Pro-gay Republican Patrick Mara, who won election last year to the D.C. school board from Ward 1, announced Wednesday he is entering the race for the at-large City Council seat up for grabs in a special election set for April 26.
Mara is among at least 17 candidates running for the seat, which became vacant Jan. 2 when Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) was sworn in as the new City Council Chair.
The special election is open to candidates of all parties as well as independents who obtain 3,000 valid petition signatures from registered D.C. voters.
Many of the city’s LGBT activists have already lined up behind former Ward 4 school board member Sekou Biddle, a Democrat who won an interim appointment to fill the Council seat by the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which approved the interim appointment earlier this month.
Some political observers believe the interim appointment gives Biddle, a strong supporter of LGBT rights, the advantage of incumbency. But other observers note that less than 10 percent of the city’s registered voters usually turn out for special elections, making it possible for a lesser known candidate like Mara to win, especially in a race with as many as 17 candidates.
Another lesser-known candidate vying for an upset win is 26-year-old Joshua Lopez, who served as a political adviser to former Mayor Adrian Fenty and organized a Fenty write-in campaign after Fenty lost the Democratic primary last September to City Council Chair Vincent Gray. Gray won election as mayor in November and took office Jan. 2.
Gray has so far remained officially neutral in the special Council election, but some of his key political operatives are backing Biddle.
Among the other candidates considered viable in the race is Vincent Orange (D), the former Ward 5 Council member. Others running for the seat are Leo Alexander (D), an unsuccessful mayoral candidate last year; Arkan Haile (I), an attorney and political newcomer; Jacque Patterson (D), a Ward 8 political activist; and Kelvin Robinson (D), an unsuccessful candidate last year for the Ward 6 Council seat held by incumbent Tommy Wells (D).
The Blade will provide information on all of the candidates and their positions on LGBT issues in the coming weeks. The final number of candidates to be placed on the ballot won’t be determined until late February, when the election board confirms which ones have obtained the required number of petition signatures.