GOP hitching ride on Fenty's coattails into four council races

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 9:06 PM

If voters in Upper Northwest peer closely at David Hedgepeth's chest, they can sometimes tell he's a Republican.

Were it not for the elephant pin on his jacket, most Ward 3 residents would not know the Bronx native is hoping to ride the nationwide GOP tide into office in the heavily Democratic district.

One of four Republicans running for the council on Nov. 2, which party leaders say may be a record, Hedgepeth rarely mentions his party affiliation in his race against freshman Mary M. Cheh (D). Instead, the 42-year-old has attached himself to one of city's most prominent Democrats, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

Hedgepeth, a lawyer who lives in North Cleveland Park, hands out fliers featuring photographs of him standing next to Fenty signs. And his fliers are green and white - the same colors Fenty used in his unsuccessful reelection bid against D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D).

"Like Mayor Fenty, Dave supports what matters to you," reads the flier, which also stresses his support for outgoing Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. "Cheh claims she supports Chancellor Rhee, but how can she say that when she endorsed Vince Gray for Mayor?"

Hedgepeth has seized on Cheh's endorsement of Gray in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. She has reputation as an effective legislator and for attentive constituent service, but her support for Gray in a ward where eight out of 10 voters supported Fenty has left an opening for Hedgepeth.

"There are people here who do want to send her a message," said Thomas Smith, the chairman of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee. "I think Mary will still win big, but we could have a very competitive race in Ward 3 . . . and if Democrats sit home, it could be a surprise."

Although they are not running a candidate for mayor, the local GOP is fielding a candidate in four ward contests for the first time in decades, according to party leaders.

In Ward 1, which includes Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, professional fundraiser Marc Morgan is challenging Democrat Jim Graham, who is seeking a fourth term. In Ward 5, which includes much of Northeast, accountant Timothy Day is running against freshman Harry Thomas Jr.; and military consultant Jim DeMartino is hoping to best Democrat Tommy Wells in Ward 6, which centers around Capitol Hill.

While the national debate is dominated by the tea party and conservatives influence on Republican politics, District party leaders are stressing that the local candidates are different than their national peers. Hedgepeth, Morgan and Day are black. Morgan and Day are also gay, and all four say they support the city's new same-sex marriage law.

"They are urban candidates running on an urban Republican platform," said Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee. "These are not stereotypical Republicans."

In a city where about eight out of 10 registered voters are Democrats, no Republican has been elected to the council in a ward race since home rule. Three Republicans have been elected at-large, but the council consists of 11 Democrats and two independents who often align with Democrats.

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