#TheBreakdown: #Ward8 Politics at a Turn for the Worst?

ANC Commissioner and Ward 8 Council Candidate, Darrell Gaston

By Markus Batchelor (@MarkusBatchelor)

The past few weeks have manifested every ugly feature of politics that there could be in Ward 8. As the 2012 campaign gears up and more and more people announce their interest in running as Ward 8’s representative on the City Council and, in turn, ousting 2-term incumbent and 4-term Mayor, Marion S. Barry, more controversy and conflict appear.

With so much dysfunction going on even before petitions hit the streets next week, one has to wonder what kind of leadership will emerge from a political fistfight that is destined to continue all the way through April and beyond. Here is a rundown of the breakdown happening in Ward 8.

“[                      ] on the dotted line”: I am sure that everyone around the city has become aware of the war between Ward 8 Council Candidate/ANC Commissioner Darrell Gaston (@DarrellGastonDC) and Immediate Past President of the Ward 8 Democrats/ Soon-to-Announce Ward 8 Council Candidate Jacque Patterson (@Jacque4DC). Days after Patterson announced his intention to enter the Ward 8 race a few weeks ago (a race Gaston had been running for months before), Gaston announced that he would be pressing criminal charges against Patterson for forging his signature on a letter of support for a Charter school coming into the Ward. The forgery apparently occurred some months before.

Patterson’s account was that Gaston asked him to sign his name on the letter of support, which he says was a bad idea in hindsight. However, Gaston says he never supported the new school and would never have asked Patterson to sign on his behalf.

What’s most interesting about the situation is the reaction that this conflict has produced from Ward 8 pols and the public who have known Gaston or have become versed on the issue: Most of the backlash from this “mystery of the forged signature” has been dropped in the lap of Gaston, especially from people who think that, whether the letter was forged or not, Gaston is using the situation as political blackmail to cut down on 2012 competition. In fact, Patterson forwarded an email to The Washington CityPaper allegedly from Gaston that told Patterson that he could make the situation “go away” and that his family and supporters could be freed from public shaming if he decided not to run. Apparently, Patterson refused because Gaston held a press conference Tuesday to “air the dirty laundry”.

The Result: The conflict is far from over and could last all the way until the primary in April, but the initial shockwaves are toppling “The House of Gaston”. People are losing faith in his integrity and other people just downright don’t trust him. The immediate effect on Patterson’s candidacy is yet to be seen, but the next few weeks will be the real judge of who will come out of this scuffle victorious. Right now, Gaston is against the ropes.

The Reaction: I do have to say that this situation is months old, and I feel like the fact that it exploded when Patterson showed remote interest in the office is just “Gaston being Gaston”. In the long run, I’m predicting that this will have a tremendously negative effect on the Gaston campaign and will be an irreversible self-inflicted wound. He will have to make a tremendous rebound with both his political allies and his base to turn it around.


Christopher (left) and Marion Barry at his 2004 City Council Campaign Announcement

“Keeping It In the Family”: It’s not secret that Councilmember Marion S. Barry, whose political career spans more than 30 years, is aging. Questions have gone around the Ward for years now regarding who would follow the “Mayor for Life” when his retirement came, voluntarily or otherwise.  The most mysterious aspect was if Barry himself was grooming a successor. It turns out he has one person in mind: his son, Christopher.

In a recent Washington Post article, people close to Barry and even some of his rivals report that they have had conversations with Barry in which he describes his tactic to have his son follow him as the Sultan of the Ward. The post reports that Barry has let pols in on his plan to win a third term in 2012, retire half way through his term and support Christopher as his successor in a special election.

Christopher, who was arrested in May on felony charges on possession of PCP and marijuana with intent to distribute,  has told many that he has no interest in seeking the Council seat or even being involved in city politics, putting a damper on the high hopes of his overzealous father.

The Result: This  one event points out something daunting: the “Barry Era” in Ward 8 could last long after Barry leaves the scene. It is also a sign that Marion Barry looks to solidify some type of control over the politics of the Ward for years to come and that the continuity of this political regime threatens to build a stronghold.

The Reaction: The only reason for the continuance of Marion Barry’s success in Ward 8 politics for almost 8 years (we may see 12 years) is because there is so many factions and political disunity. There are currently 5 candidates (with possibly 2 others waiting in the wings) challenging Barry in the Democratic Primary on April 3. These candidates, at the base, all have the same goal: to unseat Barry. So why in the world would they risk splitting the vote (like they have done for years) instead of getting behind one strong candidate who could have a chance of beating Barry? The answer is simple: political ambition. If any candidate believes that they can run alongside half of a dozen other candidates, with similar voter bases, and beat a man who consistently gets over 70 percent of the vote and has never lost an election, they are out of their minds. But these candidates consistently don’t care. It seems like Ward 8 pols have an uncontrollable addiction to seeing their name on the ballot and while they get their rocks off, they constantly stall progress in this Ward. If we all would get around one candidate, we would have a chance. If we never do, Welcome to Barrytown.


Posted on November 10, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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