Welcome choices in the District

Thursday, October 28, 2010; 7:41 PM

THE FACT that four Republican candidates are running credible campaigns for the D.C. Council must be unsettling the city's Democratic establishment. How else to explain the recent screed by a District labor leader that Republicans and Independents are welcome to live and pay their taxes here but should forget about being able to govern? No good has ever come out of long-term rule by one party, so D.C. residents should welcome the availability of new voices and perspectives.

Aside from whether a maverick write-in campaign for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) gets any traction, most of the interest in Tuesday's general election centers on the races for four ward council seats. The local Republican Party decided to sit out the citywide races, instead fielding district candidates - Marc Morgan in Ward 1, Dave Hedgepeth in Ward 3, Tim Day in Ward 5 and Jim DeMartino in Ward 6 - against Democratic incumbents. We endorsed Mr. Hedgepeth and Mr. Day because we saw them as better choices over the current officeholders. A further advantage, to our mind, is that their election would be a welcome break from the Democrats' domination of local government.

Of the two at-large seats on the 13-member council set aside under the Home Rule charter for minority-party representation, only one, held by Council member David A. Catania, can truly be seen as an independent; council member Michael A. Brown was a Democrat who dropped his party affiliation only to get elected. Part of Mr. Catania's contribution to the council has been his ability to look at issues through a different prism; he has helped to enrich debate and deepen public policy. The strength of his service serves as a rebuke to the view of Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Central Labor Council, that there is no place for non-Democrats in D.C. government.

The Republicans standing for office are - contrary to the caricature painted by Democratic activists - a thoughtful group with conservative views on fiscal issues but progressive stances on social issues. That they are politically disadvantaged in this overwhelming Democratic city makes their decision to run all the more laudable.

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