City Desk

Schwartz and Mara Get Catty

Minutes before Carol Schwartz and Patrick Mara kicked off their debate this afternoon on Newschannel 8's NewsTalk program, Schwartz walked into the studio and introduced herself to a pair of Mara supporters who were accompanying their candidate.

After the introductions, one of them pointed to Mara and joked, "He's bad news."

"I know," replied Schwartz, not joking at all. "I don't talk to people who put the things that he's put out about me."

"It's all based on the record," said Mara.

And thus kicked off approximately 15 minutes of what could more accurately called "bickering" than "debating." On stage before the debate began, the two continued arguing over the veracity of Mara's anti-Schwartz claims, and the civility level did not improve much when the cameras went live. In general, a lot of time was spent on finger-pointing (literally) and interrupting, making it by far the most entertaining debate of the 2008 local election cycle.

Some highlights:

  • Schwartz talked up her fiscal-reponsibility cred by mentioning the twice-yearly tax-free holidays she's sponsored. Mara jumped in: "You can't be a Republican for 19 days, Mrs. Schwartz." Snap.
  • Mara pressed Schwartz on her votes for budget increases in recent years: "You are remarkably similar to Mayor Barry, who you took on in the ’90s," he said. But Schwartz zinged him with a comeback: "Excuse me, you're always talking about some people you revere"—Mara has expressed admiration for David Catania in particular—"and they all voted for those budgets, too."
  • Mara went on the attack regarding the $20 million-plus budget shortfall in the summer jobs program, calling Schwartz "directly responsible" and accusing her of "not exercising proper oversight." It was a bit of a stretch, especially if you believe the mayor's claims that even he didn't know the extent of the problem, but Schwartz got a little too frustrated to parry effectively.
  • Mara also tried to bulldog Schwartz on another oversight boondoggle: the lead-water crisis of 2004, which he said Schwartz was "very slow to react to." In a slip, Mara seemed to say Schwartz had "put the lead in the water." Schwartz used an interesting term in response, saying she "honchoed" the effort to fix the problem.
  • Host Bruce DePuyt brought up the fundraising issue; to wit, the loads of downtown money Mara's collected. Schwartz pressed with specific numbers on the amounts of non-Republican and out-of-town money Mara's collected, with the disclaimer, "I received that from elsewhere. I don't know my own." Mara was ready for that one, citing similar numbers from Schwartz's 2004 bid. [UPDATE, 8/23: After reviewing the tape, LL is not quite sure the numbers are "similar." By Schwartz's figures, Mara in 2008 collected 85 percent of his cash from out-of-towners and "special interests," whatever that means. By Mara's figures, Schwartz in 2004 collected half her money from registered Democrats and 20 percent from "special interests."]
  • DePuyt also brought up the big-picture question: Isn't Schwartz the only electable Republican in this town? Mara said he was quite electable indeed, boasting "one of the best get-out-the-vote infrastructures in the city." Umm, if you say so, Patrick.

The verdict: Mara kept on the attack throughout, which was smart, seeing as Schwartz spent most of the debate in a defensive posture, which does not become her. In the end, Mara probably came closer to accomplishing his goals—attacking the Schwartz record, showing his GOP bona fides—than Schwartz did to hers—playing up her experience and record.

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  • DC Resident

    I thought Mara came across as a person who really wants the job, but not quite ready for it. His answer to what he had done in the community: mentor 3 children, although admirable, does not show a committmant to bettering the city and community. Also, the lead issue, the summer jobs issue - it doesn't appear that he really understands the job of a councilmember. These issues, particularly the summer job program are particularly the result of the Executive-level.

    Carol, although mostly on the defensive, played defense very well. I actually was surprised.

  • Keith Jarrell

    What is it, Mara the latest to start smoking crack?
    Clearly playing dirty politics is the name of the game here. In reality, Carol Schwartz is and will continue to be one of our brightest and best. She is considerate and offers a keen eye for fraud, misjudgement and rampant over spending. This city needs her leadership and she must be re-elected. During this stressful time for the residents of the District of Columbia good honest representation is not easy to find. Especially with the party jumpers and those that haven't held down a real job in years.
    Carol Schwartz is the kind of gate keeper that we need more of. It is just a shame that the Republican Party in DC is so weak and useless, other wise they would be out in force fighting for her re-election. Many Decomcratic voters I know fully support Schwarts because is is honest and brings balance to the sometime lackluster group.
    She's a keeper! I encourage everyone to vote for Carol and continue her outstanding service.

    Keith Jarrell

  • Reid

    I'm confused why this was televised. Couldn't the nine Republicans in town come over to the tenth's house and do this over tea?

    I agree with DC Resident, Mara seems like an overall decent fellow, but I'm not sure he knows this city well enough for the job. When you look at him do you think "yeah that guy is absolutely going to be living in the District in five years"?

    I get the sense that he's a Hill staffer who decided to start a political career, and since he happens to live in the District and is a Republican, there's only one job he can go for. But the problem is that the national party perspective the you develop on the Hill is utterly useless to governing DC.

    My guess is that if he were to win, he would get steamrolled by the other council-members and be pretty much at the beck and call of the Federal City Council.

  • Mike DeBonis

    First graf of Reid's post: Comment of the year.

  • DC Republican

    As an actual unaffiliated Republican voter -- it's pretty obvious the first few comments must be from friends or supporters of Schwartz -- I can tell you the choice between Mara and Schwartz is a very tough one. I've probably gotten about five or six mailings thus far, and while I'm leaning one direction I know several other Republicans who still haven't made up their minds. It's simple: This is an interesting election because DC Republican voters have a tough decision to make for the first time in decades. That's a good thing for our party.

    On one hand, Scwhartz brings a lot of institutional memory to the job. She's been around for a long time, and she knows how the system works. That's a very big deal -- Ms. Schwartz can, indeed, deliver on her big projects from time to time -- and we have to understand Mara would need on-the-job training.

    But for those of us who actually believe in Republican ideology, Schwartz simply isn't strong on the issues. For instance, she is a huge ally of labor unions, opposes school vouchers, isn't supporting McCain (at least it doesn't appear that way), and has gone along with the Council as spending has gone up significantly in the last five or six years. On the other hand, Mara seems legitimately dedicated to promoting conservative ideology on the Council, and that's what I think I want in one of only two seats on the Council reserved for non-Democrats.

    And Mr. Jarrell and Reid: you're obviously Democrats. We'll handle our GOP primary ourselves, thanks.

  • Reid

    DC Republican: Actually, I'm not a Democrat. I'm a registered independent. I don't believe average citizens should join political parties. It's lead them to say things like "for those of us who actually believe in Republican ideology."(as if national party ideology had anything but a miniscule applicability to the operation of municipal governments). Besides, I think the DC primaries should be abolished in favor of an open general election with preferential voting and instant runoffs. A position, by the way, that would actually help DC Republicans since they'd actually have input into more than one elected official.

    For what it's worth the only DC council member I've ever given money to was Catania, who last time I checked was not a Democrat.

  • http://food Lin

    The review seemed to confuse the Kojo interview with newschannel 8. It was Kojo who asked the question about electibiility in the general election. I question Mara's statement he is campaigning "in every ward of the city" since he has previously stated he is targeting Republicans--which makes sense.

    I don't see much difference between him and Mrs. Schwartz in the sense of what my husband and I feel are core values. He is support of gay marriage--schwartz supports civil unions; They are both suppporting the increased use of surveillance cameras, though Schwartz wants some regulations; I don't know where either of them stand on the use of local funds for abortion. I have been to two forums that Mr. Mara did not come to on other local issues (Ms. Scwartz was not at one either) so on issues that impact day to day life I really don't know what Mr. Mara stands for. From the mailings from the PAC all I see are attacks with no solutions.

    So we are going into a primary with an unknown that does not appear to understand the Council's role and at least from the Kojo show yesterday seems to think he would get a committee right away to a known that is fiscal conservative but social liberal. I think we have enough mean spritited actions on the Council with the former republican Catania.

    So what is one to do. It would have been good if the bid had found someone with a citywide reputation and connection, my friend's father is an African American, life long DC resident and Republican who I would have voted for in a minute.

  • What

    Time to go Carol Schwartz, maybe the chickens have come home to roost. GOOD BYE, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DIE ON THE COUNCIL, IT IS NOT YOUR SEAT FOREVER, DAMN.

  • Bea

    Has anyone ever paid close attention to Carol Schwartz when she speaks? There is no substance there. She's like a dumbed-down, more masculine version of Barack Obama. We need someone who's a thinker, and by that I mean someone who thinks there is more to being a councilmember than showing up for the free food. We also need someone with better jewelry.

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