Max N. Berry, the onetime chief fund-raiser for Mayor Marion Barry, is expected to sign on shortly as a campaign adviser and strategist for Democratic mayoral contender Charlene Drew Jarvis, according to well-placed sources.
Landing Berry would be a major coup for Jarvis, a D.C. Council member from Ward 4 who has not done well in the polls and who has been struggling to raise money.
Berry, a Washington lawyer who played major roles in Barry's 1978, 1982 and 1986 campaigns, broke with the mayor after the 1986 election. This year, Berry has chaired John A. Wilson's campaign for council chairman, but until now he has stayed clear of the mayoral campaign.
Jarvis's campaign had no comment on the disclosure. Berry, reached Tuesday while on a fishing vacation with his son, confirmed that he has had extended conversations with Jarvis and said he is "leaning" toward taking a role in her campaign.
But he emphasized that his primary responsibilities would remain with the Wilson campaign. "I don't want to do anything that would take away from that," he said.
"She's the most intelligent person in the race," Berry said. "She's tough enough to be a good mayor. And I like the fact that she's a woman." Berry acknowledged that Jarvis is "not in first place, but that's never bothered me in the past."
Jarvis received some other good news this week. On Monday night, she picked up the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city's major gay political organization.
Many D.C. political activists believe that Council member John Ray (D-At Large) and Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) would be the beneficiaries of much of Barry's support -- estimated at 20 to 25 percent of the electorate -- in the likely event that Barry announces he will not run again.
But in recent days, Barry and his aides have gone out of their way to criticize Fauntroy, first for entering the mayor's race while Barry was out of town seeking addiction treatment, and second for publicly trying to orchestrate a plea bargain between Barry and U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens. Some members of Barry's inner circle also have strong feelings against Ray, a onetime protege of the mayor's who has been courting Barry allies.
Jarvis, an industrious campaigner, has made no secret that she would like to be the "second choice" of Barry supporters. Sources say Barry may endorse Jarvis, and one Barry adviser goes so far as to say it is "probable."
This source says to watch for "Charlene coming up on the outside and gaining speed real fast." It could be her last chance. Ray Criticizes Clarke
While the big news coming out of the Stein Club's meeting Monday night was the Jarvis endorsement, a sideshow was Ray's tough attack on Council Chairman David A. Clarke (D) during the mayoral candidates' debate beforehand.
It's no secret that Ray and Clarke don't get along, but the bitterness spilled over during the debate after Clarke, who is white, was asked what he thought of the prospect of a white man being elected mayor in predominantly black Washington.
Clarke has been asked this question on several occasions, and he has developed a fairly effective response. He notes that "I can't change the fact the God made me white," and then goes on to say he believes that he has the greatest experience of any candidate in the race and that he is confident the voters will treat him "fairly."
This time, Ray quickly pounced on Clarke, accusing him of planting the question with his supporters and unnecessarily raising the race issue.
"I've begun to feel that this is a question that is being set up in the audience, and I've noticed the same people asking this question all the time," Ray said. "It has its own tendency to interject race into the election."
He went on to say that the city "has already indicated that it is willing to vote beyond color. Mr. Clarke holds the number two position in this government, and he was voted in.
"And this is not a race about color," Ray added. "It's about the best man . . . . " At this point, members of the audience started hooting at Ray, with one shouting out "Best person!" in a reference to the two women in the race, Jarvis and lawyer Sharon Pratt Dixon, another Democratic mayoral candidate.
Ray noted how Clarke is fond of saying that he is laying his career on the line to run for mayor this year.
"This is not the first time Mr. Clarke wanted to run for mayor," Ray said. "Mr. Clarke wanted to run for mayor last time. He took a poll, he decided not to run. And I dare say, if everyone jumped out of this race except one or two people, Mr. Clarke would be shaking in his knees."
Ray's comments appeared to be a reference to the view in some political circles that Clarke benefits most from a crowded field in which the black vote is divided among several black mayoral candidates.
Clarke smiled, but did not respond.