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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/19/2011

Patrick Mara to run for D.C. Council at-large seat

By Mike DeBonis


Patrick Mara, newly elected member of the State Board of Education, will mount a run for the at-large D.C. Council seat vacated by new Chairman Kwame R. Brown.

Mara said Tuesday evening that he will pick up ballot petitions Wednesday afternoon. His run comes less than three months after beating incumbent Dotti Love Wade in the race for the Ward 1 seat on the city education panel.

The election is set for April 26; Mara and his supporters must collect at least 3,000 valid signatures from D.C. voters by Feb. 16 at 5 p.m.

Mara, a Republican, said his campaign message is "three things: fiscal responsibility, education and a ... real multiparty system." He has recorded a YouTube video, pitching himself as an "independent voice" who is "not a member of the club." He added in an interview that he's "someone to buck the tide," noting his support for same-sex marriage and willingness to take on the city Republican establishment.

That was a reference to his 2008 run for an at-large council seat, challenging and beating longtime incumbent Carol Schwartz in the Republican primary. But Mara couldn't finish the job in the general, after Schwartz mounted a write-in campaign and theretofore Democrat Michael A. Brown renounced his party membership to win a seat reserved for a non-Democrat. Brown won, but Mara picked up more than 37,000 citywide votes.

Mara's GOP affiliation may be less of a liability in the April 26 race, where candidates won't be identified by party on ballots. [See correction below.] But Mara is trying to leverage his non-Democrat affiliation, saying in his video that "no single political party has a monopoly on good ideas and solutions to our challenges" and that voters "will look beyond labels and listen to ideas."

Mara and his supporters are hoping for a repeat of the last at-large special election, in 1997, when then-Republican David Catania beat former Council chairman and Democratic stalwart Arrington Dixon and two minor candidates.

Catania's now something of a political mentor to Mara, but Mara said Tuesday he won't be able to follow Catania's strategy. "Everyone knows what happened in 1997, so I can't depend on what happened on 1997," he said. "I have to reach a wide variety of voters. I've shown that I'm able to do that."

There are similarities and differences in this year's race versus 1997's -- but mostly differences. Sekou Biddle -- the frontrunner by virtue of his interim-member status and support among elected officials, including Brown -- is unlikely to run as listless a campaign as Dixon did. But the field stands to be much more fragmented, with 15 other candidates currently circulating petitions, with a few other names rumored as possible entrants.

"I'm the underdog," Mara said, "so I have to work hard."

But Mara, with a good relationship with the city's business community, brings instant cash and credibility to his run. His immediate challenge is making himself into the best option with former mayor Adrian Fenty's motivated voters -- a demographic also being pursued by Biddle, Fenty campaign aide Josh Lopez, and possibly former city transportation director Gabe Klein.

And Mara, who worked his way to his Ward 1 win by walking every block in the ward, will have to adapt his strategy to a shortened campaign in the middle of winter.

"The cold doesn't bother all that much," said Mara, a Rhode Island native. "I'm better in the cold than I am in the summer."

UPDATED, 7:30 A.M.: The post has been corrected -- the April 26 ballots will in fact show each candidate's party affiliation. Thanks to Bob Summersgill (@summersgill) for pointing out the error.

By Mike DeBonis  | January 19, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The District  
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A recently elected member of the D.C. State Board of Education, Mr. Patrick Mara, is subject to the federal Hatch Act. The fact the news media does not write members of the D.C. State Board of Education, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, District and federal employees are in violation of the federal Hatch Act when they become candidates for partisan political office does not overcome this fact.

Presently, only the Mayor of the District of Columbia, members of the Council of the District of Columbia, and the D.C. Recorder of Deeds are exempt from the federal Hatch Act. The issue is not whether the Hatch Act should be applied to members of the D.C. State Board of Education members and ANC Commissioners, clearly it should not. However, the U.S. Special Counsel has determined members of the D.C. State Board of Education and ANC Commissioners are covered under the federal Hatch Act. The fact the U. S. Special Counsel has selectively withheld prosecuting violators of the Hatch should not give absolute comfort to those who openly violate the law.

The Congress, in its last session failed to pass legislation introduced by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton to change the federal Hatch Act. Accordingly, the law and opinions of the U.S. Special Counsel remain.

If Mr. Patrick Mara, a Republican, picks up petitions to run for the open Council At-Large seat, and remains on the D.C. State Board of Education, he, as are some other current candidates, is in violation of federal law. If Mr. Mara picks up his petitions at the office of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, he should remember his oath taken when he was sworn in as a member of the D.C. State Board of Education on January 2, 2011.

Robert Vinson Brannum

Posted by: robert158 | January 19, 2011 7:19 AM | Report abuse

It is sad that Mr. Mara sees his recent election to the Board of Education simply as a stepping stone to higher office less than three weeks of having been sworn in.

I think it will make people wonder and think twice about voting for him wondering if some other option becomes available how long he would stay in this office should he accidently win it.

I think Mr. Mara is making a mistake and should instead prove to the community that he can do more than run for office but rather serve in an office and do something for the constituents that elected him.

Posted by: peterdc | January 19, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Ward 1 resident and I can tell you Mr. Mara didn't "walk my block." He didn't even have signs up in my area. I wasn't sure he was running until I saw him outside Gray's Ward 1 Town Hall meeting. He seemed uncomfortable to be there. He did have a representative outside the polling precinct which I'm sure helped his victory. Not to mention the WaPo endorsement. So much for doing it "for the children." The BOE will now have 3 vacancies.

Posted by: Pearlsb4Swine1 | January 19, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

It is absolutely amazing how much disdain there is for someone who has probably shown more genuine dedication to this city than any candidate for office in recent memory.

Mr. Mara has been a notorious workhorse on the campaign trail for almost three years straight. He has consistently presented clear, concise, and realistic plans for this city, but people have never given him a chance because of the "R" word.

Although Mara's proposed policies and political views sound a lot like a Democrat, I wouldn't mind seeing someone detached from this city's Democratic Machine take office. The fact is, although he may sound like a Democrat he is not a part of the corrupt Democratic Machine that has treated this city like its own personal money pot for years.

Let's at least get one honest and fresh face out there to keep the rest of them accountable. Because right now we do not have a single one!

So I hope you all refrain from the petty attacks and engage in a discussion centered around answering the question of "Who can bring the most to the DC City Council?"

If you answer this question honesty, one guy has already set himself apart.

Posted by: RichardDC | January 19, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Patrick Mara is the epitome of a grandstanding opportunist!

He states "I'm not a member of the club; and I never will be" and "If you want to ignore our problems, vote for a candidate who is cozy with the powerful politicians and special interests who got us into this mess!"


The only reason Mr. Mara has any name recognition at all is because he was bankrolled by rich, corporate local interests when he ran against former Councilmember, and true rebel against the status quo, Carol Schwartz. Who took beaucoup bucks from the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the DC Chamber of Commerce's Political Action Committee, and Real Estate and Parking Lot Interests; none-other-than "who? sweet lil' ol' me?" Patrick Mara! And why was Mr. Mara bankrolled by super-rich special interests; because Carol Schwartz had the nerve to introduce and pass legislation that provided DC's minimum wage workers three to five sick days with pay per year. This is the foundation of his pious righteousness!

Mr. Mara is a perfect example of a slick Tea Party Republican who will lie through his teeth to your face as he panders behind your back to the very status quo he claims to abhor!

And lets not let Mr. Mara get away with his Tea Party Republican revisionism about "who got us into this mess." It was baby fenty, OLD MAN evans, Muriel "the poodle" Bowser, David "Stepford Wife Robot" Catania, and Jimmy "you don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows" Graham who spent one billion dollars in District taxpayer subsidized, financial reserves over the past four years. Thank the Lord Vince Gray, Mary Cheh, Phil Mendelson, Harry Thomas, Jr., Kwame Brown, Yvette Alexander, Michael Brown, and Marion Barry had the courage and decency to stand up for the taxpayers of the District of Columbia against the George W. Bush loving clique that ran our local government for the last four years! And let's not forget the DC Democratic State Committee, in Mr. Mara's eyes, our own local version of ACORN, UNIONS and the Communist Manifesto all rolled into one, never ever supported baby fenty and his clique!

Finally, if Mr. Mara is such a holier-than-thou budget hawk, and protector of the Public Purse, why is he running for at-large in the first place? Why is he intentionally creating the possible need for another special election and the further spending of valuable and limited financial resources? Why isn't Mr. Mara encouraging and supporting a David Hedgepeth candidacy? Where is Mr. Mara's selflessness during this period of fiscal crisis?

Patrick Mara, what a phony!

Posted by: bob_dylan_rocks | January 19, 2011 11:24 PM | Report abuse

bob_dylan_rocks wrote:

Patrick Mara is the epitome of a grandstanding opportunist!


No, Michael Brown is the epitome of a grandstanding opportunist. He changed his political affiliation because he didn't have the guts to run against an incumbent Democrat. But he regularly reminds voters, via endless robocalls, about how his dearly departed father was an important Democrat.

Posted by: dumbfatsow | January 20, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

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