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
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