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Cautious optimism at the Patrick Mara party at Columbia Heights’ the Coupe has soured into maybe-next-year, as the election returns turned against the GOP candidate even before his 20-something campaign volunteers could get Board of Election results on the TV.

On hand for the switch: former Phil Mendelson campaign volunteer Nicole Whiteman, who ditched Democratic candidates in today’s election for Mara. “You can’t vote party line all the time,” says Whiteman.

Also around: Slate politics blogger (and past Washington City Paper contributorDave Weigel, a frequent Mara voter who knows a few things about returns. Weigel wasn’t optimistic about Mara’s chances, either, as the vote totals added up.

If Mara, whose primary challenge against Councilmember Carol Schwartz arguably lost the party its last seat on the Council in 2008, can’t win it back, it’s not clear at this party who can. Former Ward 7 Republican candidate and self-proclaimed Civil Rights Republican Ron Moten is here, but when I asked partygoers who other Republican rising stars in District politics were, they came up blank. Longtime D.C. Republican Joe King didn’t know either, but in fairness to the GOP’s young guns, he was glued to the Nats game. (They lost, too.)

King caught up with me minutes later with his answer. The politician who will solve the Republicans’ Council problem? Bryce Harper.

Photo by Will Sommer