The loudspeakers Monday on Martin Luther King Avenue SE were blaring out the message to anyone passing by: “Yeah, Ward 8,” the speaker said, drawing out that first word, “we’re down to the wire.”
The speakers were set up outside Marion Barry’s campaign headquarters in the 3100 block. Music played in between appeals to go vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
The Barry headquarters was jumping, and not just because of the music.
Campaign manager Sandy Allen was staffing the phones and shooing volunteers out to canvas the neighborhoods. (Never mind that Allen once was the Ward 8 council member until she was defeated by Barry.)
The veteran politician himself was not out campaigning. He was attending a council hearing on jobs and the work of the Department of Employment Services.
News4 reminded him that he got 77 percent of the vote in the 2008 election four years ago.
Would he predict his victory or margin on Tuesday?
“No, I don’t get engaged in that,” Barry told us. “I just take my case to the people. The people have been very appreciative.”
Barry, at 76, is seeking his third consecutive term representing Ward 8. He served four terms as mayor.
Barry refers to the far southeast neighborhoods as “the new Ward 8,” with shopping and housing built over the past decade. But Barry says the crushing unemployment holds the ward back.
Barry is facing a challenge in Tuesday’s election, with every other candidate saying Barry’s time has passed. They say Barry has been slowed by age and distractions with his battles with the IRS over his taxes, his health problems and his public battle with a former girlfriend.
“People are just being awakened to the [fact] that there’s an election,” said candidate Jacque Patterson. “So it’s going to be hard to get people out. That’s why we targeted our voters. We know who ours are going to be.”
The challengers include S.S. Sandra Seegars, who has run against Barry in previous campaigns. Seegars, a community activist, is knowledgeable about the ward and is a persistent critic of Barry.
Another opponent is Natalie Williams, a single mother who for a while was the spokeswoman for Barry.
Also running is community activist Darnell Gaston.
The split field opposition may benefit Barry in the low-turnout election that is expected, but we won’t know until the ballots are counted.