- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2000

There has been speculation for several months now that Marion Barry wants to be a candidate in this year's D.C. Council elections for the at-large race, which has two seats available. One of those seats is held by his longtime nemesis and the District's most beloved Republican, Carol Schwartz, and the other is held by centrist Democrat Harold Brazil, a veteran lawmaker who has not made much of a name for himself. If Mr. Barry chooses to run, he will likely emerge victorious and boot Mr. Brazil out of office. However, the issue here is not whether Mr. Barry will win or lose, but how he plays the game.

Arguably the most adroit politician in these parts, for Mr. Barry's brand of politics to be successful, timing is everything. In that sense, revealing his intentions to a reporter who covers the D.C. Council for The Washington Post was perfectly timed. The article, which appeared Sunday, drew attention to a race that has yet to capture public interest, mostly because the incumbents do not want us to pay attention just yet. Mr. Barry, on the other hand, does. Interestingly, Mr. Barry made similar gestures in 1998 by injecting his non-candidacy into the mayor's race.

Back then the council candidates who had mayoral hopes made no serious overtures until after Mr. Barry announced he would not seek a fifth mayoral term. As a result, the same folks who are now running for re-election on the council Mr. Brazil, Mrs. Schwartz, Kevin Chavous and Jack Evans were in a sort of holding pattern. The Barry element has now given this year's elections the same easily recognizable format.

See, Mr. Barry knows that a Barry candidacy would make for an interesting election season. Still, the voters and business leaders in the city are hardly chanting "Run, Marion, Run."

Mr. Barry has been a considerable force in D.C. politics since the 1960s. He played a significant role in gaining home rule, was elected to the school board, elected to the council, elected mayor (three consecutive times), denied an at-large council seat, elected to the council again and elected mayor again. Indeed, voters and Mr. Barry have been together a very, very long time.

None of those Barry incarnations was perfect. Besides the personal demons he confronted during the 1990s, including prostate cancer and drug arrest, nothing overwhelmed his political standing more so than the troubled city itself. Financially, managerially and socially the city fell apart. Ruined by years of neglect, the city was declared insolvent while he was mayor. Congress placed the city in the hands of an oversight board while he was mayor. Crime began skyrocketing while he was mayor. Educational turmoil became the norm while he was mayor, and droves of taxpayers and businesses began fleeing while he was mayor. Even the Redskins left while he was mayor. Those are indisputable facts.

That the city is on the verge of a so-called renaissance is no coincidence. Residents sacrificed a lot to get here after their flings with Mr. Barry. Granted, there remains a long way to go. Still, while he has the right to run for office, it doesn't seem fair that Mr. Barry be given another chance to play.

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