- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004

Marion Barry and the other D.C. Council victors in Tuesday’s Democratic primary have claimed their spots and pronounced their agendas. Such presumptions could not be made in most states. But in the nation’s capital, the Democrats’ overwhelming 10-1 voter registration means winning in the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning in the general election. It is a serious political flaw that keeps Republicans at bay and outlaws conservative politics.

Voters threw out three incumbents Tuesday, while a fourth, liberal Republican Carol Schwartz, is practically ensured a third-straight victory in the November race. In the ward council races, Vincent Gray unseated Ward Seven’s Kevin Chavous and Mr. Barry beat his one-time campaign manager, Sandy Allen, with 57 percent of the vote.

The Barry victory understandably spurred jitters and stirred post-election chatter, since he has held more elected offices (four-time mayor, one-time council member and former school board member) than any sitting or former officeholder. In fact, Mr. Barry has but one X in his win-loss column and that came in the 1990 at-large race following his FBI drug bust. The single Barry defeat occurred mostly because taxpayers and other voters were fed up with the lousy, liberal affairs that had brought the city (and its mayor) to its knees.

More of the same old policies might resurface when the “new” council is seated in January. There is little ideological difference between Mr. Barry, Mr. Brown and Mr. Gray on socio-economic issues, as their platforms inform. They are the kind of Democrats who oppose corporate welfare (such as a government-financed baseball stadium) and support entitlement programs. Affordable housing and job opportunities were the mantras of their primary rhetoric.

The difference between Tuesday’s winners and the incumbents is a slight one. Yet it is the same difference that created a pronounced divide in the national Democratic Party: black grass-roots politics versus mainstream black politics. For example, Mr. Barry won on Tuesday because he told voters to get off one bus (the bus that caters to all black voters) and get on another (the bus that caters to black voters who believe City Hall disenfranchised them).

The Democratic primary victories made a lot of folks justifiably nervous, and none of them more so than Mr. Barry’s. Political realities prohibit Republicans from undoing in November what happened on Tuesday.

It will not be easy for the top two Democrats in City Hall, Mayor Williams and Council Chairman Linda Cropp, to resist the political pull toward the left. But resist they must. No resistance will put the city right back where it was a decade ago, when Mr. Barry won his fourth mayoral term. Nobody wants to go there — least of all the taxpayers and other stakeholders who already have paid for the District’s resurrection.

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