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Posted at 01:19 PM ET, 03/24/2010

Thune: Republicans can win in local D.C. races

If District Republicans work hard enough, the overwhelmingly Democratic capital city can be just like Massachusetts.

That was message U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) delivered Tuesday night at the D.C. Republican Committee's annual Lincoln-Douglass Dinner.

Noting the GOP is fielding a record four candidates for council seats this year, Thune urged about 200 guests to work hard this year to make inroads in the District.

"That's where it starts, that is how it starts," Thune said of the council races. "It starts growing and it builds and it builds and pretty soon you are winning Senate seats in Massachusetts."

Thune was referring to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's (R) surprise victory this year in the special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy (D) in heavily Democratic Massachusetts. But the Bay State has a fairly long record of electing GOP candidates statewide. The District, which has only elected three GOP candidates to office in the past 35 years, does not.

A rising star within the national Republican Party, Thune avoided discussion of divisive social issues during his speech to District Republicans, many of whom are fairly liberal on such topics of abortion and same-sex marriage. He instead sought to recast the GOP around former President Reagan's principles of low taxes and limited spending - the same message the local GOP is hoping to use against District Democrats this year.

But the highlight of the annual GOP dinner is the silent auction.

This year, guests got a chance to bid on a private lunches with David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, Mary Katharine Ham, a FOX News contributor, or Grover Norquist, president of the Americans for Tax Reform.

As of 9:30 p.m. - when the Washington Post bailed from the event -Norquist was fetching $215; Ham $225 and the bidding on Frum was up to $230.

There was also bidding on car washes, golf outings, and a one-week vacation at a resort in San Miquel de Allende, Mexico and weekend stays at vacation houses in Rehoboth Beach or Annapolis.

But it seems Republicans, at least in the District, have moved beyond the divisive partisan battles surrounding President Clinton in the 1990s.

The local party was also auctioning a ticket to Clinton's impeachment U.S. Senate trial in 1999. The minimum bid was set at $250, but there were no bidders as of 9:30 p.m.

--Tim Craig

By  |  01:19 PM ET, 03/24/2010

Categories:  Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig

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