D.C. Council member Marion Barry is defending his campaign to become an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention, saying “doubters and haters” are mistaken if they think he would embarrass the District in Charlotte.
On Saturday, 91 candidates will compete in an election sponsored by the D.C. Democratic State Committee to choose 14 delegates to the convention in early September. The election, open to any registered Democrat, will be held from 10 a.m. at 2 p.m. at the University of the District of Columbia.
Barry has teamed up with Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Shelia Bunn, an advisor to Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), and David Meadows, former executive director of the D.C. Democratic Committee, Ward 1 activist Lillian Perdomo and Betty Pierce, vice president of the Ward 6 Democrats. They are calling themselves the “D.C. for Obama Slate” --- though the Obama campaign has not officially sanctioned their slate.
But some local activists say Barry’s conduct at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver should disqualify him from consideration. In an embarrassing episode that resulted in an infamous City Paper cover, Barry reportedly got into a spat with his then girlfriend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt at a Denver hotel. In graphic detail, the City Paper reported on Barry’s alleged use of sexually explicit language during the argument. Chuck Thies, a District political consultant and media personality, wrote a column for the Georgetown Dish on Thursday pleading with District Democrats not to elect Barry.
“Please do not let this happen,” Thies wrote. “You have a vote. Use it. And when you do, do not vote for Marion Barry…He is a walking public relations disaster for the District.”
In an interview, Barry condemned efforts to deny him a slot, saying he’s been a “delegate to the Democratic National Convention more than anyone else in this city.”
“I nominated Jesse Jackson in San Francisco,” said Barry, referring to the 1984 Democratic Convention. “I am part of a slate of outstanding, hard-working, visionary people.”
Barry called efforts to connect his personal issues in 2008 with Saturday’s election “a sideshow” driven by “a few haters.”
“We are not going to be distracted by this [expletive] about what happened four years ago,” Barry said. “It’s irrelevant…These are haters who want to make something out of nothing.”
In an interview, Thies said he “is certainly not a Barry hater” but thinks it’s time for “fresh faces and new blood in the local Democratic Party.” Many of the slates include younger activists who worked in support of Obama in 2008, both in the District and in other states.
“I am fond of the mayor for life and this isn’t driven by any type of hatred and resentment,” Thies said. “It’s driven out of a concern about what’s best for the District…Wherever Barry goes, there is risk of a side show and that’s not good for the District.”
But Barry said he’s spoken with Anita Bonds, chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic Committee, about his campaign. Asked why he deserves to be elected as an Obama delegate, Barry said helped Obama get more than 90 percent of the vote in the District in 2008.
“I did a lot of work for the president, quietly,” Barry said. “My record speaks for itself.”
With so many candidates running for so few slots, the contest is shaping up as a classic battle over who can get the most supporters to the poll. On Wednesday, the Washington City Paper reported Evans and Barry are organizing buses to bring supporters to Saturday’s vote in Van Ness.
“I’ve been in this business for 31 years. I have won 10 of my 11 races and I’m about to win my 11th out of 12,” Barry said. “My vote getting capacity is better than anyone in this city. You know that.”
An earlier version of this story misstated Anita Bonds’s position. It has been corrected.