The D.C. Republican Committee in a vote Thursday night selected Ron Phillips, owner of a local public relations firm, to be the new chairman of the city party.
In a statement, Phillips said he hopes to grow the local Republican Party into one that can be “a national standard bearer for a new type of urban conservative governance.”
“With our success, we’ll set an example of how urban communities can be organized to grow the ranks of the Republican Party,” Phillips said.
Phillips takes over a party that has been struggling to maintain its voice in District government and elections.
Despite the city’s shifting demographics, including more white residents, the number of registered Republicans in the District has declined slightly over the past years.
As of last fall, registration statistics showed just 6.45 percent of voters were registered Republicans, compared to 7 percent who identified with the GOP in November 2008.
GOP national candidates have also struggled to win over the city’s growing bloc of voters who do not affiliate with either party, currently about 18 percent of all registered voters. In the November election, GOP presidential Mitt Romney received only 7 percent of the vote, compared to President Obama’s 91 percent showing.
After former GOP council member Carol Schwartz was defeated in the 2008 Republican primary, there has also not been a Republican on the 13-member D.C. Council. And in the 2010 mayoral election, the GOP didn’t even field a candidate.
But Phillips is taking over the GOP just as the party is being presented with what could be its best opportunity in years to secure a seat on the council.
School board member Patrick Mara, a Republican, has filed to run in the April special election for the at-large seat left vacant after Phil Mendelson (D) was elected chairman last year.
Mara, who is fairly well-known citywide, could be competing against at least a dozen other Democratic candidates. The crowded field could give Mara, who received considerable support from Democrats and independents in past races, a big advantage if GOP turnout is high.
Phillips is president and chief executive officer of Republic Consultants, a public relations and business development firm heavily focused on federal and state contracting.
He also has extensive experience working on Capitol Hill, including serving as a senior policy advisor to the House Armed Services Committee from 2003 to 2005 and as a senior research analyst for former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) from 1989 to 2005.
In one of his first acts as chairman, Phillips named Robert Turner II as the new executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, which was first reported by the Washington Blade.
Turner, who is African-American, currently serves as president of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans. The group, which holds considerable sway in the local party, is made up of gay Republicans.
“As executive director, I intend to work alongside the Chairman to create a larger and more inclusive Republican Party,” Turner said. “It’s time for a change of leadership in the Wilson building, and it’s our party’s responsibility to provide voters with an alternative.”
With Turner’s selection, District Republicans are cementing their reputation as one of the most gay-friendly local GOP committees in the nation.