertson ("Never say never," she says, though denying any current thoughts about the office), Council President Bill Pantele and School Board Chairman George Braxton, among others.
But Corker is the first to officially declare. (It remains to be seen if he'll remember to file his paperwork after January.) And he already has a platform. Dirtwoman, long a part of Richmond lore, may well have his substantial hand on the pulse of a city anxious for progress.
"I'm going to get all the prostitutes off the street," says Corker, who once made his living alongside them. "I'm going to work with the City Council people. And I'm not going to fight with the School Board."
Reared in Oregon Hill, Corker literally made his name in politics, becoming legendary for crashing the gates and getting arrested at the gubernatorial inauguration of now-Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder. Oh, and there was a little incident where he left that "deposit" in the back seat of a Richmond Police car.
Now a born-again Christian whose voting rights revoked for a decades-old felony sodomy conviction were recently restored by Gov. Tim Kaine, Corker says he mostly refrains from his drag queen get-up except to draw crowds to the annual Hamaganza charity benefit in November, where he appears as a not-ready-for-primetime (or Christmas time) Miss Claus.
He says he believes voters will look to the future and not at his past when they cast their votes in November 2008. Indeed, he suggests there's not a politician in town whose past looks much better than his own he just lived his life with more style.
"Once you get the men out of the closet, there won't hardly be no men left," Corker says, declining to elaborate. "What people do behind locked doors is their own damn business. Nobody else's."
One final campaign pledge: "I will work in drag every day." S