Early Briefing: DC's GOP Showdown

Democrats dominate politics in the District, but the race to watch in next Tuesday's primary is on the GOP side of the ballot. Veteran Carol Schwartz, the only Republican on the D.C. Council, faces an aggressive, well-funded challenge from a young former congressional staffer who says Schwartz has strayed too far from Republican principles.

Patrick Mara, a former staff member for the late Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), arguably is Schwartz's biggest primary challenger since her defeat of incumbent Jerry Moore in 1984.

Parking magnates and developers, as well as other business people, have pumped $1,000 checks into Mara's coffers. Citizens for Empowerment, a political action committee operating with $100,000 in contributions from Miller & Long Construction and the engineering firm M.C. Dean, has sent out anti-Schwartz mailings.

One glossy four-page ad criticizes her endorsement from "big labor," tax increases she has supported and her opposition to open meetings. The business community's interest in helping Mara has stirred a conspiracy theory, said Paul Craney, the party's executive director: "Is this support for Patrick Mara or is it against Carol Schwartz? Are they trying to knock off the last Republican in office?"

Schwartz said she has made enemies in the business community in recent years, particularly this year, when she pushed the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act. The bill, unanimously approved by the council, requires businesses to give paid sick days to workers. The D.C. Chamber of Commerce aggressively lobbied against the legislation. The chamber and the Greater Washington Board of Trade have endorsed Mara. Schwartz's support of the legislation, however, won her the enthusiastic endorsement of the Service Employees International Union.

Schwartz said developers have turned against her because of her proposed legislation that could significantly curb the sale of public property to private developers.

"I really think our assets are our assets. When they're gone, they're gone," she said.

By Dan Beyers  |  September 2, 2008; 9:05 AM ET
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