Disgruntled voters in the nation's capital ousted three veteran members of the D.C. Council yesterday, voting by overwhelming margins to replace the incumbents with two fresh new faces and a familiar old one -- former mayor Marion Barry.
Barry defeated council member Sandy Allen in Ward 8, the city's poorest ward. With 140 of 142 precincts reporting in the Democratic primary, Barry had received about 57 percent of the votes cast. Allen trailed with 25 percent and conceded the election to the former mayor.
In neighboring Ward 7, which is also east of the Anacostia River, challenger Vincent C. Gray defeated incumbent Kevin P. Chavous, winning 50 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Chavous.
And in the citywide race for Harold Brazil's at-large council seat, political newcomer Kwame R. Brown trounced the 14-year incumbent, winning about 54 percent of the vote to Brazil's 32 percent.
In each race, the challengers gained ground by contending that entrenched incumbents had failed to ensure that average families got their share of the city's expanding economic pie. Barry, in particular, accused the council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) of focusing too much attention on rebuilding downtown and too little on helping the city's downtrodden.
The victories of Barry, Brown and Gray could have enormous implications for the direction of economic development in the city. All three called for greater emphasis on affordable housing and new development for neighborhoods. And all three say they oppose raising taxes to build a Major League Baseball stadium, a priority for Williams and for baseball officials, who are on the verge of deciding whether to move the Montreal Expos to the Washington region.
Williams arrived at Brazil's party near Eastern Market at 10:20 p.m. and embraced Brazil, whom the mayor had endorsed. Williams said he was disappointed by the election's outcome but said "it would be a mistake to extrapolate too much from the results and say it's an earthshaking rejection of the direction of the city."
Williams called Barry a "phenomenon," adding: "If Marion is out to deliver for the children of this city . . . I'm with him all the way. If it's about something else, then I'm not on the program."
Barry, 68, was nearly mobbed as he arrived late yesterday at his campaign headquarters near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard SE. After he stepped out of his white SUV, he began to dance to a live band set up under a tent.
As a throng of reporters converged upon him, Barry pointed a slender finger. "I told you so. I told you so," he said.
In other races on the Democratic ballot, council members Jack Evans (Ward 2) and Adrian M. Fenty (Ward 4) were unopposed, as was Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting delegate in Congress.
On the Republican ballot, at-large council member Carol Schwartz handily defeated two little-known challengers, who together received just 15 percent of the vote.
Winners in yesterday's party primaries will in some cases face opponents in the Nov. 2 general election. But in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to 1, winning the Democratic nomination is usually tantamount to election.
Despite the intensity of some of yesterday's electoral battles, early reports indicated that turnout was extremely light. Some precincts in Ward 3, in far Northwest Washington, and in Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill, reported relatively robust activity for an off-year primary with no mayor's race on the ballot. But poll workers and campaign aides said few voters showed up elsewhere in the city.