- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 12, 2004

Former D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry yesterday made it official that he is running for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. Council, telling supporters in Southeast that he has “been given a gift by God” to lead and empower them.

Rallying at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Mellon Street in Southeast yesterday, Mr. Barry, 68, said he is more than ready for the challenge of getting back into the political fight. He will try to unseat Sandy Allen, a former protege and two-term incumbent. Should he win, it will not be the first time he has held the post.

Months after being caught on an FBI video smoking crack in 1990, Mr. Barry was sentenced to six months in prison for misdemeanor drug possession in another incident. Upon his release in April 1992, he ran for the Ward 8 Council seat and won. The comeback helped propel him to a fourth term as mayor in 1994.

Having previously served three terms on the D.C. Council, Mr. Barry, who is known for his ability to rivet audiences, wasted no time yesterday, recalling a quote by the blind and deaf social activist and visionary Helen Keller.

“It is worse to be blind than to have no vision,” Mr. Barry said, stressing that the No. 1 priority of his vision for bettering the lives of one of the city’s most economically downtrodden sections is to improve public education.

“Prior to 1864, it was illegal for [black Americans] to read; therefore, education will be at the top of my agenda,” said Mr. Barry, who began his political career in 1971 when he was elected to the city school board.

He bowed out of politics after his fourth term as mayor because of ill health. He was treated for prostate cancer in 1995 and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

Mr. Barry briefly re-emerged in 2002 to seek an at-large seat on the council, but quit suddenly 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.

For weeks Mr. Barry has hinted he would run against Miss Allen, who gave only a terse reaction when reached at her home on Friday. “It’s [his] right to run,” she said.

The two will face five other candidates in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. Mr. Barry did not appear concerned about the competition. He reminded supporters that he won more than 80 percent of the vote in Ward 8 in 1994.

“I’m not running against anybody,” he said. “I’m running for the opportunity to represent the people of Ward 8.”

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.

Barry opponents largely regard him as a symbol of corruption whose tactics produced so much financial chaos that a federal control board was established to sort it all out. Supporters hold him as a hero and champion of the poor, often comparing him to other famous American mayors who have faced run-ins with the law during their careers.

At one point yesterday, a small cardboard box with its top edges torn off was held up and audience members were asked to reach for their wallets for the candidate. Within minutes, more than $1,000 in cash and checks had been put in the box.

“He’s a master politician,” said John Manning, 67, who owns the Pizza Place on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and resides not far from Mr. Barry’s campaign headquarters.

“I’ve known him since he was on the other side of his troubles and he was real good,” Mr. Manning said. “He could do so many good things for Ward 8 basically because of the confidence that the people have in him.”

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