City Desk

Today in D.C. History: Post Columnist Urges ‘Formidable’ Jarvis to Challenge Barry

On April 28, 1986, Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, urged then-Ward 4 Councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis to run against then-Mayor Marion Barry.

Raspberry's column, which called Jarvis "a formidable candidate," was a follow-up to a story by Post city reporter Arthur S. Brisbane. Four days earlier, Brisbane called Jarvis a "formidable" vote-getter who "made a modest showing" in a run against Barry four years earlier.

Washington City Paper's Loose Lips took issue with the Post's ignorance of District politics in City Paper's May 2 issue:

Neither of these gentlemen was willing to provide the figures demonstrating just how formidable a candidate Jarvis has proved herself to be in a citywide race. Well, here they are: In her 1982 bid to deprive Barry of re-election to his second term, Jarvis pulled a stunning 2.8 percent of the vote. That's right. Contrary to Rasberry and Brisbane's reasoning, only 3,235 voters throughout the city felt Jarvis was qualified and deserved to be mayor. When you divide her vote among the city's eight wards, she pulled an average of 409 votes per ward. Many Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) members have more pulling power at the polls in their wards than Jarvis does. [...] If she can get 20 times the meager number of votes she got four years ago, which is highly unlikely, then and only then would she become a "formidable" foe to the mayor. But, after Jarvis has demonstrated so many defects during her term on the council, she should probably be called away for repair or replacement.

Jarvis apparently heeded LL's advice and didn't run in the 1986 election, which Barry won handily.

The so-called Mayor for Life even managed to convince the Post to endorse him for that race, though the paper noted it endorsed Barry this time "with far greater reservations and misgivings."

Barry, of course, is still a player in D.C. politics, currently representing Ward 8 on the D.C. Council. While still representing Ward 4, Jarvis took on another job in 1996: president of Southeastern University. After being ousted from her Ward 4 seat in 2000 by future Mayor Adrian Fenty, Jarvis remained at Southeastern, which lost its accreditation in 2009, merged with the GS-Graduate School, and shuttered its doors. Jarvis currently sits on the board of trustees for KIPP-DC.

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