- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2014


Several things will take place now that praise has been sung for Marion Barry, who died unexpectedly on Nov. 23.

First, of course, is his burial, which is scheduled for Saturday in the historic Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill, the resting place of such notables as composer John Philip Sousa, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (and partner Clyde Tolson), and the grandparents of former first lady Nancy Reagan.

It’s noteworthy as well that the graveyard sits at the crossroads, at the very edge, the western edge, of the Anacostia River, the sociopolitical divide of the haves and have-nots in the nation’s capital.

After the burial, begins the contest.

Who will replace Ward 8’s Mr. Barry on the D.C. Council?

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See, Ward 8, which is hard by the river on the eastern side, has always drawn political wannabes, mostly Democrats, like Mr. Barry. Ballots for the Ward 8 seat have drawn as many as two dozen interested parties. This time, no one has stepped forward to toss their hat or high heels in the ring — but that’s only because the D.C. Board of Elections only declared the seat vacant this week and because Mr. Barry’s remains still remain above ground.

Of course, that hardly means the names of Democratic replacements are not floating around:

Denise Rolark Barnes. A native, Denise is publisher of the weekly Washington Informer newspaper and has a political pedigree. Her late father (and one of my mentors), Calvin Rolark, was cut from the same civil rights quilt of the South, and he remained a staunch civic and community activist. Her late stepmother, Wilhelmina Rolark, was a four-term Ward 8 council member until Mr. Barry unseated her in 1992 and his release from prison. Mrs. Barnes’ husband, Lafayette, also has run for office.

Christopher Barry. Born in D.C., he is the son and only child of Mr. Barry and his third wife, Effi, who died in 2007. Christopher has had his own skirmishes with the law, and is a member of the generation that is trying to grab the Democratic Party’s political baton. (Some of them are named further along.)

Cora Masters Barry. The widow Barry knows more than a thing or two about politics. She is Mr. Barry’s fourth wife, a learning experience in and of itself, she was a professor of political science at the University of the District of Columbia and her mother, Isabell Masters, ran three times for U.S. president as a third-party candidate.

Other names already being bandied include:

Nate Bennett-Fleming, a young Democrat whose name has twice been on ballots for citywide seats.

Sheila Bunn, the current mayor’s deputy chief of staff.

Darrell Gaston, a young man I look forward to running into every election.

Trayon White, the Barry protege who this year resigned his seat on the Board of Education to take a government job.

On Thursday, I queried Sandy Allen on WPFW-FM about her “short list” in the upcoming post-Barry race.

I said that, not knowing Mr. Barry’s shoe size, who does she think will try to step in?

She half-jokingly said whoever it is “they can try to fill his seat but they can’t fill his shoes.”

Ms. Allen should know, since the faucet ran hot and cold regarding her and Mr. Barry. In 1995, Ms. Allen ran for the Ward 8 seat in a special election but was defeated by Mr. Barry’s chosen successor by two votes. In 1996, she won the race, and she was re-elected in 2000. But when she sought another term in 2004, she lost to Mr. Barry.

Is she interested in succeeding Mr. Barry? “No.”

The politics East of the Anacostia River will be fun to watch in 2015, especially since for the first time in years neither the name of Mr. Barry nor outgoing Mayor Vincent C. Gray will be on the ballot.

Unless the other Marion Barry, Marion Christopher Barry, decides to step not into his father’s shoes, but his father’s footsteps.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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