To the annoyance of advisers to mayoral candidate Vincent C. Gray, D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) is emerging as a leading public face of the Gray campaign in the finals days before the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.
At an event Wednesday morning at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, Gray unveiled his platform for restoring "public trust in government." But as Gray prepared to step to the microphone, Barry walked into the room and took it upon himself to introduce the council chairman to a room full of reporters, business leaders and campaign advisers.
"There is no greater contrast than between Vincent Gray and Adrian Fenty," said Barry, referring to the incumbent mayor.
The sight of Barry, who was censured by the council last year for misusing earmarks, taking center stage at the event sent waves of nervousness through the Gray campaign. Questioned by reporters after his prepared remarks, Gray reiterated that Barry does not speak for the campaign but he welcomes the support.
"I didn't specifically ask him to be here, but I guess he happened to be in the room at the time the program started, so he spoke," Gray said.
Barry's appearance at the Gray event comes on the heels of his well-publicized debate Tuesday night on Fox 5 with Fenty friend and strategist Ronald Moten. Earlier Tuesday, Barry also joined Gray at an event near Navy Yard sponsored by environmental groups.
Gray said he didn't know Barry was going to debate Moten until late Tuesday evening. Before Barry went on the air, Gray said he called the former mayor and asked him to stress he was not speaking for the campaign, which Barry did.
"I said,' whatever you do with Ronald Moten, it's between you and Ronald Moten," Gray said. "I think he has the right to speak on anything he wants to speak on, but he made it clear, which I asked him to do, he was not speaking for the campaign."
But Barry, who is helping organize Gray's get-out-the-vote efforts in Southeast, threatens to become a major distraction to the campaign. Trailing by double digits in a recent Washington Post poll, the Fenty campaign is stepping up efforts to try to link Gray to Barry-era of government in the 1980s and 1990s.
In an interview, Barry defended his efforts to support Gray. Barry accused Fenty and the Washington Post of "stoking fears" by trying to make him an issue in the race.
"It's a red herring cause I'm not running for mayor," said Barry, noting he supported Fenty in 2006. "It's not that I'm going to be deprived of my right to campaign."
Still, as reporters and business leaders were leaving Wednesday's event, Gray could be seen huddled in a corner talking to Barry