WASHINGTON — Former District of Columbia mayor Marion Barry said Friday night that he’s not sure whether Mayor Vincent Gray can win re-election amid allegations by federal prosecutors that he knew about an illegal “shadow campaign” in 2010.
Barry told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Gray has a solid record as mayor but that discussion of his record in office has been drowned out.
“The shadow campaign has masked a lot of good things he’s done, because that’s all people talk about. It’s all the media talks about. They don’t talk about his accomplishments,” Barry said. “These allegations, I think, have made it more difficult.”
Prosecutors said Monday that Gray knew about a $668,000 slush fund that aided his 2010 campaign and was financed by businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges. Gray has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.
Barry said the timing of the Thompson plea deal was “strange” and that Gray deserves the presumption of innocence. He said he’s more inclined to believe Gray than Thompson.
“I’ve known Vince Gray over 30 years, and he’s never been accused of impropriety of any kind,” Barry said.
But the former mayor, who was elected to a fourth term in 1994 despite having served a prison sentence for smoking crack cocaine, said Gray’s political future is an open question. Gray faces seven challengers in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.
Barry said he’d have a better idea of Gray’s chances if he were not recovering from a lengthy illness. Barry has been hospitalized twice this year with a blood infection and other complications from diabetes. He is recovering at home after a stint in a rehabilitation facility.
“I’ve been trying to assess it,” Barry said of the mayoral race. “I’ve been in convalescence. I haven’t been out there, talking to people.”
Barry is a D.C. councilmember representing a poor, majority-black ward east of the Anacostia River. Gray defeated then-Mayor Adrian Fenty by huge margins in Barry’s ward in 2010.
While praising Gray’s record, Barry declined to offer an endorsement. But he said his ward would not embrace Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who polls have shown as the mayor’s strongest challenger.
“She has no management experience,” Barry said. “She’s managed no more than nine people at the most, and this is an $11 billion corporation called the D.C. government.”
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