- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Marion Barry is at it again, toying with the idea of running for elective office. Some residents already are kicking up their heels at the prospect of D.C. Council member Marion Barry. But for every voter in Southeast Washington tempted to say, “Run, Barry, Run,” the facts speak louder: Voters paid their debt in full to Mr. Barry in 1994, the last time they elected him mayor.

In fact, it is Mr. Barry who remains heavily indebted to the denizens of Washington. They bailed him out of felonious waters in 1990, when a jury of his peers convicted him of a single misdemeanor drug charge — despite witnessing him smoking crack and fondling a woman not his wife. Voters embraced him in 1994, when they gave him their approval to springboard from the Council seat back into the mayor’s office.

A shrewd politician, he has lost but one political race — and it’s safe to say he will not run in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary if he doubts a victory is in reach. Unfortunately, Mr. Barry again is using the residents of the city’s poorest ward as props to boost his viability as a candidate. Yet it’s what Mr. Barry hasn’t said — that Ward 8 is on an economic uptick and that schools began their downward spiral during his watch — that should encourage Barry supporters (and other taxpayers and business leaders) to nudge him in the other direction.

To his credit, Mr. Barry turned around an ailing city during his first mayoral term (1979-82). By his fourth turn in the mayor’s chair, however (1995-98), the city was cash poor, public schools were abysmal, the bureaucracy had run amok, the infrastructure was in disrepair and political leadership was bankrupt. Congress and the White House necessarily stepped in and stripped the mayor of most of his executive powers. For Marion Barry the candidate, 1998 was the penultimate year. In 2002, he ran for the Ward 8 seat until he was sidelined — this time with traces of powdered cocaine.

This year’s game started when current Ward 8 Council member Sandy Allen told reporters that Mr. Barry said, “I am going to run.” To get his name on the ballot, all Mr. Barry need do is collect 250 bona fide signatures on a nominating petition — a feat he could accomplish with great ease.

We hope Mr. Barry does not run. Instead, we urge him to continue working in the background with faith-based groups and as an adviser on such pressing issues as education reform and encouraging younger generations to reach for a hand up. There is where Marion Barry could best redeem his political and cultural selves — not in City Hall.

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