Barry Planning to Leave Party, Top Aides Say

from Associated Press

Mayor Marion Barry is receiving conflicting advice on whether he should run for City Council but is planning to drop his Democratic Party affiliation as a first step, aides said Sunday.

Barry, convicted Friday of one cocaine possession charge and acquitted of another, plans to drop out of the Democratic Party and register as an independent today, said top Barry aides who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That would be Barry's first step toward a campaign for an at-large seat on the District of Columbia's 13-member council, the aides said.

Today is the deadline for switching parties. If Barry becomes an independent, he would then have to gather the signatures of 2,000 registered city voters before his name could be placed on the ballot. He would compete for two citywide council seats with winners of the Republican, Democratic and Statehood party primaries.

While some of Barry's advisers feel he should resume his career, others are wary of antagonizing U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson or prosecutors.

Jackson has not yet set a sentencing date for Barry's misdemeanor cocaine possession conviction, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. U.S. Atty. Jay B. Stephens has not yet revealed whether he intends to retry Barry on a dozen charges on which the jury couldn't reach a verdict.

Some of Barry's advisers believe the government would be more likely to pursue the case--and Jackson would be more inclined to send the mayor to jail--if Barry is actively campaigning for office.

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