A Blitz to Heighten GOP's Profile

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 24, 2007

When Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) moves, the D.C. Republican Committee now has something to say about it.

Taxes. Homeland security. Campaign finance. Since April, the party has been dissecting Fenty's stances and comments in news reports and issuing its opinion.

Long a dim voice in a Democratic-dominated city, the local GOP is trying to step up its profile through frequent news releases and aggressive recruiting, said Robert J. Kabel, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee.

For example, the committee put out a news release April 25 with the heading "D.C. Republican Committee Calls on Fenty to Rebuke Democrat Campaign" after a Washington Post article showed that Muriel Bowser, a Democrat endorsed by Fenty, used businesses outside the city to print her campaign materials. At the time, only 25 percent of the money spent on materials had been spent at Ward 4 businesses. Another article showed that off-duty firefighters had driven a truck to promote her candidacy. Bowser won the May 1 special election.

"Mayor Fenty claims to have run a campaign based on fiscal discipline and reinvesting in our community. Today, we call upon Mayor Fenty to challenge Muriel Bowser and make a public statement rebuking Bowser's campaign for not patronizing local business and using off duty fire men for campaign purposes," Kabel said in the release.

Kabel credited the blitz to Paul D. Craney, the local party's new executive director, but he said the party's momentum has been building since last year's elections.

Tony Williams, the vice chairman of the party, who is heavily quoted in the news releases, ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Tommy Wells for the Ward 6 D.C. Council seat in November.

But Williams, the 26-year-old son of national political pundit Juan Williams, garnered about 11 percent of the vote and gained financial support from the national party, which generally stays out of the District fray. About 8 percent of registered voters in the District are Republicans -- a number that has held steady since edging up from 7 percent in 2004.

"The demographics of the city are changing. The demographics of the party are changing," Kabel said.

Williams focused on tax issues during his campaign. He said rising assessments and taxes touch every resident.

"I can't tell you the number of people who are having to move," he said. "I have friends. They're living in a home their parents bought for $30,000. The District says it's worth $1 million."

Grass-roots issues such as taxes and constituent services have allowed the Republicans to be more successful as advisory neighborhood commissioners.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company