Republicans field 4 candidates in targeted D.C. Council race

By Tim Craig
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, March 18, 2010

District Republicans will field a full slate of candidates for the D.C. Council ward seats in this year's election but do not plan to run in the mayoral and at-large council races because they say they are generally satisfied with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's priorities and doubt their party can win citywide.

Instead of taking on Fenty (D) in a city where Democrats hold an 8 to 1 registration advantage, GOP leaders plan to run candidates in Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6. It will be the first time in memory that the party has competed in four district-based seats in the same year.

The GOP candidates, emboldened by rising party fortunes across the country, plan to challenge incumbents over taxes, education and crime while showcasing the diversity within the D.C. Republican Party.

In an unusual demographic mix for a GOP ticket locally or nationally, three of the four council candidates are black. Two of the party's African American candidates are also gay.

Republican leaders hope the diversity of the ticket will cause liberal-minded D.C. voters to give their candidates a second look, especially when the debate shifts away from national politics toward a discussion of how to improve residents' quality of life.

"I think they would see I am not like any Republican out there," said Marc Morgan, 37, a gay black Republican who plans to run in Ward 1, which includes Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. "I am extremely moderate. I am a pro-environment Republican."

Morgan, who worked for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele when Steele headed the Maryland party, will face council member Jim Graham (D) if the incumbent, who is also gay, wins the Democratic primary.

In Ward 3 in Upper Northwest, David Hedgepeth of the Van Ness area is running against incumbent Mary M. Cheh (D). Hedgepeth, who is black, is a lawyer who focuses on litigation issues.

Timothy Day, a gay African American, said he plans to be the GOP candidate in Ward 5 in Northeast. He will face incumbent Harry Thomas (D) if Thomas win his primary.

Jim DeMartino, a military consultant for the Department of the Navy, is so far the sole white candidate on the GOP ticket. DeMartino, who hopes to improve the city's business climate, is challenging council member Tommy Wells (D) in Ward 6, which centers on Capitol Hill.

"This will be the first time we have so many people running exposing the council's record," said Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee. "There are a lot of unhappy Democrats, so if there is a good candidate, I believe we can create a base constituency."

But the four candidates face long odds in trying to break the Democrats' grip on city government.

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