The passing of Marion Barry, the District’s former mayor and Ward 8 council member, has already got several political activists in the ward pondering and some actually positioning for a run at his seat in a special election next year.
On Dec. 1, the District of Columbia Board of Elections picked April 28, 2015 as the date of the special election to replace Barry and nominating petitions can be picked up by candidates on Dec. 8.
Natalie Williams, president of the Ward 8 Democrats and an advisory neighborhood commissioner, has made it clear in the past that she wants to represent the ward. However, Williams, who once served as Barry’s press secretary, said that her focus presently is on grieving her former boss.
“There is no secret of my interest in leading the ward,” Williams said. “However, this time we all are in reflection on life and legacy of Marion Barry.”
The Rev. Anthony Motley, a Barry ally and one of the ward’s most influential activists, said that he will not run for the council seat but noted that “a whole lot of people will get in the race.”
Barry has been the Ward 8 council member from 1993-1995 and 2005 until his death on Nov. 23. There has been speculation in the ward and informal jockeying on who will replace Barry.
The person elected on April 28 will serve out the rest of Barry’s term, which officially ends in early January 2017.
Sandra “S.S.” Seegars, a longtime Ward 8 activists and former member of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, wants to be that replacement.
“Yes, I am committed to making a run for the position,” said Seegars, who also ran against Barry in 2012. “I believe that I can represent the ward because I have been working hard out here for quite a while and I can make a difference as the council member.”
Mary Cuthbert, an advisory neighborhood commissioner and political activist in the ward for decades, said that there are others who have indicated a desire for the council position other than Williams and Seegars.
“I know that Darrell Gaston, Charles Wilson and Sheila Bunn are interested in it but I am not,” Cuthbert said. “I am staying out of this one.”Gaston is a former commissioner who lost his seat in the Nov. 4 general election and Wilson is a commissioner who is known as a leader in Historic Anacostia. Bunn, the daughter of the late Ward 8 entrepreneur and activist James Bunn, served on D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s executive staff.
Cuthbert does have a prospective candidate who she would like to see run: former D.C. Council Chairman Arrington Dixon. Dixon served as Ward 4’s first representative from 1974-1978 and chaired the council from 1979-1983 and served briefly as an at-large member in 1997.
Cuthbert said that Dixon would be an excellent fill-in for the next 15 months.
“He is the one person who is capable of performing the council duties in the way that Marion would have wanted it done,” Cuthbert said. “The other people who are interested in running don’t have that type of experience.”
Charles Wilson told the AFRO that he is “considering a run and will pray about it.”
There is speculation that some residents would like to see Barry’s widow, Cora Masters Barry, run for the seat and Jacque Patterson, a former president of the Ward 8 Democrats, has said that Barry was grooming his son, Christopher, to take his place. Keith Silver, a former commissioner in Ward 6 and a leader in the annual Martin Luther King Jr., holiday procession, wants his friend, Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes to become a candidate.
“We are asking your consideration and support to join the growing list and chorus of a cross-section of people from every station in life who fully understands the needs in Ward 8 to draft Denise Rolark Barnes,” Silver said in an email he sent out recently.
The late D.C. Council member Wilhelmina Rolark was Barnes’ stepmother who represented Ward 8 from 1977-1993. Barry defeated Wilhelmina Rolark for re-election in 1992.
Barnes, who is a board member of the Events DC, the city’s tourism and entertainment agency, didn’t respond to an AFRO email for comment by press time.
Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green hasn’t decided whom he will support for council member, but he makes it clear what he doesn’t want.
“I don’t want the new Marion Barry but someone who learned from Barry,” Green said. “We need a council member that will bring people together. I want to know what this person will do on the council.”
Cuthbert said that campaigning for the Ward 8 seat isn’t proper at this time.
“We haven’t even buried Marion and people are already talking about replacing him,” she said. “That’s disgraceful. People should at least wait until he is buried.”