The sentencing of District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry to a prison term for a misdemeanor drug offense could galvanize his electoral base for his D.C. Council campaign, but also may energize the anti-Barry voters who flexed their political muscle in last month's Democratic mayoral primary.

Although the political effect of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's decision will not be realized fully until Election Day Nov. 6, several experts and veteran politicians said Friday that the severity of the sentence could be a powerful rallying point for Barry in his bid for an at-large seat on the 13-member D.C. Council.Barry, who since his January arrest often has attempted to turn his legal adversities to his political advantage, said Friday he was "absolutely" committed to continuing his campaign.

"Why not?" he said as he left the District Building on his way to lunch with his mother, Mattie Cummings.

Surveys of District voters show consistently that Barry enjoys a firm base of support among at least 20 percent of the electorate, and that is a key component of the mayor's strategy in the eight-way race for two at-large council seats. The top two vote-getters in that election win the seats.