Mayor Marion Barry has told city political leaders he intends to run for reelection in 1982 amid indications he is reassembling his campaign forces from 1978 for the fight to retain his office.
Barry has made no official announcement that he intends to run again, but two members of the City Council said yesterday he told them in recent days that he definitely would run.
"There's no question that he's running," one council member told reporters yesterday. "You can put money on it."
Unlike former mayor Walter E. Washington's decision to seek reelection in 1978, which was slow in coming and clouded by accusations of longtime inefficiency and cronyism, there has been little doubt so far that Barry would go for a second term. This is so despite growing criticism of his management of the city's financial woes, especially by some City Council members who themselves are eyeing the mayor's seat for 1982.
There are several indicators suggesting more active interest now by Barry in seeking reelection, say political observers, most of whom asked not to be named.
Last Saturday, for example, Barry called a meeting of about 100 people who had aided his successful 1978 campaign by allowing him to hold forums and fund-raisers in their homes.
Those at the Saturday meeting said Barry made no firm announcement that he was running, but observers took it as a sign that the mayor is attempting to regather the tenuous coalition that won the election for him two years ago. "He's trying to reach out, to pull things back together," said a political ally of Barry.
Barry has held other meetings throughout his tenure as mayor. But with the presidential election and this year's local contest over, now is the time most observers have anticipated as the beginning of the jostling and jockeying leading up to the 1982 races in the city.
In the meeting on Saturday, held at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in downtown Washington but not listed on the mayor's official schedule of appearances, Barry spent most of the session explaining problems he has encountered as the city's chief executive, particularly the D.C. government budget crisis, according to persons who attended.
Barry's handling of the crisis -- including a program of tax increases, service cuts and layoffs of city workers -- has prompted the most intense criticism he has faced during his nearly two years in office.
One active 1978 supporter said she came away from the Saturday meeting feeling that "the mayor has been open and honest in saying that there are problems and that we're working on them."
Another development leading observers to speculate that Barry is gearing up for 1982 is the return of Anita Bonds, a key worker in the 1978 campaign, as his special assistant for constituent services.
Bonds, considered a savvy political operative, held the constituent services job until last January, when she quit to run Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's campaign in the D.C. presidential primary. She said yesterday that she and Barry have not discussed the question of a 1982 campaign, and added that her job will be to aid constituents who have had trouble getting information or services from the city bureaucracy.
Bonds, who attended the Saturday meeting, said it was an attempt by Barry to talk to members of the community and "follow up on some of the ill feelings that are circulating in the city." She cited anger over employe layoffs and service cuts as issues that Barry addressed at the meeting.
Through mayoral representative Alan Grip, Barry denied that he has made a firm decision to run again. "The mayor is too busy being mayor to give attention to decisions that don't have to be made now," Grip said.