- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2004

Church leaders in Southeast yesterday refused to endorse Marion Barry’s campaign for D.C. Council, because they don’t think the former D.C. mayor will fulfill his campaign promises if elected.

Claiming divine inspiration, Mr. Barry, 68, announced Saturday that he will try to unseat Sandra Allen, a former protege and a two-term Ward 8 incumbent. The two will face five other candidates in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

But local church leaders said after Sunday services yesterday that they were skeptical of Mr. Barry’s latest assertion that he has “been given a gift by God” to lead the ward again.

“I would probably vote for Sandy Allen,” said the Rev. Michael Bryant, associate pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Roman Catholic Church on East Capitol Street. “I don’t know that Barry can deliver on any of his promises. His health and age are a concern.”

Mr. Barry was treated for prostate cancer in 1995 and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, but he said recently that he is in good health.

Describing Ward 8 as “the city’s stepchild,” Father Bryant said Mr. Barry rarely fulfilled his promises to constituents after he last was elected as the ward’s representative in 1992.

“From what I’ve seen, Barry has a wonderful platform,” Father Bryant said. “But he’s said all of these things before.”

Mr. Barry’s comeback is the latest of many for the city’s self-proclaimed “mayor for life,” whose political career has been tainted by a drug conviction and persistent rumors of drug use.

In January 1990, Mr. Barry was captured on an FBI video smoking crack with his girlfriend, Rashida Moore. He was convicted seven months later of misdemeanor drug possession in another incident and sentenced to six months in prison.

After being released in April 1992, he ran for the Ward 8 council seat and won. That race helped propel him to a fourth term as mayor in 1994.

Mr. Barry served four terms as mayor and three on the D.C. Council. His last foray into D.C. politics was in 2002, when he ran for an at-large council seat.

Mr. Barry quit that race after U.S. Park Police reported finding traces of marijuana and cocaine in his illegally parked Jaguar. No charges were filed, and Mr. Barry has disputed the account.

His withdrawal also came days after his fourth wife, Cora Masters Barry, confirmed reports that she had left him. She had been his biggest ally, standing by him through four prostate-cancer surgeries and as rivals said he had driven the District into bankruptcy, which caused Congress to strip him of most of his mayoral power and put the city under control of the D.C. financial control board.

Mr. Barry began his political career in 1971, when he was elected to the city school board. He first was elected to the council in 1974 as an at-large member.

Yesterday, some pastors declined to back Miss Allen in the primary but said they have grown tired of Mr. Barry’s promises.

“I can’t say right now that I would vote for Barry,” said the Rev. Richard M. Rice, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church on Kentucky Avenue. “I will have to examine the issues more closely.”

A former probation officer, Mr. Rice, 68, has led the predominantly black 200-member congregation for 28 years.

“The big issue for most people today is safety,” he said. “Barry did a lot of good things for us, but he also did a lot of bad things.”

Mr. Rice added that Ward 8 has changed vastly since 1994, when Mr. Barry won more than 80 percent of the vote in the ward in his run for mayor.

“We have a lot of Asians and whites moving into the area, and we’re trying to reach out to them,” Mr. Rice said. “A lot of Barry’s supporters have moved to Maryland.”

But the Rev. Raymond L. Smallwood, assistant pastor at the Peoples’ Church, a Pentecostal church on Eighth Street’s “Barracks Row,” said many people still support Mr. Barry.

“My first thought was, a lot of people will vote for him based on name recognition alone,” Mr. Smallwood said. “Everyone knows Marion Barry. People remember him more for what he’s done as mayor than for his downfalls.”

Still, Mr. Smallwood declined to endorse Mr. Barry.

“I think his youth programs were very good because they empowered young people,” he said. “But honestly, I can’t think of anything else he accomplished as mayor.”

Also running for the Ward 8 seat are William O. Lockridge, Jacque Patterson, Carlton N. Pressley, Sandra “S.S.” Seegars and Leon J. Swain Jr.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide