WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray picked up a much sought after endorsement Wednesday from a former D.C. mayor who still casts a large shadow over District politics: Marion Barry.
The former mayor and current D.C. council member may have a controversial past, but he remains extremely popular among many voters, particularly in Wards 7 and 8.
The embattled Mayor Gray was extremely popular in those wards in his 2010 election. Barry's endorsement may help him solidify that support once again and fight off a crowded field of primary challengers.
When Barry, a man once dubbed "The Mayor for Life," taps a candidate, many D.C. follow suit.
"When you have 'The Mayor for Life' who comes out and says, 'Mayor Gray has done well and he has worked hard on behalf of the residents of Ward 8,' I think that carries a lot," said Natalie Williams, President of the Ward 8 Democrats. "Council member Barry is still popular around here, still very popular."
Williams, who was once a Barry staffer and later ran against and lost to her former boss for D.C. city council said that the endorsement will make the biggest splash among undecided voters.
"I think by getting Barry it ensures the vote in Ward 8 and it also kind of like ensures the support of the black people," said Kevin Davis, owner of Pro Cuts Family Barber Shop in the heart of Ward 8.
The Southeast ward is an area plagued by a lack of economic opportunity and dominated by black voters. This is Marion Barry land.
"He means everything to people around here," said Davis. "When he became mayor he changed everything - he gave young people jobs every summer, black people were able to retire from the government at a higher level," added Davis.
Ward 4 presents interesting dynamics. Mayor Gray won it in 2010 but with it being Councilmember Muriel Bowser's home turf, she is making a major push in her primary campaign for mayor. She is popular in her ward. Despite that, Mayor Gray and Barry also both have support there.
Philip Edmonson is a Ward 3 voter who agreed with Davis in at least one respect.
"I think he did contribute an awful lot, particularly at the beginning of his administration and as an activist and I think people remember that," said Edmonson.
But some voters on the other side of town remember Barry differently.
With more jobs, more money, more white voters who seem to be less forgiving of barry's controversial past, Ward 3 in Northwest is much different than its sister wards in Southeast. That's an idea that was reinforced Wednesday at the Barry endorsement event.
"Washington has become a city of the haves and have-nots. That's not Mayor Gray's fault, that's not my fault, that's not anybody's fault. That's the reality. I think it's up to white people to be more open minded. Blacks are more open minded than they are," said Barry.
For some, including Edmonson, the mere hint of corruption clouding Gray's campaign is too much to handle.
"No, I wouldn't vote for him again," said Edmonson.
When asked if the support of Marion Barry would change his mind, Edmonson laughed and shook his head, "No."
Despite Edmonson's belief that Barry "contributed an awful lot" to the District, he said the former mayor has devolved to the point that he's more of a joke than an influence.
"He just makes me laugh," said Edmonson.
But it's Mayor Gray who hopes to get the last laugh with Barry's support.