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The Debate and the Sideshow

And now, a recap of last night's critical, high-stakes, potentially game-changing debate. No, not that debate. We're talking about the contest in the at-large D.C. Council race.

The seven candidates competing for the two at-large seats met last night for an informative discussion moderated by WRC-Ch. 4 reporter Tom Sherwood and WTOP reporter Mark Segraves who managed to cram about 20 questions into an hour and 20 minutes. The event was hosted by the Ward 6 Democrats.

The headline? All but one of the six non-Democrats said they would vote for incumbent council member Kwame R. Brown -- the only Democrat in the race -- but only after each picked himself or herself to fill the other seat.

Voters will be asked to select two picks, and there is widespread belief that Brown, a well-funded and popular incumbent, will cruise to one of the seats in the Democratic-dominated city. Statehood Green candidate David Schwartzman was the only one who did not bow to Brown.

Still, the six candidates not named Kwame Brown were left clawing at each other as they tried to convince voters that they would be the best other choice. Questions covered everything from education to paid sick leave for workers to the city budget.

Among the highlights was a sideshow featuring sparring between incumbent Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), who is running a write-in campaign to keep her seat since she lost her party's primary in September, and the man who beat her, newcomer Patrick Mara.

Mara kicked off the sub-plot when asked about gay marriage. He said he was "unequivocally" supportive, citing his march in a gay rights parade and an op-ed piece he wrote in The Blade. He said, "I even convinced my primary opponent to switch her position and support gay marriage as well."

"Can I have 30 seconds" to rebut his answer? Schwartz interjected. Schwartz then pointed out that she, too, had written an op-ed piece in The Blade "before" Mara. Her position on gay marriage, she said, was that the city should be cautious about going forward considering its lack of statehood. She feared backlash from Congress.
"I don't know what he is talking about," she said of Mara to laughter.

More sparring took place between lawyer Dee Hunter and lobbyist Michael A. Brown, both Democrats turned independent for the at large race. At the end of the debate, Hunter accused Brown of changing his position on supporting a moratorium on charter schools. Brown said he would not. Hunter said that's not what he said in a questionnaire for a labor union, to which Brown responded that it must have been a typo.

"If you read it, it's clearly not a typo," Hunter said.

Then there was Michael Brown versus Schwartz, when he told the audience that "a couple of candidates support John McCain."

"That's not true," Schwartz said, telling Brown to stop putting that information in automated calls to voters.

While Mara was an alternate delegate for McCain, Schwartz, as a Republican, said she never has supported McCain.

And finally, there was Michael Brown versus the public; some residents have reportedly grown tired of his phone calls and ubiquitous fliers on cars, in yards, in doors. He said he has some "overzealous volunteers," and in a competitive campaign, he just could not halt the phone calls. Not yet.

"I promise you on Nov. 4th, they will stop," he said.

Stay tuned today for more reporting about the debate.

By Nikita Stewart

By David A Nakamura  |  October 8, 2008; 9:19 AM ET
Categories:  2008 District Election  
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Next: Mara Picks Up More Business Support


Mara is an enthusiastic supporter of John McCain. Mara can be seen on video at the GOP Convention enthusing over McCain. Mara also proudly recounts his having traveled up to New Hampshire to campaign for McCain in the primaries:

Posted by: DCBoy | October 8, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

See Out Takes From Last Nights Debate, Obama and McCain practicing for the debate and the mistakes they made.

Watch a video of McCain dropping the F-Bomb
in a video

I just saw a new poll come out....Dream tickets for the president. Huckabee/Palin comes out 5 to 1 over McCain/Palin. Perhaps the RNC should switch out McCain for Huckabee, they might have a better chance at the white house this year cause I just can't see Obama loosing at this point. The problem is news stations are already calling the race for Obama.....switch it up and have a chance, or should we all stay home and just let Obama take the white house? see poll at

Posted by: pastor123 | October 8, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Please Carol Schwartz go away enough is enough, you lost dam-----. We don't want you anymore.

Posted by: Dawn | October 8, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Patrick Mara is a smart young man and just what we need on the Council.

Carol Schwartz and Patrick Mara are both suporters of John McCain. But that in the District is irrelevant.

What is relevant is that Patrick Mara is openly pro-choice-pro-marriage equality-supports Mayor Fenty's school inititatives and is a real fiscal conservative. That is a combination we need on the DC Council.

Schwartz has never been willing to do the work needed to be a good council member and has always relied on her name and kind of cult following. Times have moved beyond her and it is time for her to move on as well. 34 years of elective office from school board to now is more than enough for any one person. She ran for Mayor and lost four times. That alone speaks to ego more than ability or effort.

Until this year she was never for gay marriage and even in her column in the Blade managed only to be "not opposed" rather than for it.

Patrick Mara will be a fulltime Councilmember with the smarts to stand up for a fiscally prudent government in these difficult times while supporting the progressive social policies of the District. He has committed to fighting for DC Voting rights even if it means traveling to states to criticize Republican Senators who are opposed to our rights. Something Schwartz hasn't been willing to do.

There is change in the air and Democrats in DC will for for change and that will mean voting for Mara and Obama.

Posted by: peterdc | October 8, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Vote MARA and OBAMA! Vote for change!

Posted by: Ellie | October 8, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget DC can VOTE FOR 2 CANDIDATES for At-LARGE. Don't leave all your power in the voting booth! Vote 2 At-Large Council Candidates & Make Michael A. Brown your FIRST Choice!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 8, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Michael Brown too lazy & thinks he can get elected on his father's name. He cant even show up on time to debate he was an hour late.

Posted by: pinky | October 9, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Some minor points about the Ward 6 debate:

1. The debate started at 7:00pm, Michael Brown arrived at 8:10pm. Said he had a conflict.
2. While waiting to enter the school for the debate, a car with Virginia plates pulled up. Out came Mara volunteers.
3. Kwame Brown seemed to swollow his words and was difficult to understand for the entire debate.
4. Hate to say it, but Carol Schwartz was head and shoulders above the other six.
5. Mark Long was new to the game. He needs a lot of seasoning.
6. Everyone loves mom, apple pie, America and gay marriage.
7. After listening to them all, surprisingly I'll write in Schwartz.

Posted by: NewEra | October 9, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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