Republicans add provide choices on the Nov. 2 D.C. ballot

Monday, October 11, 2010

RESIDENTS OF the District know better than anyone the indignity of being denied choice in government. It's important, then, that voters not give short shrift to next month's general election. There are still significant offices to be decided, and the local Republican Party, for the first time in recent memory, is competing with an interesting slate of candidates.

We are not yet prepared to endorse individual candidates. But it's important to call attention to the fact that, as critical as the September party primaries were in this Democratic-dominated city, voters do themselves and the District a disservice by not weighing all the alternatives available to them on Nov. 2. Single-party rule is never healthy, and GOP officials deserve credit for this year's imaginative efforts to build a stronger party.

While not fielding candidates for the citywide races of mayor, D.C. Council chairman or at-large council seats, the local GOP recruited candidates to run in all four city wards on this year's ballot. The group -- Marc Morgan in Ward 1, David Hedgepeth in Ward 3, Timothy Day in Ward 5 and Jim DeMartino in Ward 6 -- present themselves as urban Republicans: conservative on fiscal issues and progressive on social issues such as gay rights. Education is an important theme with the candidates, who are supportive of the reforms undertaken by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and strong on issues of choice, such as the need for charter schools and the federally funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. As The Post's Tim Craig pointed out, the group also presents an unusual demographic mix for a GOP ticket. Three candidates (Mr. Morgan, Mr. Hedgepeth and Mr. Day) are African American, and two (Mr. Morgan and Mr. Day) are gay.

They face enormous odds in a place where there are 11 Democrats for every Republican. All are being outspent by the incumbents they face. In contrast to the weeks preceding the primary, when it seemed there was a candidates forum every night, there appears to be little interest among community groups or the media in these contests or the nonpartisan D.C. State Board of Education races also to be decided. This needs to change: There should be more candidates debates.

Challenges lie ahead for the District; rather than taking a pass on Nov. 2, voters should take seriously their civic obligation by studying the candidates and choosing wisely.

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