Jaffe: Impotent D.C. GOP needs change at the top

By |
Local,DC,Harry Jaffe

D.C. Republican Party Chairman Bob Kabel issued an email alert to rally his troops for the Nov. 6 primary.

"As you may know," he wrote, "early voting for the November 6th General Election began yesterday at One Judiciary Square."

The rest of his message was deflating, at best, and highlighted once again the impotence of the local GOP.

There are seven seats in play on the D.C. City Council. Voters can cast ballots for four ward representatives and two at-large seats. They can also vote in the special election for the council chair, to fill the void when Kwame Brown resigned.

And D.C. is electing a representative to Congress.

How many of the political offices are being contested by Republicans? That would be two: Mary Brooks Beatty is a candidate for the at-large seat; Ronald "Mo" Moten is challenging Yvette Alexander in Ward 7. Kabel reminded his faithful to vote for Nelson Rimensnyder, a candidate for the Shadow Senate seat. It's a pretend office for a pretend party.

No Republican is challenging Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The GOP minislate proves once again that the nation's capital city is a one-party town. By registration, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 10-1. There are about 350,000 registered Democrats and 30,000 Republicans.

D.C. does not have to be consigned to a Soviet-style political system. Granted, the District has been home to a large African-American population that tends to vote Democratic, and the majority of white residents have consistently been liberal. The local GOP has been a closed, country club society -- almost exclusively white and west of Rock Creek Park.

But the city is changing. New residents are moving to town. The Democratic political class is coming off as shabby and corrupt, thanks to federal investigations that have brought down two sitting council members and are still delving into Mayor Vince Gray's 2010 campaign.

Why not take this opportunity to branch out and build a true alternative to the Democrats?

Paul Craney showed it can be done. Craney served as the party's executive director from 2007 until he stepped down earlier this year. He nurtured candidates to contest Democrats in ward seats. He investigated Democratic tactics and called for official probes. Craney helped start the investigation that found that Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr. had stolen $350,000 in public funds. He developed relationships with reporters. For a brief period, it almost seemed as if D.C. had two political parties.

With Craney's departure, the GOP has lapsed back to its shrunken self. The local Republicans need a makeover, starting at the top. Bob Kabel is in his fourth two-year term. He's served well but too long. His next email should announce his resignation.

Harry Jaffe's column appears on Wednesday. He can be contacted at hjaffe@washingtonian.com.

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Harry Jaffe

Columnist
The Washington Examiner