Ronald Moten, the co-founder of Peaceoholics, will leave the Democratic Party on Friday and register as a Republican as he prepares to challenge Council member Yvette M. Alexander next year.
Moten, a lifelong Democrat and fierce supporter of former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), said he decided to become a Republican to give Ward 7 voters another choice. He becomes the first Republican to signal an intention to run for the council next year.
“I have been a conservative the whole time,” said Moten, a convicted former drug dealer who later emerged as one of the city’s chief anti-gang and violence prevention activists. “The issues I see going on in D.C., I think what I am doing is the best the decision for the city right now, and with things that need to be fixed, I think this is the way to fix them.”
Moten, 41, had previously stated his intention to run against Alexander, who is seeking a second term, in the April Democratic primary. But Moten appeared to have few paths to the nomination in a race that also includes Kevin B. Chavous, son of former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous.
It’s unclear if District Republican leaders will embrace Moten, who has become well known for some of his antics on the campaign trail, including chasing Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) through a parking garage last year in an effort to confront him about his campaign tactics.
But if he can secure the GOP nomination, Moten will be able to prolong his campaign until November, giving him a months-long platform to speak out on the issues. And in a one-on-one match against a Democrat, Moten believes, he can effectively position himself as an outsider who will reform city hall.
“We need a balance right now and part of that balance is coming from the Republican Party,” Moten said.
Moten still faces numerous obstacles, including the daunting challenge of reversing Ward 7’s strong ties to the Democratic Party.
Ward 7 is home to both Mayor Gray (D) and Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D), and it has the third-highest concentration of Democrats in the city. Out of 58, 596 registered voters in Ward 7, only 1,515 are registered Republicans, according to the Board of Elections and Ethics. No Republican has ever been elected for a Ward-based seat in the District, much less from overwhelmingly black Ward 7.
“I think it’s an uphill battle, but, because of some things I know that are going on in the community, it gives me a chance to win,” Moten said. “If I educate the people on things, they will consider me. All I want is people to have an option and another way to fix something that hasn’t been fixed in five years. “
In an interview with the Washington Post, Moten to declined to discuss his platform, saying he will unveil it Saturday when he officially kicks off his campaign with an event at Woodlawn Cemetery near Fort Dupont. He cautioned he doesn’t “agree with everything the Republican Party does” on national level.
“All politics are local,” said Moten, who produced catchy music videos in support of Fenty last year.
Moten said he hopes his candidacy will inspire other African-Americans to consider joining the GOP to fight for change locally, adding he has met several Republican civil rights leaders from Alabama.
“If people come on Saturday, they will see why I am switching and the history of the Republican Party and the African-American community, which is deep and rich,” Moten said.
So will Moten also be campaigning next year for the Republican nominee for president?
“For now, I still support Obama, but he has one year to get it right,” he said.