Mayor Marion Barry switched his registration from Democrat to independent Monday--a step that will allow him to run for city office despite missing the Democratic Party's filing deadline.
Barry told reporters that he wanted to "keep my options open," but some political advisers said he was paving the way to run for an at-large seat on the City Council rather than an unprecedented fourth term as mayor.
"I believe I still have a significant contribution to make to the city I love," said Barry, who was convicted Friday of one misdemeanor drug charge by a jury that deadlocked on nine other misdemeanor and three felony counts.
In filing papers with the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, Barry said that his change of affiliation was "not an easy decision" because he had been a lifelong Democrat. But the deadline for filing to run as a candidate in the Democratic primary election passed during Barry's cocaine and perjury trial. Midnight Monday was the filing deadline to run as an independent on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The former civil rights activist must also collect 3,000 signatures on petitions by Aug. 29 to get his name on the ballot, a requirement that his aides said would not be difficult.
Friends of the 54-year-old Barry said that being elected to one of two at-large council seats would ensure him an annual salary of about $71,000 over the next four years, would protect his government pension and would provide him with a continuing political base. He would be the odds-on favorite to win such a race.
In an emotional speech a day after the jury verdict, Barry asked voters to forgive him for human weaknesses, adding that it is time for the district to heal the wounds caused by racial tensions arising from his 10-week trial.
And he appealed to federal prosecutors to abandon any thoughts of retrying him on the 12 unresolved charges.
Meanwhile, Justice Department officials sought to distance themselves from any decision about a retrial, saying that they would leave the matter solely to the discretion of U.S. Atty. Jay B. Stephens.
"It's the U.S. attorney's call. The attorney general has not been involved in the case in any manner, shape or form," department spokesman Dan Eramian told reporters.
Staff writer Ronald J. Ostrow contributed to this story.