The first name of Effi Barry, ex-wife of Marion Barry, was misspelled in two articles about the former mayor's victory in the Democratic primary for the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat -- a Sept. 15 report on Page One and, in some editions, a Sept. 16 Style story. (Published 9/17/04)
Disgruntled voters in the nation's capital ousted three veteran members of the D.C. Council yesterday, voting by overwhelming margins to replace the incumbents with two fresh new faces and a familiar old one -- former mayor Marion Barry.
Barry defeated council member Sandy Allen in Ward 8, the city's poorest ward. With 140 of 142 precincts reporting in the Democratic primary, Barry had received about 57 percent of the votes cast. Allen trailed with 25 percent and conceded the election to the former mayor.
In neighboring Ward 7, which is also east of the Anacostia River, challenger Vincent C. Gray defeated incumbent Kevin P. Chavous, winning 50 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Chavous.
And in the citywide race for Harold Brazil's at-large council seat, political newcomer Kwame R. Brown trounced the 14-year incumbent, winning about 54 percent of the vote to Brazil's 32 percent.
In each race, the challengers gained ground by contending that entrenched incumbents had failed to ensure that average families got their share of the city's expanding economic pie. Barry, in particular, accused the council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) of focusing too much attention on rebuilding downtown and too little on helping the city's downtrodden.
The victories of Barry, Brown and Gray could have enormous implications for the direction of economic development in the city. All three called for greater emphasis on affordable housing and new development for neighborhoods. And all three say they oppose raising taxes to build a Major League Baseball stadium, a priority for Williams and for baseball officials, who are on the verge of deciding whether to move the Montreal Expos to the Washington region.
Williams arrived at Brazil's party near Eastern Market at 10:20 p.m. and embraced Brazil, whom the mayor had endorsed. Williams said he was disappointed by the election's outcome but said "it would be a mistake to extrapolate too much from the results and say it's an earthshaking rejection of the direction of the city."
Williams called Barry a "phenomenon," adding: "If Marion is out to deliver for the children of this city . . . I'm with him all the way. If it's about something else, then I'm not on the program."
Barry, 68, was nearly mobbed as he arrived late yesterday at his campaign headquarters near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard SE. After he stepped out of his white SUV, he began to dance to a live band set up under a tent.
As a throng of reporters converged upon him, Barry pointed a slender finger. "I told you so. I told you so," he said.
In other races on the Democratic ballot, council members Jack Evans (Ward 2) and Adrian M. Fenty (Ward 4) were unopposed, as was Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting delegate in Congress.
On the Republican ballot, at-large council member Carol Schwartz handily defeated two little-known challengers, who together received just 15 percent of the vote.
Winners in yesterday's party primaries will in some cases face opponents in the Nov. 2 general election. But in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to 1, winning the Democratic nomination is usually tantamount to election.
Despite the intensity of some of yesterday's electoral battles, early reports indicated that turnout was extremely light. Some precincts in Ward 3, in far Northwest Washington, and in Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill, reported relatively robust activity for an off-year primary with no mayor's race on the ballot. But poll workers and campaign aides said few voters showed up elsewhere in the city.
"Previous years seem to have been more spirited," said council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who was visiting Backus Middle School in Northeast in the city's largest precinct. "I don't see the poll workers aggressively going after voters. Everybody is kind of conceding that everybody has their minds made up, and they're letting voters just walk on by."
Still, elections officials seemed to have difficulty tabulating the results. At midnight -- four hours after the polls closed -- the elections board could not say what percentage of votes had been counted or provide a final tally. Elections officials said it was a routine delay caused by the time-consuming task of merging results from two types of ballots. They promised to release final results by 12:30 a.m. but failed to do so.
While awaiting final numbers, Brazil declined to concede defeat, but he acknowledged that the trends were not good. He said he was "shocked" at the scale of Allen's loss, in particular.
"There is something going on that's beneath the surface, that's almost not rational," Brazil said as somber supporters streamed away from his party at Tunnicliff's Tavern. "But I think that's the will of the voters and the citizens, and that's the way our system works."
Brazil, who has served on the council since 1990, credited Brown's work ethic but otherwise said he was proud of his campaign and his career. "It can't be the issues. It can't be the record or the results," he said. "I'm not sure I could have worked any harder."
The race was the nastiest of the season as Brazil relentlessly attacked Brown, who was a Commerce Department official during the Clinton administration. Brazil accused Brown in recent weeks of failing to vote in local and national elections and of lying about his resume and said Brown had close ties to Barry.
Yesterday, the two candidates appeared -- briefly and uneasily -- at the same time outside St. Columba's Episcopal Church, a Ward 3 polling place near Tenleytown. Brazil defended his campaign strategy, saying Brown had "deliberately misled the voters" about his qualifications for office.
Brown, for his part, said the negative remarks "are not hurting me at all." And the returns seemed to prove him right. By day's end, he was celebrating with his wife, his two young children and 200 chanting supporters at a restaurant in the transitional H Street corridor in Northeast Washington.
"We started with a vision. That vision will go far," Brown said. "We're going to focus on education. We're going to focus on health care. We're going to focus on affordable housing. We're going to focus on our neighborhoods -- everyday issues that people care about."
Brown, who lives in Ward 7, told supporters that "we made history tonight" because citywide voters for the first time "elected an at-large council member from east of the river."
In Ward 7, Chavous, who was first elected in 1992, lost decisively to Gray, a former head of the D.C. Department of Human Services. Chavous campaigned on his record of fighting for improvement in city schools and bringing better services and economic development to the ward, including two new schools and the planned redevelopment of the Skyland shopping mall.
But Gray and some community activists said Chavous had lost touch with ward residents. Even some Chavous supporters said they were not satisfied with his work.
At the Senior Wellness Center in the Hillcrest neighborhood, community activist Kathy Chamberlain cast votes for Chavous and Brazil. But she did so, she said, only because she wasn't impressed by the challengers.
"Please don't write that I am happy with the current leadership," she told a reporter.
If Ward 7 voters were dissatisfied, Ward 8 voters appeared to stage an outright rebellion.
Allen, a former Barry campaign manager who first won office in 1996, has also been accused of failing to respond to her constituents. Although she won endorsements from her council colleagues and many Democratic power brokers, the lack of popular support for her candidacy was clear yesterday.
At many polling places, Allen supporters were outnumbered by workers for other candidates, including school board member William Lockridge, who had a luxury bus patrolling the streets for voters.
Barry, meanwhile, was the star of the day.
Although the former mayor reported paltry contributions to his campaign fund, he somehow managed to find a line of new minivans to take voters to the polls. There also were hundreds of Barry T-shirts, including one worn by his former wife Effie, who divorced him after his drug and perjury trial.
About 6 p.m., Barry arrived at Hendley Elementary School in the ward's biggest precinct. Over a loudspeaker, a campaign aide called out: "Help is on the way, brothers and sisters! He's back, folks. Marion Barry. He is back."
Supporters shouted and screamed their approval. Barry's campaign treasurer, Vanessa Robinson, could barely contain her joy.
"The Lord is going to allow us to win!" she screamed.
Barry looked frail but appeared to be enjoying himself immensely, a big smile across his thin face.
"This is the sweetest victory, because I came out of retirement and the forces against me were so great," he said. "People want a change, they want something new. We will be a force down there. We are going to tear it up."
Not far away, at Player's Lounge, Allen was greeted by hugs and applause from about 100 disappointed supporters. In an interview, she said Barry's famous name won the election. But she said she is already planning a political comeback.
"I still feel the people need a representative that cares about them," Allen said. "I will serve my community as long as I have breath."
Staff writers Hamil R. Harris, Spencer S. Hsu, Debbi Wilgoren and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.