Mr Barry, who easily overcame his main rivals, John Ray and the incumbent Mayor, Sharon Pratt Kelly, will now go forward as the Democratic candidate in the general election in November. With Democrats in Washington far outnumbering Republicans, his return to the mayor's office is almost assured.
The drama of Mr Barry's rise from the political ashes almost eclipsed results from a raft of other primary races all across the country on Tuesday. They included the re-nomination by New York Democrats of Mario Cuomo as their state's governor and, by contrast, the ejection of the Rhode Island Governor, Bruce Sundlun, who had admitted fathering a child out of wedlock.
In Rhode Island, Democrats nominated another member of the Kennedy clan - Patrick Kennedy, 26, son of Senator Edward Kennedy - as a candidate for election in November to the House of Representatives.
In Minnesota, a messianic quest to become governor by the religious conservative, Allen Quist, was brought to an unexpected halt by the incumbent, Arne Carlson.
In a soaring acceptance speech at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, Mr Barry stuck with the theme of political and personal redemption that he had practised throughout his campaign. In an emotional paraphrasing of the Scriptures, he declared: 'Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I was blind, but now I see, lost but now found.'
Mr Barry served as Washington's mayor for three terms from 1978 until his arrest for cocaine possession in 1990. The image caught on an FBI video of him being snared by agents in a hotel - in the company of a girlfriend and raising a crack cocaine pipe to his lips - remains branded in America's collective memory. He was later convicted and sentenced to six months in prison.
His victory this week was born on a tidal wave of sympathy and support from Washington's poorer black areas. Analysts credited his campaign in particular with persuading record numbers to get out to the polls. Voter registration in south-east Washington was up by 14 per cent.
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