Tom Roussey, WJLA (Washington), March 19, 2014
Former District of Columbia mayor Marion Barry said Mayor Vincent Gray should be re-elected because of his experience and track record, and he brushed off concerns about a federal investigation of Gray’s 2010 campaign, saying, “I know about how U.S. attorneys work.”
The 78-year-old Barry, who served six months in prison for a crack cocaine-possession conviction and is now a D.C. councilmember, endorsed Gray on Wednesday afternoon at a church in southeast Washington.
“He’s a fighter, like myself,” Barry said of the mayor.
But during his endorsement, Barry managed to make some comments that offended many D.C. residents, who think he went too far.
Barry stated that D.C. has become a city of haves and have-nots, adding:
“I think its up to white people to be more openminded, because blacks are more open minded than they are. Simple as that.”
This is not the first time Barry has gotten in trouble over racial comments. In April 2012, he stated: “. . .These Asians coming in, opening up businesses, dirty shops . . .”
And while apologizing to Asian-Americans, he used a word that offended Polish-Americans.
Barry also said this at today’s press conference: “And we can’t let the city continue to be gentrified, I’ll tell you that. I’m talking from a black perspective, and a city perspective.”
Gray faces seven challengers in the April 1 Democratic primary, including four of Barry’s colleagues on the council. His bid for re-election has been plagued by questions about how he got elected four years ago. Last week, federal prosecutors said for the first time that Gray knew about an illegal, $668,000 slush fund that aided his 2010 campaign and that he personally requested a large chunk of the money.
Five people associated with Gray’s previous campaign have pleaded guilty to felonies. The mayor insists he did nothing wrong and has not been charged with a crime.
But the former mayor appeared energized by the opportunity to help Gray, and he spoke expansively about the mayor’s accomplishments in stabilizing the city’s finances, providing affordable housing and helping those receiving welfare benefits. He also praised Gray’s snow-removal efforts and reminisced about his own shortcomings in that area. In 1987, then-Mayor Barry traveled to the Super Bowl ahead of a blizzard and got stuck there while city workers piled up snow on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Barry remains beloved by voters in his home ward, and the endorsement represents an attempt by Gray’s campaign to energize his base in poor, primarily African-American neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, where Gray defeated Adrian Fenty by huge margins in 2010. But there are questions about the breadth of his support this year.
“There’s been some slippage,” Barry said after the news conference. “I hope that in the next two weeks, we can stop the slippage.”