Barras: Mary Beatty: Is she Sisyphus' sister?

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Local,DC,Jonetta Rose Barras

"I want to empower citizens, listen to citizens and serve citizens," Republican Mary Beatty told me recently as we talked about her chances of winning an at-large D.C. Council seat in the Nov. 6 general election. "I don't think we're getting the government we deserve. I think it can be reformed.

"It's a long-term project," continued Beatty, adding the current council doesn't "work well" together as a body and there isn't a sufficient amount of transparency.

Few District residents would disagree. But will they mark their ballots for Beatty?

"We need fresh blood -- someone who is not concerned about his own self-interest," said the former six-term, Ward 6 advisory neighborhood commissioner, who has engaged in aggressive retail politics, knocking on doors throughout the city, including east of the Anacostia River, where registered Republicans are the proverbial drop in a bucket.

"Despite being a Republican, I have been well-received. Most voters have identified with me personally," said Beatty, asserting she has "never been a member of the [Republican National Committee]" and "don't align myself with the national party platform."

Still, here's the reality: As of Sept. 30, 2012, there were 354,658 registered Democrats; 81,595 nonparty registrants or independents; and only 30,483 Republicans. With a tight presidential race, Democrats are expected to show up at the polls in droves.

Beatty has a steep -- if not impossible -- climb to victory.

Her 20-year public policy and management experience would be a valuable asset in the legislature. Moreover, the council desperately needs a strong independent or conservative voice. It and the city have suffered under a one-party system, where elected Democrats have declined to challenge each other or the status quo, instigating the current crisis in government.

Beatty has campaigned hard against other challengers -- Statehood Green Party Ann Wilcox and independents A. J. Cooper, Leon Swain and David Grosso -- hoping to unseat either incumbent Michael A. Brown or Vincent B. Orange Sr.

She has described herself as a moderate, particularly on social issues. She has made clear that "government has a responsibility to protect its most vulnerable residents" and advocated for a comprehensive examination of the "root cause" for the lack of affordable housing. She has supported education choice but argued "every neighborhood should have a [traditional] school as good as a charter."

Beatty has argued for greater regulatory reform -- not just to benefit businesses but also to improve the quality of life for residents. She also has asserted the need for contracting reform, including getting council members out of the approval process, which, she said, helps create a "pay to play culture." She recently called for Brown's resignation, citing alleged violations of District laws, as identified by the Office of Campaign Finance.

Given the odds against her, what's Beatty's strategy for winning: "I'm going to keep getting my message out: I'm not an ambitious politician; I live by my principles; and I'm dedicated to serving the city."

Will that be enough to inspire a bunch of Democrats to cross party lines?

Jonetta Rose Barras can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.

Jonetta Rose Barras' column appears on Tuesday and Friday. She can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.

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