Former D.C. mayor Marion Barry would not confirm yesterday on a radio program whether he is running against incumbent Sandy Allen (D) for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. Council, but he did give out a telephone number that hints at his intentions.
Barry urged listeners on a morning WOL talk show to call 678-6979 "just in case I might be running." When callers dial that number, they are told to press 3 if they are calling for "Marion Barry for Ward 8 City Council."
In the radio interview, Barry repeatedly rebuffed questions from host Joe Madison aimed at getting him to announce his bid.
Barry gave Madison the same basic answer when the host tried to pin down when he would make a formal announcement and pick up nominating petitions. "Let's wait and catch that later in the interview," Barry demurred.
More than half an hour later, Barry still had not tossed his hat into the ring.
Madison noted that Barry sounded like a candidate, calling for more affordable housing, a summer job for every young person, better health care and free tuition for residents at the University of the District of Columbia.
Barry also said the council should have "line-item veto" power over the budget for D.C. public schools, calling the system badly mismanaged. And he said he is opposed to Mayor Anthony A. Williams's offer to publicly finance a new baseball stadium -- which could cost as much as $383 million -- at a time when the District has many other pressing needs.
Barry swatted away questions about his health, saying, "I'm in very good shape." The former mayor has battled prostate cancer and has said in the past that he had anemia, diabetes and high blood pressure.
And he dismissed Madison's suggestion that his old-fashioned liberalism might prove unpopular on a council that is more fiscally conservative than when he was in office. "I may not be able to build a consensus," Barry said. "But I'd be able to get six other votes."
Williams (D) said yesterday that he has not changed his view of Barry's administrations.
"I think he's done a lot of great things for the city," Williams said. "I think his later administration was a tragedy . . . in many different ways. But he has a right to run. He has a right to make a contribution, but I think Sandy Allen has done a great job."
Williams said he disagrees with the former mayor that the city doesn't need a baseball stadium and pointed out that MCI Center was built during Barry's tenure.
Barry may be coy when it comes to media interviews, but he has told some supporters that he will run for the council.
Sandra Seegars, a Democrat who has announced her candidacy for the Ward 8 seat, said Barry called her yesterday: "He just said he's going to run and he's getting his committees together -- fundraising and volunteers."