Calling himself a "lifelong Democrat," District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams has decided to appeal a district board's decision keeping him off the Sept. 10 primary ballot, and run as a Democrat even if he has to do it as a write-in candidate. 

At a news conference Tuesday at the Washington Convention Center, Williams said he made the decision to appeal after talking to "thousands" of district voters. 

The Board of Elections and Ethics decided that Williams lacked the required 2,000 valid signatures because its members were not confident that the signatures were obtained appropriately. 

The local Republican Party and an activist group challenged the petitions after hearing many signatures were forged with names such as singer Billy Joel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

"My major thrust here is launching a write-in effort, get in touch with the people and get on the ballot," Williams said. "It's a big challenge. The odds aren't exactly working in our favor, but I believe the people of this city want me to serve as mayor." 

Williams condemned the way his petitions were handled and took full responsibility for getting himself kicked off the ballot. He also urged any resident who has seen improvements while he has been in office to work for his re-election. 

"We got a new campaign team with a campaign manager. I think we can build an awesome organization," he said. 

Douglas J. Patton, general counsel to the re-election committee, said the appeal will be only on the petition issue. The campaign believes it has collected 2,235 valid signatures. 

"We were always confident we had the signatures needed. We're very optimistic going into court," Patton said. 

Williams arrived for his news conference to a chant of "four more years" from his supporters, mostly city workers on their lunch break. He was flanked by several D.C. Council members, who were excited that Williams is prepared to run as a write-in even if the appeal fails. 

"The 2,235 individuals who signed those petitions should have a right to have their person on the ballot," Council member Vincent Orange said.