News flash! News flash!

The D.C. Republican Committee, approximately seven-and-a-half hours before polls close, acknowledged the existence of Patrick Mara in a news release.

The release, received by LL at 12:33 p.m., simply lists the locations of the victory parties for at-large council challenger Mara and incumbent Carol Schwartz, and notes that an “official press release congratulating tonight’s winner will be sent out from the DC Republican Committee.”

It’s pretty much the first time the local Republican apparatus has played the at-large primary race straight down the middle.

In an Aug. 11 e-mail, the DCRC heralded Schwartz’s campaign fundraising, while saying the following: “In stark contrast…Schwartz’s primary opponent raised 84.5% ($42,375.00) from special interest money and/or out of District money.” That followed Schwartz winning the party’s unanimous endorsement, its refusal to circulate Mara’s ballot petitions out of their downtown office, not to mention to threats Mara endured from party leaders, according to Harry Jaffe in the Examiner.

Hmm, is the local Republican establishment finally admitting that their favored horse might not pull this race out?

D.C. GOP executive director Paul D. Craney warns not to read into the press release. “We’re supporting whoever wins tonight’s primary,” he says, “and we’re going to help them win the general election.”

Mara says relations with the party have warmed, “probably in the last few weeks.” An alternate delegate, he attended the Republican National Convention for a couple of days last week (Schwartz chose to campaign and did not attend); there, he says, he was able to speak with local GOP chair Bob Kabel, national committeeman Anthony Parker, and national committeewoman Betsy Werronen.

“It’s an amicable relationship,” he says. “We’re not enemies by any means.”