Barry back in the fray

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WASHINGTON - The presidential campaign may be making the big headlines, but at the moment, one local consideration is uppermost in the minds of residents of the capital of the US: whether Washington's disgraced former mayor, Marion Barry, is poised for an improbable and almost certainly disruptive political comeback, writes Rupert Cornwell.

Five months after he was released from prison where he was serving a term for cocaine possession, the man who between 1978 and his arrest in 1990 dominated politics in the District of Columbia is running in today's Democratic primary election in Ward 8, the poorest and most crime-infested area of the city, for a seat on the DC Council.

Given Washington's overwhelming Democratic bias, victory today would guarantee Mr Barry success in the run-off against any Republican challenger on 3 November. Should he win, the consequences could be far reaching - not least for the DC's revived hopes of achieving full statehood, long resisted by the Republicans. If elected to the White House, the Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton, has promised to introduce a statehood bill. But the renewed presence of Mr Barry, symbol for outsiders of all that is wrong with Washington, could upset those calculations.