Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reformed Marion Barry May Be D.C. Mayor Again but Middle-Class Voters Are Flocking to City Councilman John Ray, Who Narrowly Leads Barry in the Polls

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reformed Marion Barry May Be D.C. Mayor Again but Middle-Class Voters Are Flocking to City Councilman John Ray, Who Narrowly Leads Barry in the Polls

Article excerpt

WILL Marion Barry, once thought to be politically finished following a 1990 drug conviction, again become mayor of the District of Columbia? Heading into the final weekend before Tuesday's all-important Democratic primary, the nation's capital is abuzz with speculation over who will win. The latest polls show former Mayor Barry in a dead heat for the lead with City Councilman John Ray. The outcome, say political analysts, hinges on one factor: turnout. "If there's heavy turnout among black voters, especially the poorer blacks who generally don't turn out, then Barry wins," says Del Ali, vice-president of Mason-Dixon political research firm. If not, then Mr. Ray wins. In a Mason-Dixon poll of 413 D.C. Democrats likely to vote, taken Sept. 1-3, 35 percent said they would vote for Ray and 32 percent for Barry. The incumbent mayor, Sharon Pratt Kelly, whose tenure has been plagued by perceptions of weak management and a growing financial crisis, got 18 percent. That poll alarmed the District's better-off residents, both black and white, and boosted the Ray campaign with support from people who may not feel great enthusiasm for the soft-spoken 15-year council member -- but see him as the best hope for blocking Barry's self-described bid for "redemption." Some registered Republicans, even high-profile ones like conservative columnist Robert Novak, switched their party affiliation so they could vote in the Democratic primary. In D.C., Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1, and the victor in the Democratic mayoral primary -- who can win with a plurality -- has always gone on to win the general election in the 20 years since D.C. was granted limited home rule. James Gibson, a former top D.C. official now working with a business group on a plan for the city's future, says he "expected a more dramatic shift to Ray" as voters focused more closely on the race. Now, with Barry seen as having more solid support than the other two leading contenders, Mr. Gibson sees a "growing prospect" that Barry could pull it off. Ron Walters, chairman of the political-science department at Howard University, disagrees. …
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