Two years after upending veteran At-Large D.C. Council Member Carol Schwartz in a low-turnout Republican primary, Patrick Mara is ready to start knocking on the doors of District voters again.

Mara is charting an electoral course that is the polar opposite of Carol Schwartz.  Schwartz served two terms on the school board representing Ward Three before running city-wide and toppling another veteran incumbent in 1984's Republican primary. After denying "Carol" - as she loves to be known to voters - her renomination, Mara came up short in the at-large Council general election. This election, he's setting his sights closer to home.  

On June 11, Mara was the first to declare his candidacy for Ward One's seat on the District's State Board of Education, the formal name for D.C.'s school board.  

(WaPo's Mike DeBonis tells this blogger via email that he's heard no other potential challenger soundings yet. Even before Ward One's incumbent school board member Dotti Love Wade picked up petitions for November’s ballot, she formally signing onto Ward One D.C. Council Member Jim Graham's (D) re-election bid in the role of "Campaign Chairperson," which indicated to some observers that she intended to stay put.)

Mara promises another tireless "classic Fenty-style campaign," as DeBonis, then-Loose Lips columnist, dubbed his 2008 at-large Council race. Mara promises the same sort of "massive door-to-door campaign" as he waged two years ago, but instead of (per "Loose Lips"-era DeBonis) "knocking on thousands of Republican doors" across the District, Mara intends to visit every Ward One voter household, a few times if he can reach them.

There’s more to winning over skeptical voters in a school board bid, of course, than vigorous campaigning.  

First off, there will inevitably be Ward One residents turned off because he doesn’t hide that he’s a Republican.

For the most informed of likely voters in D.C. school board elections, there are facts in his bio may raise more eyebrows than his Republican tag. Pat Mara is white and single. He doesn’t have any kids enrolled in D.C. public schools, and he’s a more recent arrival to Ward One than most of the ward’s public school parents, the bulk of whom are black or Hispanic long time residents.

With a background that might breed skeptics, this LOZ contributor asked Mara how he would to try convince Ward One voters, and public school parents, to choose him for their voice on the Board of Education.

Mara doesn't blink when asked how he'll counter skeptical voters in a ward where registered Republicans comprise a mere 5% the electorate. "Education is not about partisanship," he insists. And that's where he unapologetically waxes "long winded" (his term) delving into the hoary details of DCPS  policy.  

Exasperated by the vague generalities offered up by his opponents during the 28 candidate forums he was subjected to in his at-large race, Mara vows a campaign promising "fact based education reform."  

Every Ward One voter he meets will be treated to his education policy wonk spiel, a tactic Mara hopes assures voters that he's done his homework and is ready represent all of Ward One on the Board of Education, even if he once appeared on the ballot with an “R” next to his name.

It’s not uncommon for D.C. Democrats to submit to a brief bout of self-induced amnesia when it comes to school board races. For the non-partisan position, registered Republicans and D.C. Statehood Greens have made strong school board bids over the years. Other points in a candidate’s pedigree can trump partisanship when it comes to voter concerns about candidates’ qualifications for school board.

Since becoming a Columbia Heights homeowner, Mara tells LOZ that he become actively involved in his community. His campaign team reflects that. Mara’s campaign treasurer is Don Parker, who also serves as treasurer for the Columbia Heights Day Initiative, the group that runs the neighborhood-celebrating Columbia Heights Day. (Mara serves on the Initiative's board.)

Mara has been involved in mentoring public school students and boasts of one who has become a key member of his “kitchen cabinet,” a young Hispanic man who grew up in Columbia Heights named Eric Lovos. Lovos’ success story leads from D.C. public schools through a college education at NoVA’s George Mason University to becoming an assistant branch manager at a District bank. Mara forged a close relationship with Lovos and looks to him as an advisor for how to connect with Ward One’s diverse constituents, and those public school parents in particular.

When Mara knocked on doors in all eight wards in his 2008 at-large D.C. Council bid, he found the “greatest unifer” among voters across the District was worry about the state D.C. public schools. Voters who have kids enrolled in D.C. public schools were not the only voices of concern. Retirees and unmarried voters, too, cited a quality public school system as critical the overall health of the District. Many voters Mara talked to mentioned the struggling state of D.C. schools when they admitted that they might move out of D.C.  

Mara says that "we need to look at...DC public schools as jobs creators." An education system that prepares future generations of District students for good jobs in a growing economy is the key to school reform that will improve quality of life, keeping residents from fleeing the District.

One point over which Mara is standing his ground: the tenure of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michele Rhee. Polls indicate that Rhee is particularly unpopular among public school parents. Mara doesn’t share those parents’ disapproval. He is firmly behind the chancellor and her reform agenda. Mara’s answer to Rhee skeptics? Rhee as chancellor offers accountability for the entire public school system centralized in one office, and Mara thinks that crucial for any plan to improve D.C. public schools.

Even if Mara can quash qualms about his qualifications by stressing his community involvement and his immersion in the thorny details of education policy, it might be Mara’s unabashed support for Michelle Rhee may stand in the way of a seat on the school board. This may weigh heavier on him than having Republican registration and not having kids in DC public schools.