Thies: A Special Election in D.C.

Seven candidates are on the ballot in the April 23rd special election for At-Large D.C. Council.

But really, the choice is A or B:

A.) An old-guard operator whose roots in District politics date back to Marion Barry's first campaign.

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B.) A reform candidate who is running against the tide.

Please choose wisely. A lot depends on this election.

Who are the other five competitors on the ballot? Michael Brown, Matthew Frumin, Perry Redd, Elissa Silverman and Paul Zukerberg. Each has some good ideas, but in my opinion, none can win.

The two candidates at the front of the pack: Anita Bonds and Patrick Mara.

Bonds is anchored in the ways of the past. She offers no new ideas and little substance when pressed for specifics about issues and policy.

Mara has a reputation for being ahead of the curve. He demonstrates a deep understanding for education, environmental and economic policies.

Bonds is chair of the D.C. Democratic Party. Under her leadership, the party has failed to hold elections. The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance discovered, among other violations, more than $150,000 in unreported contrbutions to the party.

Mara is a Republican. His leadership includes fighting for education reform as an elected member of the D.C. School Board and supporting marriage equality long before his party began considering the idea.

Bonds campaigns against Mara solely based on his party. She says Republicans are bad for D.C.

Mara ignores Bonds. He appears to see beyond her partisan hyperventilating. Case in point: In 2012, Mara supported Sekou Biddle, a progressive Democrat who was trying to topple an old-guard Democrat in a heated primary.

Unfortunately, in 2012 there were two progressive, reform-minded candidates on the ballot and one old guard pol.

Reform-minded voters split between the two progressives. The old guard won.

The five also-ran candidates competing in the April 23 special election describe themselves as progressives.

Do you want to improve District government? Are you tired of scandals that take us backwards?

If you vote for anyone other than Mara, you are voting for Bonds. It is that simple. Bonds is counting on reform-minded voters to split into factions.

In 2011, the same thing happened. Mara was defeated by an old guard politician by three percentage points. Reform-minded voters were divided among several candidates.

I voted for Mara in 2011. I am going to vote for him again.

The Washington Post endorsed Mara. So have groups like the Sierra Club and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Mara has assembled quite a coalition. There is room in it for you, too.

UPDATE: James S. Bubar, special counsel for the D.C. Democratic Party, notes that the campaign finance violation involving unreported contributions "was settled without an admission of liability." The Washington Post published a letter from Bubar explaining the matter.

Chuck Thies is a political, communications and advocacy consultant. From 1998 to 2010 his portfolio included District of Columbia politics. Chuck has worked on national projects and internationally in Europe, Africa, the Middle East , China and Mexico. If you are daring, follow him on twitter @ChuckThies.

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