For D.C. Council

Thursday, October 23, 2008

IN ANY ELECTION, it's inevitable that attention is focused on the political horse race. Nonetheless, it's worrisome that the issue of who is most electable seems to be dominating the Nov. 4 contest for two at-large seats on the D.C. Council. The matter of who actually is best equipped to help lead the District in these challenging times is getting short shrift. Voters need to look past the anomalies of the race -- the presence of a quirky write-in campaign, the perceived liabilities of a particular party -- to the individuals running for this important office and consider who has the most to offer.

Incumbent Kwame R. Brown (D) deserves reelection on the basis of his solid record of performance in his freshman term. Particularly impressive was his singular determination to reopen Phelps High School as a center for career and technical education. Patrick Mara, who upset longtime incumbent Carol Schwartz in the Republican primary, is without question the best choice for the second seat, which, by virtue of the Home Rule Charter, must be filled by someone who is not a member of the majority party. That requirement prompted three candidates -- Michael A. Brown, Dee Hunter and Mark H. Long -- to conveniently shed their Democratic affiliations to run as "independents." A victory by one of them would undermine the aim of preserving a multiparty system.

The opportunism that marks the "independent" campaigns, and the lack of focus in Ms. Schwartz's long-shot write-in effort, stand in contrast to the clarity of Mr. Mara's message. His priorities are school reform, fiscal responsibility, transparency in government and better regional cooperation. A socially progressive Republican, Mr. Mara favors same-sex marriage and supports a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion. He has run a smart, disciplined campaign that speaks to the kind of energy and forward thinking he would bring to the council. He has our enthusiastic endorsement.

Four ward council seats also will be decided Nov. 4. In Ward 4, incumbent Muriel Bowser (D) is unopposed, while there is only token opposition to Ward 7 incumbent Yvette M. Alexander (D), whom we endorsed in the September primary, and to incumbent Marion Barry (D) in Ward 8, whom we did not. In Ward 2, incumbent Jack Evans (D) is being challenged by Republican Christina Erland Culver. Ms. Culver is an appealing newcomer with expertise and interest in education reform. But Mr. Evans has been, throughout his distinguished career on the council, an important leader on some of the thorniest issues facing the District. He deserves to be reelected.

Elsewhere on the ballot, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) is opposed by Maude Louise Hills, candidate of the D.C. Statehood Green Party. Ms. Norton has represented District interests in Congress since 1990, and it's a credit to her advocacy that, even without a vote, she is able to make her voice heard. We offer no endorsements for the shadow Senate or Representative seats, offices that carry no real responsibilities and that hurt the city's efforts to be taken seriously on the Hill.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company