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On Tuesday, former Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. proved that in Ward 8 you don’t need big money or big heavies or even big grass-roots outreach to win a seat on the D.C. Council. In fact, if you’re the mayor-for-life, you don’t even need to campaign.
You just need to have the name Marion Barry on the ballot.
And with that elegant strategy, Barry trounced incumbent Sandy Allen and five other Democratic hopefuls for the Ward 8 council seat. Barry received 57 percent of the 8,261 votes cast in the Democratic primary. Allen received 25 percent. He’ll dominate in the November general election.
LL doesn’t expect the Barry approach to legislating in the 21st century to differ markedly from the Barry approach to campaigning in the 21st century. Throughout the summer, the 68-year-old politico dismissed concerns about his health even though he often appeared gaunt and worn-out on the hustings. Being a D.C. councilmember, Barry explained to an audience at one of the few campaign forums he attended, doesn’t require too much physical exertion anyway: You sit on the dais, attend a few community meetings, and lunch with lobbyists.
And for that minimal effort, you get a $92,000 salary.
Confident of his impending electoral romp, Barry plowed his time over the last few days into writing his inaugural address. LL fortunately was able to snag an early draft.
Cue James Brown’s “The Payback”:
“Now you’re pumped, you gotta get ready
For the big payback! The big payback!”
Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr.: (Audience chants “Barry! Barry!”)
As salaam alaikum.
Thank you. Thank you, Ward 8!
It’s a new day in Ward 8. I know that might sound funny to many people, like you, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, because, well, I’m back. Back as a D.C. elected official. Back tormenting white folks like you who live in Georgetown as well as those uppity bourgies in Shepherd Park and Hillcrest who find a former crack-smoking black mayor embarrassing. Back on NBC4 at 6 p.m. and CNN and the front page of the Washington Post.
Ward 8 needs a fighter. I’m going to make Ward 8 the best ward in the city. The best ward! The best ward! I’m not just saying that.
I know we can be better than Ward 7. Maybe Ward 5, too.
I’m the only person who can lift the spirits of people out there. Give them a sense of hope. Ensure that every young person who wants a job will get a job. Let them know that if they’re knocked down they can get back up with a little government assistance. In Marion Barry administrations, every youngster had a summer job! And when they turned 18, some of them voted.
Understand how it works now, Sandy?
Ward 8 has many social ills: We’re No. 1 in unemployment. No. 1 in teenage pregnancy. No. 1 in bickering and hounding Mayor
Anthony A. Williams. Remember, Tony, I plucked you out of obscurity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and made you the city’s chief financial officer. I turned you into a politician, as sorry as you are on the campaign trail.
I thought I had retired from electoral politics. But when you’ve been a public servant, as I have been, for four decades, you can’t just sit on the sidelines while the city goes downhill.
I considered running in 2000 against At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil. But I opted for a more noble calling: launching an initiative against youth violence.
Then I almost ran in 2002 against At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, but a friend I was counseling was late to meet me at Buzzard Point.
I ran this year because I was horrified with what’s going on in our ward. My predecessor allowed D.C. General Hospital to close. And she left it up to some colleagues of hers to sue the control board to keep it open. D.C. General should not have been closed. Our people need health care.
I know from where I speak. I suffer from high blood pressure and have battled diabetes for 18 years. I have survived prostate cancer. Many people, including some of my close friends, didn’t think I was healthy enough to run for office. I have the energy. My health is good. I am raring to go—and if we can reduce the wait at emergency rooms for the couple times a year I show up at one, even better.
I want to acknowledge a few people. First, my son Christopher Barry, my deputy campaign manager. Christopher, I’m very proud of you. Many children would harbor a lot of resentment toward a parent who put his family through such embarrassing episodes. You’ve been by my side at my kickoff and my victory party, making it seem like the Barrys are a real close family.
And my third wife, Effi Barry, Christopher’s mother. Things haven’t always been so good between us, especially those weeks in 1990 when she sat through hours and hours of testimony and grainy footage in court as the feds chronicled my womanizing and drug use. But Effi was, if not at my side, near my side at the end of the campaign, attending prayer meetings and dishing out tasty morsels at my victory party. She’s a strong woman. Don’t worry, Effi, I won’t forget you.
And my fourth wife, Cora Masters Barry. I see you out there in that fur coat. Cora, you kicked me out of our Raleigh Street SE fortress after my friend didn’t show up at Buzzard Point, but the U.S. Park Police did. You built the Southeast Tennis & Learning Center, which means the next time Nightline’s Ted Koppel spends the day with me, I don’t need to go speeding across the river to get on a court.
Say hello to Venus and Serena Williams for me.
Malik Shabazz, head of the New Black Panther Party. Brother Malik, thanks for the security detail and driving that Hummer H2 around the ward on primary day, intimidating everyone in their hoopdees and spreading the word that Barry would win by a landslide.
And Linda Greene, my friend and campaign press secretary. Linda lived with Johnnie Carter from the Dells for a time. That’s cool, ain’t it?
All these folks helped me overcome all sorts of obstacles on the campaign trail, including my former campaign manager, Dion Jordan. He left us in a hell of a spot. Even so, I managed to submit my campaign-finance information. I told the Office of Campaign Finance that I had almost $10,000 in “unitemized collections,” meaning I still didn’t hand over a complete listing of contributor names and contribution amounts. Now, that may not please reporters around town, but they don’t understand how we do business in Ward 8.
I’m not discussing that anymore.
Jordan talked a lot of trash. My real friends know that I’m not just running for the money. Money can’t buy the love of the people, which I enjoy immensely.
Sure, I could have gotten a job from one of the developers I made rich over the years while I collected a government salary. Never took a penny that didn’t belong to me. Or maybe Robert Johnson, head of BET, might have put me in charge of news programming or something. But instead, longtime confidants such as H.R. Crawford and others had to pass around the collection plate for me last year to help pay my bills. I didn’t ask for one penny. I had nothing to do with it.
Thanks for the assistance, H.R.
A lot of folks worry that I’ll bring shame to the nation’s capital. That my election will be a self-esteem blow to a city that has spent the last six years recuperating from my years in office. That Congress won’t give D.C. budget autonomy and respect the home-rule charter. That we’ll be a national laughingstock.
Well, don’t blame Marion Barry for all that. At least my petitions were clean, and I made the ballot.
We need a supermarket in Ward 8. How many times can all of us say that? I also plan to fight for affordable housing. I made Sandy out to be the candidate of gentrifiers, but Ward 8 needs to rebuild a middle class. I live across the street from one of these town-home developments, and they seem pretty nice. But poor people need someplace to live in this city, too, and I’ll remind my council colleagues of that frequently.
I’d like to serve on the Committee on Economic Development or the Committee on Finance and Revenue, being a financial wizard as you know, but I expect D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp will try to marginalize me. She’ll put me on some meaningless subcommittee with at-large newcomer Kwame Brown. And Linda will probably give me that office tucked away on the fifth floor, that Siberian outpost in the John A. Wilson Building reserved for media-craving, publicity-seeking, pain-in-the-ass councilmembers.
Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian M. Fenty, please make sure you leave it nice and clean before you move downstairs.
And thanks, Adrian, for being the only councilmember with the guts to come to my victory party, the people’s party. You didn’t stay too long, but the television cameras still got you on tape, and you’ll be sure to see that image haunt you when you run for mayor in 2006 or 2010.
Being a constituent-services guru, Adrian, you might have noticed that Ward 8 has the dirtiest streets in the city. Perhaps our colleague At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz might work on that this term, as she chairs the Committee on Public Works and the Environment. How many times have I beaten you, Carol? Twice? Black people love you, though.
Seriously, Ward 8 has some of the hilliest streets in the city with some of the prettiest views. I have a beautiful vista outside my window at the Washington View apartments. But we don’t plow the streets properly! I lost my precious Jag after leaving it on the street during a snowstorm. Cracked my catalytic converter.
That kind of stuff doesn’t happen to Jag owners in Ward 3, where my longtime D.C. Council nemesis, Kathy Patterson, parks her Saab at night.
Speaking of broken things, we need to fix our schools. Ward 8 has some of the worst schools in the city and many school-age children. We need an elected school board. We need line-item budget authority. We need to really work on improving our public schools instead of just filibustering about it.
Like I’m doing right now.
They say politics is a game of survival, in which people with courage and vision outlast those who are in it only for the attention and self-aggrandizement. I have courage and a vision for Ward 8.
That vision requires help from the White House, from Congress, and from all of the District’s friends in this vast, wonderful city I love so much. We could even use a hand from the group of folks who seized my power when I last served as mayor—control-board veterans such as Andrew Brimmer, Alice Rivlin, and Stephen Harlan.
Dust off your D.C. budget books, folks.
M.B. is back.
Cue in music:
“Get ready you mother, for the big payback. The big payback!” —Elissa Silverman
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