Sweeping the Red Out of Our Region

Robert Ehrlich
Robert Ehrlich (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Slowly but surely, voters in the Washington area are purging Republicans from the ranks of local government.

After eight years of an unpopular president and five years of a war most people believe was launched under false pretenses, voters in the District, Maryland and Virginia are taking out their anger on the GOP.

The search-and-destroy mission is nearly complete. While Democrats have long held an advantage in state and local government, until recently both parties claimed their share of victories. Now, though, Democrats have a near monopoly on power in Washington and the close-in suburbs.

Consider:

· In the District, the GOP once occupied two seats on the D.C. Council, but next month that number drops to zero. That's because Carol Schwartz, a fixture of D.C. politics since the Ford years, just lost her write-in bid, a campaign necessitated by her primary loss to Patrick Mara. David Catania, elected as a Republican in 1997, remains on the council, where he is a leading advocate of health care for the poor. But he is an independent now, having switched parties in 2004 to protest President Bush's opposition to marriage equality.

· In Maryland, Rep. Connie Morella, a skillful, conscientious politician, was ousted in 2002 by an electorate that held her in high regard even at the end. The always-charming Morella voted with Democrats often, never mentioned party in her campaign literature, provided great constituent service and voted "present" rather than support Newt Gingrich's bid to remain House speaker. Still, voters showed her the door.

· Other Maryland Republicans in the Morella mold have met a similar fate in recent years, including Jean Cryor, who lost her seat in the House of Delegates, and Howard Denis and Nancy Dacek, former members of the Montgomery County Council. As a state senator, Denis once delivered an impassioned speech against a bill to make English the official language of Maryland. Cryor served on a commission that advocated an increase in funding for underperforming school systems. And many of Dacek's top supporters were Democrats. But despite middle-of-the-road credentials, all three were defeated by voters who had reelected them many times before.

· Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was popular when he ran for reelection two years ago, but he was no match for the anti-Republican tide in 2006. His running mate, Michael Steele, still calls Prince George's County home, but no one with an "R" next to his or her name stands a chance of winning office there.


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