- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

Former D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry yesterday announced he no longer plans to run for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council, saying several factors influenced his decision.

Mr. Barry cited "extensive media coverage" of an incident last month, when U.S. Park Police reported finding "traces" of drugs in his car, as one of the reasons. He made the announcement just days after his fourth wife, Cora Masters Barry, made public that she has left him.

"My decision to seek office has to be weighed against the greater issue which is, what is in the overall best interest of my family, this city, and its residents," Mr. Barry said in a statement issued yesterday. "While I will not be running for city council, I will continue to 'speak out and speak up' for those whose causes I care so deeply about."

Mr. Barry, a Democrat who served four terms as mayor and three on the D.C. Council, has long been heralded as a champion of the city's poor. He had intended to re-emerge, after a four-year hiatus from public office, by winning the at-large council seat presently held by Democrat Phil Mendelson.

Analysts say Mr. Barry has removed some of the controversy from the council campaign by dropping out.

"His decision to not run is a personal decision and I respect that," said Mr. Mendelson, who would have had to beat him in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary to run for the at-large seat. He said he had expected to win regardless of Mr. Barry's involvement or the lack of it.

Terry Lynch, executive director for the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said he hopes the plight of "the poor and the needy in this city won't be ignored in the upcoming Council race now that Mayor Barry is no longer running."

In 1974, Mr. Barry was elected as an at-large member of the first D.C. Council. Two years after winning a second term, in 1978, he was elected mayor. Mr. Barry left office in disgrace at the end of his third term. In 1990, he was caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine in the Vista Hotel during an FBI sting operation involving his girlfriend Rashida Moore.

He was convicted and incarcerated for six months, but that didn't end his political career. After leaving prison, he served two years on the council representing Ward 8 before D.C. voters proved their loyalty by electing him to a fourth term as mayor in 1994.

On Monday, after reports surfaced that his wife had moved out of the couple's Southeast home and was staying with relatives, Mr. Barry began rethinking his plan to seek a council seat. The two were married in 1994, and Mrs. Barry, 57, is credited with masterminding his re-election as mayor after his release from jail.

She stood by her husband's side as critics blamed him for nearly driving the district into bankruptcy in the early 1990s, which led Congress to strip him of most of his authority in 1995. She also supported him through four prostate cancer surgeries.

Whether they will get a divorce is not clear. Mr. Barry says he puts the "well-being of Cora above the well-being of my political life," declaring, "I'm going to fight to get her back."

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, Democrat, said, "Marion Barry's decision not to run is a good decision for the city and for Marion Barry as a person."

Mr. Barry's public life has been dogged by controversy.

His first wife, Mary Treadwell, who co-founded Pride Inc. with him, was convicted of misappropriating federal funds and sentenced to three years in prison in 1985. A top lieutenant, Ivanhoe Donaldson, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1985 for embezzling $190,00 in city funds. Mr. Barry was not implicated or found to have committed any wrongdoing in any of these cases.

On March 21, U.S. Park Police reported that Mr. Barry had parked his Jaguar illegally in Southwest and that traces of marijuana and cocaine were found in the car. No charges were filed.

Mr. Barry has disputed the officers' accounts, maintaining that nothing out of the ordinary was found in his Jaguar.

He said, however, that the attention to the incident caused "deep divisions and acrimony among the District's residents."

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