- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

Former Mayor Marion Barry poses a formidable challenge to D.C. Council member Sandy Allen and offers to draw attention to the plight of Southeast residents, political activists and insiders say.

“Marion Barry is always a lightning rod,” said Dorothy Brizill, who runs the watchdog Web site www.dcwatch.com. “He’s a lightning rod in terms of that visible symbol to people that think they have no one in the Wilson Building who listens to their issues.”

Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, president of the Ward 8 Democrats, noted Mr. Barry’s extensive public record and the widespread attention he attracts, saying many Ward 8 voters are dissatisfied with Miss Allen.

“There is no visible or tangible successes that people can point to and say, ‘This is what the council member has done,’” Mr. Kinlow said.

Soisette Lumpkin, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 8, said residents in the ward — where the poverty and unemployment rates are consistently the highest in the city — think Mr. Barry would be a more effective voice on their behalf.

“Most people think we could get more support from Mr. Barry,” Mrs. Lumpkin said.

Mr. Barry, 68, announced Saturday that he would challenge Miss Allen, a two-term incumbent and former protege, for her Ward 8 seat. He told residents he has the vision to correct the city’s mismanaged public schools and its dwindling supply of affordable housing and to bring attention to impoverished neighborhoods neglected by the city government.

“I would have to believe that a number of people currently on the council would be concerned about signing on to issues that would be associated with Marion Barry,” Mrs. Brizill said. “But if he goes down the road of these quality-of-life issues, I don’t see how they could vote against him just because the idea came from Marion Barry.”

Mr. Kinlow said this election could be less about Mr. Barry and more about Miss Allen, a Democrat who won 70 percent of the vote against three other candidates in the 2000 primary and 92 percent of the vote unopposed in the general election.

He said his organization plans to make an official endorsement at a July 17 candidates forum. He said such meetings are usually held in a library or somewhere similar, but he is looking for a larger venue to accommodate the kind of interest Mr. Barry’s candidacy will attract.

“One thing can be said about Mr. Barry’s presence in any race: He mobilizes those who are for him and those who are against him,” Mr. Kinlow said.

Mr. Barry and Miss Allen will face five other candidates in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Mr. Barry’s comeback attempt is the latest of many in a political career marred by a drug conviction and persistent rumors of drug use.

In January 1990, Mr. Barry was captured on an FBI video smoking crack with girlfriend Rashida Moore. He was convicted seven months later of misdemeanor drug possession 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.

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