Barry shows up at Republican gathering 'to promote Washington,' flat tax for city Mayor is invited to speak to Md. delegation, but invitation is withdrawn

Republican Convention

August 13, 1996|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- So what is Marion S. Barry Jr., mayor of perhaps the nation's most Democratic city and a politician Republicans cite as an example of liberal excess, doing at the GOP convention?

"The primary purpose of coming out here was to promote Washington as a tourist place," said Barry, as he stood in the sunshine with the water of San Diego Bay sparkling behind him.

Of course, there's more. Barry said he is also trying to reach out to Republicans in Maryland and Virginia whose constituents work in the nation's capital. But in an effort to do that yesterday, he ran into a snag when the Maryland delegation rescinded an invitation for him to address them.

Convention delegates Ellen R. Sauerbrey and Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, the delegation chairman, had invited him earlier. But when the state GOP chairwoman, Joyce Lyons Terhes, heard he was coming, she declared: "Over my dead body."

Gilchrest left a message with Barry Sunday night suggesting that, instead of addressing the delegation, they meet after the convention.

Undeterred, Barry went to the hotel where the delegation is staying yesterday and was met in the driveway by Gilchrest and Sauerbrey. In an awkward meeting, surrounded by reporters, Barry and the Republican leaders tried to put the embarrassing situation in a positive light. Speaking of the need for cooperation between officials in Maryland and the District of Columbia, both sides pledged to meet later to discuss issues of mutual interest.

"You should come see me," said Barry, the four-term Democratic mayor who wore a button on his beige suit jacket that read, "D.C. Republicans for Dole 1996."

"I think we ought to do that," said Gilchrest, who represents the Eastern Shore. "I can come over to your office, you can come to our office."

Afterward, Sauerbrey said she was disappointed that Barry had not been able to speak.

"Quite honestly, I thought it was an unnecessary brouhaha," she said.

"Not in any way did this represent on my part, or on the part of any other Republican here, support for Mayor Barry," said Sauerbrey, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994 and lost badly among blacks. "What it represents is a recognition that the Republican Party has got to symbolically reach out to urban voters [and] to minorities."

Terhes, though, said that Barry had no place at a Republican event and that his presence at the delegation's breakfast caucus meeting would have demeaned the other speakers, who included Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor and Republican presidential candidate.

"I think he needs to be in Washington trying to solve the problems and not be out here wining and dining the delegation," Terhes said. The night before, Barry had held a reception at an art gallery.

dTC In what seemed like an attempt to save face, Barry said that he did not actually expect to speak to the delegation. "It was never on our agenda," he said. "That's not our main purpose out here anyway."

In addition to promoting Washington, Barry said, he came to San Diego to try to gain support for a flat-tax proposal for his city. And in fact, Republicans are arguing here that they are doing more than Democrats to help rescue the fiscally troubled nation's capital. They have included a deep tax cut for Washington in their platform.

"That's more than the Democrats have done," said Barry.

Private companies are largely funding the trip, which Barry estimated would cost between $21,000 and $23,000.

Asked to name some of the donors, Barry said: "That's not important."

Despite being rebuffed as a breakfast speaker, Barry, the consummate politician, succeeded to some degree in his mission yesterday. After talking with the state's Republican leaders, he stood in front of the hotel lobby and chatted with delegates.

"Young lady," he said, introducing himself to Jacqueline A. Fleming, a delegate from Baltimore. "Good to see you."

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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