- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry Thursday announced he will not run for a seat on the D.C. Council, ending months of speculation that he would challenge at-large Democrat Harold Brazil.

"For the past several months, I have been examining options and opportunities to serve. I narrowed it down to seeking an at-large seat on the city council or organizing a massive and comprehensive movement to End Violence Now," Mr. Barry said in a written statement.

The former mayor said he will help organize the anti-violence effort, adding that his decision was "difficult." He said he will announce a "major part" of the anti-violence campaign in the next few weeks.

"As to the council race, it is clear to me and others that if I were to run, I could and would beat all contenders," he added.

While not addressing Mr. Barry's hyperbolic statements directly, Mr. Brazil did seem to be relieved that he may not have a challenger in his bid for re-election.

"No competition is good competition," Mr. Brazil said.

By declining to get back into politics, Mr. Barry may be passing the baton on to a new generation of political leaders in the city, Mr. Brazil said.

"I think he's had a long career in politics and he's done a lot of good things," Mr. Brazil said.

The current makeup of the D.C. Council works well together, Mr. Brazil said, implying that Mr. Barry might have caused disruptions.

"We kind of got a good team going now," he said. "Fraud, waste and mismanagement are reminders of the past. The city and government are beyond that. The new council and the new government has more work to do."

Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, agrees that the council is a much steadier and calmer body now than when Mr. Barry was mayor.

"I don't think he's a bad man. It's just his style, who he is, has polarizing effects," Mr. Graham said.

Those "polarizing" effects would reverberate throughout the community should Mr. Barry run for another elected office, Mr. Graham said, adding that he didn't understand why Mr. Barry thought about running.

Mr. Graham said splitting the city into two camps one that loves Mr. Barry, one that despises him could have a devastating effect on the morale of the community.

Mr. Barry, a former civil rights activist with a degree in chemistry, has proven to be a top vote-getter, being elected to various offices over the years.

He served as president of the D.C. school board from 1971 to 1974, before being elected as an at-large member of the first city council in 1975.

He was first elected mayor in 1978 by leapfrogging over Mayor Walter Washington and council Chairman Sterling Tucker in the Democratic primary. He was re-elected for three terms, but by the end of his third term in 1990, many essential city services had declined.

Crime, potholes and government spending increased while schools fell into disrepair. Four city agencies went into court-ordered receivership.

And his personal fortunes declined as well.

On Jan. 18, 1990, Mr. Barry was arrested in an FBI sting operation during a visit at the Vista International Hotel, where he was videotaped smoking crack cocaine. He was charged with cocaine possession.

Four days after his arrest, he entered a substance-abuse clinic in Florida.

Mr. Barry was indicted in February 1990 on charges that included three felony counts of lying to a federal grand jury and five misdemeanor counts of cocaine possession following a 14-month investigation into his ties to convicted drug dealer Charles Lewis.

Mr. Barry was convicted on one drug charge and acquitted on another; the jury deadlocked on the 12 remaining charges, including the felony counts of lying to a federal grand jury. The judge declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury.

Mr. Barry served a six-month sentence in a federal minimum-security prison, then was re-elected mayor in 1994.

In 1998, he decided not to seek re-election. The mayor's race was won by former Chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Williams.

A recent poll of 636 registered D.C. voters found that 56 percent did not want Mr. Barry to run for the D.C. Council. Thirty-eight percent wanted him to run again, and 6 percent had no opinion.

The Gonzales/Arscott Research and Communications Inc. poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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