- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

A couple of weeks ago, the Associated Press and WAMU Radio reported that Marion Barry is considering running for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council by challenging incumbent Phil Mendelson, a Democrat, in the September primary. Mr. Barry's longtime spokeswoman, Raymone Bain, issued a denial. Do not, however, for one nanosecond take that to mean that the former mayor is not seriously considering re-entering the ring.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Barry will neither confirm nor deny the chatter. "I don't have anything to say about the subject," he told The Washington Post. Then, when a Postie nudged him a little more, Mr. Barry said, "I don't have anything to talk about soon." The operative word is "soon."

In fact, Mr. Barry has lots of time and lots of options. As far as the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance is concerned, as long as Mr. Barry has not yet received one red cent, he can chat up a possible run all he wants. If he wants to circulate nominating petitions to run for a specific office, he has until summer. If Mr. Barry merely wants to make others sweat (and while sweaty is Mr. Barry's most familiar face, it most certainly is not his best), then he has to play his hidden hand to the hilt.

Mr. Barry did just that in the 1998 mayoral campaign. He waited until the absolute last minute to announce that he would not run, and his delayed announcement left all the wannabes but one Tony Williams more than a bit nervous. (Mr. Williams probably doesn't have much to worry about this year, either.) In this election cycle, the Barry factor he has won every significant elective post in the city except congressional delegate should make Mr. Mendelson nervous. The former mayor-for-life wouldn't run if he thought he wouldn't win.

Indeed, the rules of the at-large council game allow three scenarios: Mr. Barry could challenge Mr. Mendelson head-on in the September Democratic primary; he could join the Republican Party and challenge David Catania, a liberal Republican; or he could become an independent and take both on in November.

So, given all the time and given all his options, what's Mr. Barry's point? Rearranging the deck of the majority-white council. To the man who ensured that the executive offices of city hall were turned over to capable hands, don't be the least surprised if Barry supporters begin chanting "Run, Barry, Run."

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