Democrat A.J. Cooper dropped out of the special election for a D.C. Council seat Wednesday and endorsed fellow Democrat Elissa Silverman. 

With more than a dozen Democrats in the race, Cooper said he decided to abandon to bid to try to prevent Republican Patrick Mara from taking advantage of a split Democratic vote in the April 23 election.

“I was looking at how many different Democrats there were, and me being in this race increases the odds of an unfavorable outcome for our city,” said Cooper, the nephew of philanthropist and former school board member Peggy Cooper Cafritz. “D.C. doesn’t want Mara in there. D.C. doesn’t need Mara in there. I think Elissa is a far, far better candidate than Patrick Mara.”

Last year, Cooper ran an energetic campaign against former council member Michael A. Brown. Cooper, who ran as independent in that race, finished fourth behind council member David Grosso (I), Brown and Republican Mary Brooks Beatty.

Last month, Cooper became a Democrat to try to win the special election for the seat left vacant by council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s (D) election in November. 

Cooper, who had hoped to build a winning coalition that included newer residents, younger voters and support from his home base in Ward 4,  said he’s supporting Silverman because “she’s awesome.”

Silverman is a former reporter for the Washington City Paper and The Washington Post.  In recent years, she’s worked for the liberal Fiscal Policy Institute. 

“Her work at the Fiscal Policy Institute is where I got all my ammunition and arguments for how we close the income disparity in our city,” said Cooper, who works for the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “She was the only one I could seriously consider.”

Even without Cooper in the race, Silverman will face a crowded Democratic field, including Brown, interim council member Anita Bonds, Ward 3 activist Matthew Frumin and businessman John Settles.  Mara is the only Republican in the race.

In an interview, Mara said Cooper’s decision underscores that he may be the front-runner in the race.  

“It shows the momentum of my campaign if people are now dropping out because of me,” Mara said. “People understand, yes, I am fiscally responsible and I carry the R label, but I’m also socially progressive and will do what is in the best interest of the District of Columbia no matter what.”