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Ward 8 Residents Split on Barry Re-election Bid

James Wright - WI Staff Writer | 8/31/2011, 1:49 p.m.
Marion Barry

Les Johnson of Historic Anacostia in Ward 8 is not sure that D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry should serve another term in the District's legislature.

"When people ask me whether I support Mr. Barry for another term, I honestly do not know how to answer that question fairly," Johnson, 43, said. "As a councilmember, he can only do so much because he is operating in the winds of the economy. He is dealing with issues that anybody in public office is dealing with."

Johnson feels that the ward needs to move forward and would look at Barry re-election to office in 2012 as "a step backward."

Pho Palmer of Congress Heights respectfully disagrees.

"I think Barry deserves to be re-elected because he is doing a really good job and there is a lot of need in the community," Palmer, 44, said. "Being a D.C. council member is a hard job and I would anyone who is challenging Barry, could you do a better job?" The differences of opinion on Barry by Johnson and Palmer is an example of an ongoing debate among the resident of Ward 8, the city's most economically-challenged jurisdiction that is located exclusively east of the Anacostia River. On Tue., April 3, voters in Ward 8 will decide in the Democratic Party primary for D.C. Council member who will represent them until 2017.

The winner of the Democratic primary will almost surely serve as the member of the D.C. Council for the ward because the general election in November, 2012 is considered a formality. There are few Republicans and members of the D.C. Statehood Green Party in Ward 8 and if those parties field candidates, they stand almost no chance in November next year because of the overwhelmingly support that Ward 8 residents gives to the Democrats.

Barry, a former four-term mayor of the District, has long been a popular figure in Ward 8, which is located exclusively east of the Anacostia River in Southeast. Ward 8 residents elected Barry as their D.C. Council member in 1992 and re-elected him in 2004 and 2008.

Barry is known as a seasoned, passionate legislator and one who does not hold his tongue when it comes to fighting for the issues that he cares about. However, his censure by the D.C. Council in 2010 and his problems with filing federal income taxes on time has produced bad publicity for the ward, in the view of some residents.

Plus, there are some residents who say that he has not done much for the ward since his since his first re-election in 2004. Ward 8 has the highest unemployment rate in the city at approximately 25 percent according to D.C. Department of Employment Services and the lowest homeownership rate of any ward, 24 percent, according to city statistics.

Anti-Barry residents say that he has not done enough to correct these problems and there should be a new person sent to represent the ward in the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest in 2013.