The commencement of early voting on Monday leading to an April 23 election date will engage D.C. voters in the District’s most inclusive electoral format.
The special election to fill a D.C. Council At-Large seat allows all voters the opportunity to evaluate the candidates on a non-partisan basis in a single election, absent the filter of a primary election determining the eventual winner due to single party dominance. The nearly one-in-five “independent” voters registered without political party affiliation, prohibited from voting in the District’s “closed” primary system, can also participate equally.
One candidate stands out from the current gaggle of six competitors from three local political parties.
A leading contender among them is again expected to garner the support of a large number of LGBT voters, comprising 10 percent of District residents, eager to reward one of the community’s strongest allies with a long and exemplary history advocating for our civil rights. The only candidate who testified before the D.C. Council in favor of full marriage equality, later successfully lobbying congressional objectors to prevent legislative intervention.
This life-long registered Democrat is casting my vote for the candidate with an “R” after his name.
In the case of Patrick Mara, that letter represents “reform.”
Several opponents have attempted to “nationalize” the election and make party designation a campaign issue. D.C. residents have not been impressed. Same with the Washington Post, observing last month in a full-throated early endorsement that “indicative of Mr. Mara’s strength is the fact that the only thing his opponents seem able to attack is his affiliation as a Republican.”
A too-collegial Council has exhibited an unseemly tolerance for past and present ethical lapses, scandal and “business as usual.” Voters want windows wide letting fresh air inside the Wilson Building. An independent-minded, socially progressive and fiscally prudent candidate not among the usual clubhouse constituency is the best way to crack them open.
Mara has earned high praise from parents and education improvement advocates since his election in November 2010 to the State Board of Education representing diverse Ward 1. Mara is widely commended for his detailed citywide perspective on education issues not limited to the parochial focus of other candidates.
Improving the small business environment and encouraging entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of Mara’s campaign. He prompts hearty laughter at neighborhood forums referencing the District’s 51st rank in business friendliness among states. The former restaurant co-owner knows the obstacles confronting the main streets of commerce enlivening city neighborhoods. Mara has discovered that voters across D.C. understand that broader-based employment opportunities result from improved regulatory, tax and business growth policies that encourage a thriving local economy.
When Mara narrowly lost election to an At-Large seat two years ago, I had proffered that a vote for him “is a vote for diversity in local government and a much-needed addition of a fresh and independent voice on a dais filled with long-serving entrenched members of a single political hierarchy.” It’s as true now as it was then.
In addition to the coveted newspaper nod, Mara earned endorsements from the Sierra Club, D.C. Chamber of Commerce and D.C. Realtors Association. The latter prompted Mara to note “the cultural diversity of D.C. is at risk if we do not protect and build affordable housing. Working families, young people with burgeoning careers, artists, immigrants and a wide range of other folks should be able to claim a stake here in the District.”
Mara enjoys significant support among D.C. LGBT voters. He’s earned it with his active engagement on community issues as well as standing for sensible reform in matters affecting the entire city.
Patrick Mara merits your vote.
Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.