Mayor Marion Barry's announcement that he is abandoning hopes for re-election is designed partly to elicit sympathy from jurors in his upcoming drug and perjury trial, top Barry aides say.
Barry, 54, said Wednesday he is forgoing plans to run for a fourth, four-year term this fall to allow the city to overcome the racial and political divisions his January drug arrest helped exacerbate."Now is a time for healing, healing for me personally and for you politically," the black mayor said in a 15-minute address on Howard University's public television and radio stations.
Barry said public opinion polls indicated he could win another term, but, "What good does it do to win the battle if in the process I lose my soul?"
Barry supporters organized a rally Thursday outside the U.S Courthouse, where the mayor's case is being tried. Anita Bonds, Barry's campaign manager, has circulated a letter to city workers urging them to attend.
Aides close to Barry said the mayor's decision was also made in hopes that jurors in his drug possession and perjury case will treat him less harshly now that he has voluntarily withdrawn from the race.
"The timing was perfect," said one aide who has talked frequently with Barry in recent days. "The sympathy ploy was part of his agenda, and he played it just as it was plotted out." The aide demanded anonymity.
In his taped address, which he said he chose to broadcast to avoid "rude and disrespectful" journalists at a live announcement, Barry stressed that his decision was "not related to my legal situation."
Repeatedly using biblical references and the Alcoholics Anonymous litany, Barry described the difficulties in overcoming addiction, claimed he had been free from "mood-altering chemicals" for 145 days and asked for understanding.
"For me . . . this has not been just a situation involving one individual and his personal family - in my case, my extended family, those of you who live in Washington and in the nation - all of you have been drawn into my private struggle," he said. "As I move along in my recovery, I have to think of how to help everyone - myself, my primary family and my extended family - to recover too."
With that, he announced he would not seek to be sent back to the job he has held for 12 years.
Barry cited the accomplishments of his administration and said he hoped that the racially divided city would "come together - black and white, Jew and gentile, old guard and new guard, nonbeliever and true believer, young and old, rich and poor - to accept each other, make a place for each other, protect each other and make our city, and someday our state, a model for nation, and indeed the world, to follow."
Interviews of prospective jurors in Barry's trial will end Friday, the jury will be seated Monday and opening statements will be given Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson announced Wednesday.