A statement by D.C. Parole Board member Howard Croft was misrepresented in a story yesterday on Mayor Marion Barry's political future. Asked whether he believed Barry should run for D.C. Council, Croft said yes, and explained, "He would be the one independent voice on the council, the best city council money can buy." (Published 8/13/ 90)

With his emotional speech to hundreds of supporters yesterday, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry once again has preserved his political options and left his political friends and rivals guessing about his next move.

His speech at the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center asked for forgiveness, praised his defense attorney and berated the news media -- but the mayor was virtually silent on the subject of his political future.

While few expect Barry to find a way to jump into the mayor's race, there was mounting speculation that, in the wake of what was widely perceived as a victory in the courtroom, Barry will attempt to regain his old at-large seat on the D.C. Council.

As a preliminary step to keep that option open, Barry plans to change his party affiliation to independent so he can appear on the November ballot, sources said.

If successful in a council bid, Barry would gain the four additional years of government service he needs to obtain his government pension, while remaining in the public arena that has been his lifeblood since he began his career as a civil rights activist in the 1960s.

"I think he's going to run for the city council," said Lawrence Guyot, one of many longtime Barry activists who attended the speech. "It would mean his pension in government, and it would provide a platform to plan what he's going to do in the next few years."

Howard Croft, a member of the D.C. Parole Board and longtime Barry supporter, said the mayor "ought to run for office again. He would be the one independent voice on the city council, the best city council {member} money can buy. He's just a phenomenon."

That view was not shared universally. The Barry camp is divided over the wisdom of the mayor reentering the political fray after a grueling and highly embarrassing 10-week drug and perjury trial.

Several sources said that some of the mayor's closest government advisers, including City Administrator Carol B. Thompson, were against the idea, on the grounds that Barry should leave well enough alone after his conviction on one count of cocaine possession, his acquittal on a second and no decision reached on the remaining 12 charges.

"They want him to concentrate on getting the government through the end of the year," said one source familiar with the situation. "They think he should finish his term in a statesmanlike fashion, and help with an orderly transition."

Some advisers were also said to be worried that by getting back into politics so quickly, Barry might provoke the ire of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson before his sentencing on a cocaine possession charge in the fall.

D.C. Council member Frank Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1), a longtime Barry friend from their days as civil rights activists, said that Barry "needs to take time to get his life back together."

"I think a lot of people have been emotionally drained by this thing, and would like to see it come to a rest," Smith said. "He's probably like the rest of us, he wants to get on with his life. And you don't get on with your life on the campaign trail."

Although Barry was silent about his political plans, his speech was in many ways a political speech, aimed at nailing down his political base, especially among disaffected D.C. residents angry about his treatment by federal prosecutors and the FBI.

Like many of his other recent appearances, the mayor spoke before an assembly of his Cabinet, ministers and key political allies, with hundreds of supporters looking on from an overhanging balcony, while reporters and camera crews were kept at bay behind police lines.

Anita Bonds, the mayor's top political adviser, was seated on the dais with Effi Barry, defense attorney R. Kenneth Mundy and other notables, while numerous other Barry political operatives roamed the lobby.

The speech touched on several political hot buttons, as Barry called on the federal government "to examine its conduct" in its prosecution and urged the news media to curb its "negative" reporting of city life. "Enough is enough," Barry shouted, to applause.

Time is running out if Barry hopes to seek office in the November general election.

That's because Barry already has missed the filing deadline to run as a candidate in the Democratic primary. If he decides to seek an at-large council seat this fall, he will have to run as an Independent and petition to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

To do that, Barry, a lifelong Democrat, would have to switch parties by midnight Monday, the last day of voter registration for the fall elections.

After Barry switches parties, he has until Aug. 29 to file the 3,000 petition signatures necessary to appear on the November ballot. Another option is to sit out the election and then run for the at-large council seat that would become available if D.C. Council member John Ray (D-At Large) succeeds in his campaign for mayor.

Ironically, Ray was appointed by the D.C. Democratic State Committee to a vacant at-large seat on the council in 1979, after then-council member Barry was elected to his first term as mayor. Ray subsequently was elected three times to the council.

If Barry does decide to run as an independent for the at-large council seat this fall, the consensus among politicians yesterday was that he likely would win -- a testament to his hard-core support and a relatively weak field of contenders.

There are likely to be at least a half-dozen candidates for the at-large seat in November. Without Barry, the strongest contenders was expected to be incumbent Hilda H.M. Mason, a Statehood Party member, and the Democratic nominee. Three Democrats are seeking the post -- school board member Linda W. Cropp (Ward 4), former congressional aide Johnny Barnes and housing activist Terry Lynch.

In addition, several other Independents are running, including Ward 2 activists Ray Browne and Clarene Martin, and Whitman-Walker Clinic official Jim Harvey.

With so many candidates in the race and with a core of support estimated at roughly 20 percent of the electorate, Barry could easily win a plurality, despite widespread antipathy toward him in many parts of the city, analysts say.

Mason was elected four years ago with 28 percent of the vote, and the other independent on the council, attorney William Lightfoot, won election two years ago with 27 percent of the vote.

"I don't think he's viable for mayor," Sharon Pratt Dixon, a lawyer who is running for the Democratic mayoral nomination, said of Barry. "I think he has a great shot for the council. It's not as wide a field and there are those who may say, 'Why not?' "

"I sense that the support is out there in the city," said the Rev. Willie Wilson, the politically active pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast Washington. "The mayor has been resurrected in a sense."

Many who crowded the Reeves Center yesterday seemed to think Barry should run for some kind of office.

"Why not?" asked Sabrina Hartfield, a 30-year systems analyst. "He knows the ins and outs of this city, and still has some influence."

"The mayor is a true and proven politician," said Bill Johnson, a former member of Barry's Cabinet. "It permeates his whole mind, body and spirit, and I certainly would vote for him again. I think he can win in any position he tries for. The mayor is a proven vote-getter."

Bernard Demczuk, a labor official with Jesse L. Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, said Barry could win, but he "cannot run a campaign, he has to run a crusade. He has to create a historical dynamic that the city has never seen before." Staff writer Marcia Slacum Greene contributed to this report.