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Pulling on a Vince Gray campaign shirt this afternoon, mayor-for-life/Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry declared that even U.S. Attorney Ron Machen can’t stop Gray’s re-election bid.

“He’s in it to win it, regardless of what the U.S. Attorney does,” Barry said.

Barry, who endorsed Gray in the basement of Matthews Memorial Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, added that Gray was the only experienced option for District voters.

“If you want a surgeon, you don’t call a plumber,” Barry said.

Along with ex-offender services and a drop in unemployment east of the river, Barry praised Gray for his commitment to keeping residents, especially the “black middle class” in the District in the face of gentrification, a process Gray said must be stopped “from a black perspective and a city perspective.” But Barry said that any racial division in the city couldn’t be blamed on him or Gray.

“I think it’s up to white people to be more open-minded,” Barry said.

Gray denied he was focusing on just one demographic to win the race, pointing to his city-wide Supercan replacement program and the Barry endorsement itself as evidence of his citywide approach.

“Marion Barry appeals to people across the city,” Gray said.

Barry, only two weeks out of medical rehab and still recovering from a blood infection, said he wouldn’t risk his health to campaign for Gray. Worried about Barry’s health before he arrived, Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies asked NBC 4 reporter Tom Sherwood not to shoot Barry with a walker or being helped up the stairs (Sherwood declined, and Barry eventually showed up without a walker).

Barry’s son Christopher Barry joined Barry and Gray onstage. But the younger Barry declined to say whether his appearance alongside two District mayors was a sign of any political ambitions of his own.

As for what Barry’s endorsement brings to a mayor facing the threat of federal indictment, Barry thinks it’s simple. “It’s no secret that I’m the most popular elected official in the city,” Barry said.

Photo by Will Sommer