Barry Launches Bid for D.C. Council
Ex-Mayor Decries Schools, Services
By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 13, 2004; Page C01
Former mayor Marion Barry yesterday formally declared his candidacy for the D.C. Council seat in Ward 8, saying he is emerging from political retirement to save his community from mismanaged schools, skyrocketing home prices and neglectful city leaders.
Wearing an embroidered shirt from Ghana and a straw hat from Jamaica, a gaunt-looking Barry emerged from a borrowed Mercedes at his campaign headquarters in the heart of the city's poorest political subdivision. Through nearly an hour of laudatory introductions, the 68-year-old former mayor sat quietly on a folding chair, sipping water as if he were just passing time on a warm afternoon.
When he finally rose to speak, his voice was purposeful and strong.
"I thought I had retired from electoral politics. I really had. Then I observed the scene in Ward 8 in particular and the city in general. And I was horrified about what's happening," Barry told about 100 cheering supporters before launching into a diatribe against lousy city services and "failing" public schools.
Although he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, has survived prostate cancer and has been deviled at times by drug and alcohol addiction, Barry said that his health is good and that he's ready to serve.
"Someone asked me, 'Are you up to it?' " Barry told the crowd. "Damn right, I'm up to it! With age comes wisdom. You know that, too, don't you? With age comes wisdom."
Barry spoke under a fluttering green and white banner bearing his campaign slogan: "Ward 8 Needs a Fighter." But as he begins his Democratic primary challenge against two-term incumbent Sandy Allen, one question some residents have is: Does Ward 8 still need Marion Barry?
Much has changed since residents rallied around Barry 12 years ago when he emerged from prison after the famous FBI sting that caught him on videotape smoking crack cocaine. Then, Barry counted on the forgiveness of the impoverished senior citizens, single mothers and dispossessed men who dominate the ward. They elected him to the council and formed the political base for his march back to the mayor's office under a flag of personal redemption
These days, young professionals and middle-class home buyers are moving into many neighborhoods in the ward, taxpayers more likely to focus on property values than on Barry's promises of free college tuition and summer jobs.
"Many young urban professionals are not happy about Barry entering the race. Many of us see it as a digression," said Yavocka Young, 35, an ANC commissioner who bought a house in the ward in 1991. "He tends to nurture those people who are down on their luck. But we can't just soak up all the social services the city has to offer. We have to be able to get in the game."
Some longtime ward residents, too, are distrustful of Barry, who presided as mayor over some of the most difficult and deadly years in city history. Grady Edwards, 45, a D.C. Air National Guardsman who owns a house around the corner from Barry headquarters, said he would not vote for Barry because "you never go back. What's he going to do different?"
Still, Barry remains supremely popular, a charismatic old lion who's lost a few teeth but still has a magnificent roar. When he appeared in February at Ballou Senior High School after the shooting death of star running back James Richardson, a packed gymnasium erupted in applause. Yesterday, when radio talk show host Joe Madison passed around a cardboard box and asked for contributions to Barry's campaign, people threw in more than $600 in checks and cash.
Barry, who lives in the Washington View Apartments, noted that he won 80 percent of the vote in Ward 8 during his 1994 mayoral comeback, and 75 percent when he ran for council in 1992.
"These are people that love me, and I love them," he told reporters.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
After former mayor Marion Barry announces that he is a candidate for the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat, he receives an enthusiastic response from supporters at his campaign headquarters. "These are people that love me and I love them," Barry told reporters.
(Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)
_____More on Barry_____
Barry Says Park Police 'Planted' Drugs in His Car in '02 Incident (The Washington Post, Jun 5, 2004)
At Players Lounge in Ward 8, A Helping of Marion Barry (The Washington Post, Jun 4, 2004)
Barry Declines To Confirm Bid But Offers Hints (The Washington Post, Jun 3, 2004)
Barry Will Run for Council, Ex-Ally Says (The Washington Post, Jun 2, 2004)
Ailing Barry Presides At 'Hospital Office' (The Washington Post, May 15, 2003)
Park Police Allege $5 of Crack in Barry Car (The Washington Post, Mar 26, 2002)
Barry Making His Return In a Much Different D.C. (The Washington Post, Mar 8, 2002)
Barry to Heed 'Calling' With Bid for D.C. Council (The Washington Post, Mar 7, 2002)
_____The Barry Legacy_____
FBI Planned Barry Sting
Barry Steps Down
Four Perspectives on Barry
Under Barry, Promise Unfulfilled
Barry Reviews His Term
Barry Bows Out
Barry: The Making of a Mayor