Marion Barry, towering figure of D.C. politics, has discussed bringing his four decades in public life to an end by kindling a family dynasty.
In conversations with political associates, Barry, 75, has outlined plans to run for a third consecutive term as D.C. Council member for Ward 8 but serve only a partial term, backing his only son, Christopher Barry, to fill his seat.
Jacque Patterson, a Democrat who intends to challenge Barry in the April 3 primary, said the former four-term mayor discussed the plan with him during a meeting last Monday. Two other sources close to Barry said they had also heard him discuss plans involving his son taking his seat.
”He told me exactly that he only plans to serve two more years, and then he’s going to resign and promote Christopher,” Patterson said. He added that Barry said he would “install Christopher, like it’s his seat.”
The other sources asked to remain anonymous to protect their relationship with Barry. They also described an arrangement where Barry serves less than a full term, then resigns and supports his son in a special election.
In an interview Monday, Barry said the rumors are based on “preliminary discussions” and are being circulated by his political opponents to undermine his re-election effort.
“They shouldn’t make up statements, make up things,” he said. “I know one thing; I’m going to run, and I’m going to win. And I will serve the people of Ward 8 well.”
Christopher Barry, 31, has been in the news less for politics and more for his run-ins with authorities. He was arrested in May and charged with felony possession of marijuana and PCP with intent to distribute. Under a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to lesser felony charges in July and avoided jail time. He had previously been charged with assaulting a police officer in 2005; he agreed to a plea deal that resulted in the charges being dismissed.
The younger Barry has generally shied away from the public eye, notably emerging in 2007 to deliver a well-received eulogy for his mother, Effi Slaughter Barry, after she died of leukemia at 63. He also served as treasurer for his father’s 2008 re-election campaign, but he was little seen on the campaign trail. Those active in the ward have considered him to have little interest in politics, his father’s wishes aside.
Patterson and other sources said that Barry has also eyed his son as campaign manager for his upcoming race, but Barry said Monday that was not the case.
”Christopher is getting active and involved in Ward 8 politics,” he said. “He doesn’t have any titles or anything because he just wants to support his father, and he also wants to get people into the politics of the ward.”
Talk of who might succeed Barry as council member has long been a topic of discussion in Ward 8, particularly as Barry has continued to confront health problems, including a 2009 kidney transplant. Barry has largely avoided grooming successors who might challenge his dominance of the ward before he sees fit to step down.
Besides Patterson, who is expected to announce his run next week, Barry is facing 2012 challenges from Anacostia resident Gary R. Feenster, advisory neighborhood commissioner Darrell Gaston and Congress Heights activist Sandra Seegars. In the 2008 primary, Barry beat four challengers with 77 percent of the vote.
Christopher Barry could not be immediately reached Monday; his father declined to share contact information. “He’s not talking to anybody,” he said. “He’s not talking at all.”