Neither frail nor fragile, Ms. Davidson was slightly passed middle-age, spoke the Queen's English and drank her corn liquor from a demitasse. Mr. Johnny, who had a deformed arm, was just the opposite; He often fractured sentences. June Johnson, who had seen too much brutality at a young age, exhibited the best and worst of both.

I met the trio during my sojourn through Mississippi during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were part of the army of seemingly ordinary citizens, using their personal resources and courage to grow America's democracy. Davidson ignored death threats to open her home to Freedom Riders. Mr. Johnny and June, active in untold number of protests, withstood verbal and physical assaults during various stages of the Southern civil rights movement.

The lessons they and others taught me about honor, courage and civic responsibility became indestructible cornerstones of my adult life.

I think of them each Election Day -- whether regular or special, as Tuesday, April 23, is in the District. Their sacrifices accorded tens of thousands of Americans the right to vote, to select their leaders and shape their government. Not voting dishonors them and other people who cared so much about America they were willing to die to make her better.

They also taught me that good, honest leadership wasn't defined by race, gender or class, but unwavering integrity and ethics. That philosophy has prompted my endorsement of Patrick Mara to fill the at-large seat on the D.C. Council. There are six others vying to join the legislature. He is the best.

Unsurprisingly, much as been made of his membership in the Republican Party. His opponents have sought to taint his reputation and years of service to the city. They have tried to connect him to controversial comments and actions of other Republicans -- as if the Democratic Party is unblemished and doesn't contain its own fringe element.

Elissa Silverman blasted him last week because some Mara supporters, independent of his campaign, made telephone calls to Democratic voters in the city highlighting her liberal record. Over the past three months, she seems to have tried to run from her documented tax and spend philosophy and advocacy.

Her whining was amusing. After all, even before the campaign began, Silverman challenged nominating petitions filed by two of the candidates. She successfully pushed one out of the race.

Someone should remind Silverman and other Democratic opponents of that adage about the goose and the gander.

Despite a barrage of negativity directed his way, Mara has run a positive campaign. He has focused on issues and what he would bring to a legislature dominated by one political voice. That Democratic hegemony has resulted in myopia, scandals, wasteful spending and failed public policies. Residents need only to look at public education as proof the council as currently configured has lacked commitment to what matters most to them.

Mara would bring a sorely needed different voice, passion, imagination and vision. Ignore the cacophony of his opponents. He deserves your vote.

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