The Rise and Fall of Marion Barry as Mayor
In January of 1990, Washington, DC, the seat of the federal government of the United States was turned upside down by scandal. While the headlines were filled with the efforts of the Bush Administration to crack down on drugs, the District's Mayor and symbol of black power against a nearly all white backdrop of authority was caught on videotape buying and than smoking crack cocaine with an exotic dancer two days before he was expected to announce an unprecedented fourth campaign for mayor. The sting was setup and carried out by a Federal Bureau of Investigation unit that had been pursing the frequent rumors of the Mayor's drug dependency.
Five years later, Barry would be successful in obtaining a fourth term. Barry's defeat of his Republican opponent, Carol Schwartz, a Jewish woman was a remarkable statement of Barry's uncanny connection with the majority of the District electorate, in the face of scandal and undisputable evidence of drug use. In fact, many regard Barry's return to the District Mayor's office as a strong slap in the face to the establishment of Congressional intervention, Federal Control Boards and the such. Barry's re-election was a result of political savvy voter registration program as well as his uncanny connection with the majority of those that lived in predominantly black and Democratic city. He connected, or at least in a public relations sense, connected with the people, he capitalized on the failures of his predecessor Sharon Pratt Kelly, talked about issues people wanted to hear about, and possessed a character trait about him that made it nearly impossible for some not to be drawn too.
Central to Marion Barry's success in Washington, DC politics is his long-term association with the region. In 1965, Barry, a graduate of LeMoyne College, came to the nation's capital as a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Barry immediately, capitalized on his popularity in the city. In 1971, he ran for and won election to the school board. Four years later, Barry also successfully won an at-large seat on the City Council. As WashingtonPost.Com observed in a retrospect, "Barry was a radically new kind of politician. Raised in poverty, he built a political base from Anacostia rather than through the traditional black power brokers on 16th Street's Gold Coast. He embodied black political aspirations."
Barry was re-elected to the City Council in 1976, and ran for Mayor in 1978. Given the District's political demographics, the Democratic Primary Election was the true political battle in the Mayoral race. Whoever won the nomination would surely win the General Election in November. Sterling Tucker was not only Barry's main foe during the Primary, but served as Chairman of the City Council that Barry served on. Although in later years, the Editorial Page of The Washington Post would become one of Barry's biggest critics, he did win the city's...