Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

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This was supposed to be the year the D.C. Republican Party reclaimed a role in local politics. GOP officials had run four candidates in 2010 ward races; they lost, but helped build a ground game for Patrick Mara’s campaign in an April special election for an at-large D.C. Council seat. An unthreatening cherub-face who lives in Columbia Heights and had just won a seat on the school board, Mara campaigned with gusto, winning the Post editorial page’s endorsement as ethics scandals in the Wilson Building grew.

But it didn’t quite work out. In a crowded field, votes split in the whiter, affluent wards west of Rock Creek Park, and Vincent Orange beat Mara (by a mere 1,732 votes) with a strong showing among predominately black voters in Northeast and east of the Anacostia River. Now Republicans are left wondering what to do next, and there aren’t many options. Mara’s not running again next year, and with President Barack Obama on the ballot, it’s no surprise that local anti-gang activist/Fenty irredentist Ron Moten, in Ward 7, is the party’s highest-profile 2012 candidate.