Patrick Mara campaign suffered ‘total collapse,’ D.C. GOP chair says

April 24, 2013

Patrick Mara’s third-place finish has already prompted D.C. GOP hand-wringing. (Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post)

About a half-hour before polls closed Tuesday, D.C. Republican Party Chairman Ron Phillips sent a tweet: “DC Republican Party went all in - all our chips are in the middle of the table - We shall see who wins!”

Four hours later it was clear Phillips had suffered a bad beat: Republican candidate Patrick Mara ended up in third place, raising the gravest concerns in years about the future of the GOP in the District.

In a nutshell: If a Republican candidate who is moderate on the issues, has significant name recognition, already holds public office and enjoys the support of numerous influential endorsers — including the city’s largest newspaper — can’t win in a low-turnout special election, what hope is there for the D.C. GOP?

Phillips acknowledged the anxiety in an e-mail to party supporters Wednesday morning, calling Tuesday “probably the worst political night of my life” and a “disaster.”

“There is just no way we can describe the total collapse of this campaign – well, at least for now,” he wrote, promising to conduct a full postmortem with key campaign players and a precinct-by-precinct analysis of the returns to “learn from this disappointment.”

Phillips was ready with one diagnosis: Intraparty fractiousness, particularly as it pertained to the independent D.C. Action Fund, chaired by a former party executive director, that raised at least $36,000 to support Mara and attack his opponents.

“Their efforts worked against the D.C. Republican Party and also sought to take money away from the DC GOP,” Phillips wrote. “It is bad enough to fight the Democrats in this past election – but, to fight fellow Republicans is ridiculous.”

He closed with a pledge: “We will be back on the battlefield again very soon in 2014 — I promise you that. We will not quit. We will not surrender. We shall fight another day.”

The e-mail in full:

Dear DC Republican Party Members

Last night was probably the worst political night of my life. This even tops my own personal loss of a State House Republican Primary in Florida back in 1996 – at least I knew I was going to lose in that run. There is just no way we can describe the total collapse of this campaign – well, at least for now.

It will take several days – perhaps weeks – to get all the numbers in from the DC Board of Elections on Voter Turnout in each precinct. We will gather all this information and present a report back to you on “what happened’ by our May 30 DCRP General Membership Meeting.

I will also be conducting a post campaign interview with Patrick Mara, Jill Homan and Dan Hoicowitz to get their take on the campaign and the lack of results we saw last night.

Also, I will be meeting with many of you personally to get your impressions on what went wrong. I welcome anyone to contact me to give your thoughts as I try to understand this disaster.

My goal is to have a complete report on this race and find out what could have done better and what we need to do to get our DC Republican Base Vote to participate. We must learn from this disappointment. We must do things differently from this day forward in how we run Republican Candidates for office in DC.

I know that I was personally disappointed in the actions of the independent PAC called “DC Action Fund” and the members of our own DC Republican Party who started this organization. Their efforts worked against the DC Republican Party and also sought to take money away from the DC GOP. It is bad enough to fight the Democrats in this past election – but, to fight fellow Republicans is ridiculous. In the future we should stand up against groups who seek to hurt the DC Republican Party – and we will.

But, that PAC was not the only reason why we lost. We have to look at our message, our internal cooperation between campaigns and the DC Republican Party and the way we structure our campaign efforts with our candidates. We have problems and we must strive to fix them.

There will be no one solution – no one answer to all these questions and concerns.

All I can tell you is that we raised a good deal of money – even under adverse conditions – and we put forth the best effort possible that a State Republican Party could offer to it’s Candidate.

As your Chairman, I will work hard to find out how we can learn and improve our Party efforts from this terrible loss. We will be back on the battlefield again very soon in 2014 – I promise you that. We will not quit. We will not surrender. We shall fight another day.

I look forward to talking with you in days ahead and please make sure to attend the THURSDAY, MAY 30, DCRP General Membership Meeting at the Capitol Hill Club.

Thank you all for all that you did to support Patrick Mara and the DC Republican Party.

Warm Republican Regards,
Ron

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis | April 24, 2013