There was a moment toward the end of last Thursday’s Ward 7 Republican holiday party where D.C. Council candidate Ronald Moten called for a group picture.
They all stood up: The few, graying folks who used to be the only ones to call themselves Ward 7 Republicans. The visiting city Republicans almost certainly setting foot inside the Benning Road Denny’s for the first time. Moten’s friends, family and retinue. And the members of gay teen gang “Check It.”
This was not the party of Abraham Lincoln or Frederick Douglass. This was most definitely the party of Ron Moten.
Note that Moten actually has competition in the GOP primary — a first for Ward 7 in anyone’s memory. (Don Folden Sr., who has previously run for office as both a Republican and Democrat, and Maxine Nightingale, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who is not, in fact, the 1970s singer who sang that one song from “Slap Shot,” have both picked up petitions.) But it was Moten who dominated Denny’s on Thursday night, giving a bombastic speech as folks enjoyed their hamburgers, fish and scrambled eggs.
”Don’t vote for a donkey or an elephant,” he said. “Vote for the people.”
The packed house was a far cry from a decade ago, when one Republican D.C. Council candidate had a Ward 7 fundraiser “and seven people showed up,” said Bob Richards, 68, the ward party chair.
“What I’m seeing is a change of generations,” he added. “Ron Moten is changing the Republican party in Ward 7. ... A candidate like Ron Moten allows us to build.”
That said, Moten asked the Democrats to put up their hands, and most people in the room put their hands up. But at least a handful said later they had or were planning to change their party registrations in order to vote for Moten on April 3, including 25-year-old Hajah Kallay, who said Moten helped her overcome her GOP aversion. “I had a bad image of the Republican party,” she said. “I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I just didn’t.”
Nelson Rimensnyder, a Ward 6 resident and historian who is mounting a run for shadow senator, put the confab in the proper historical perspective for the 147-year-old D.C. GOP.
“D.C. Republicans haven’t had anything like this is in 100 years,” he said.