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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) --At stake is the permanent seat that once belonged to Phil Mendelson.

Mendelson moved up to replace former D.C. Council chairman Kwame Brown, who resigned and pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nine to one margin, its Republican candidate Patrick Mara who has The Washington Post endorsement and the most experience in public office.

He is a member of the State School Board and was a candidate in past elections. Some observers say Mara is a favorite along with Democrat Anita Bonds, a long time party activist and the person appointed to fill the At-Large seat pending the outcome of the special election on April 23rd.

Mara's opponents are attacking his party affiliation and support for Mitt Romney. Mara says he's a progressiveRepublicanand the local party has included same-sex marriage and full voting rights for D.C. as part of its platform.

Race is also a big factor in the contest. If a white candidate wins, the D.C. Council will have an eight to five white majority for the first time.

In a city where African Americans see their numbers declining -- with a current population of 50.7%, where it had been nearly 70% -- observers say fear of losing influence could propel big numbers of African Americans to the polls.

If that happens, Anita Bonds, the lone African American democrat, says she should benefit. The Special election is April 23rd. Early voting began Monday at the Judicial Center on 4th and Indiana Ave NW.