Delegate for Life

Marion Barry To Support Obama at Democratic Convention

AP Images
March 7, 2012

Washington, D.C., city councilmember Marion Barry was elected Saturday to represent the city as a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Barry and fellow Democratic Councilmember Jack Evans (D., Ward 2) were the top vote getters in D.C. District 1, trailing gay rights activist Gregory Cendana, the executive director of the Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance, in total votes. Barry and Evans reportedly bused dozens of supporters to the polls at the University of District of Columbia to ensure that they would be elected as two of Washington’s 15 delegates.

Barry faced criticism from some District residents over his candidacy to attend the convention.

Democratic consultant Chuck Thies wrote a column in the Georgetown Dish that tried to dissuade people from voting for Barry, on the grounds that he would embarrass the city and President Obama.

"He is a walking public relations disaster for the District," Thies wrote. "Take some time on Saturday to vote, and vote for someone other than Marion Barry."

Councilmember Tommy Wells also expressed his concern over Barry’s candidacy, telling the Washington Post, "I wanted to support my residents who have a chance to go to the convention. We have so few elected offices, I really thought it would be better for others to run."

Thies reportedly approached Barry outside the polling place Saturday. Barry did not engage with Thies, and said that he did not want to be distracted by "crazy stuff."

Barry served as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. While at the convention, Barry allegedly forced his then-campaign staffer Donna Watts-Brighthaupt to leave his Crowne Plaza hotel room when she refused to perform oral sex.

Watts-Brighthaupt reportedly spent the night in Barry’s rented Cadillac in the hotel parking garage. Watts-Brighthaupt later screamed at Barry, "You put me out in Denver ‘cause I wouldn’t suck your dick" in a June 2009 confrontation that was recorded on tape and reported by the Washington City Paper.

Then-Mayor Barry was arrested in an FBI and D.C. police sting operation on Jan. 18, 1990, for smoking crack cocaine in the Vista International Hotel with ex-model Rasheeda Moore. Barry’s use of the illicit substance was captured on videotape and played widely on national television. Regarding Moore, Barry stated, "Bitch set me up."

Barry and Evans helped form "D.C.’s Official Obama 2012 Slate" with Mayor Vincent Gray’s deputy chief of staff Sheila Bunn and Councilmember Michael Brown’s spokesman David Meadows. The slate funded two buses to drive supporters to the polls. Barry’s constituent services staffer Jackie Ward sent an email to community listservs in Barry’s district urging constituents to "Get on the bus and VOTE" for Barry and his fellow slate members to become delegates. Ward did not use her government email account to send the message.

Bunn, Ward, and the offices of Barry and Evans did not return calls for comment.

Barry told a Post reporter that he deserves to be at the convention because he once delivered a convention speech supporting former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, and that President Obama is now "walking on Jackson’s shoulders." Barry also said, "I’m very popular all over America."

Evans appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Washington, D.C.’s WAMU 88.5 on Mar. 2 in part to defend his and Barry’s concerted efforts to get out the vote for their delegate campaigns. In response to a caller requesting that he recuse himself from the election for the sake of fairness, Evans stated, "I would think it would be as important to have your elected leadership at the convention as delegates as it would be the—anyone else who wants to do it."

Evans also told the City Paper, "Being a delegate is great. In practical terms it gives you a badge and you can go anywhere, anywhere."

The D.C. City Council last month unanimously passed a ban on profane and abusive language at city government meetings after Barry engaged in a confrontation with a fellow council member.

Barry will attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte from Sept. 3-6, 2012.