- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2010

Because Washington is a one-party town, D.C. Republicans sometimes can’t get a word in edgewise. But don’t expect them to be mum.

The forums and debates in the races for mayor and city council seats often are for Democrats only.

For the DCGOP, the bottom line is: Don’t fight every fight; fight the fights that matter.

The battles that matter this election year include campaign irregularities, four ward races and a seat on the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics.

“Ethics is a big campaign issue this season,” Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, told The Washington Times.

Republicans were shut out of a seat earlier this month when the Democrat-controlled council voted against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s nomination of Republican Mital Gandhi.

The mayor, a Democrat up for re-election, had nominated Mr. Gandhi and former Army Secretary Togo West to the three-member panel, which had only one active member. The council said “yea” to Mr. West and “nay” to Mr. Gandhi.

Mr. Gandhi was “going to shake things up,” Mr. Craney said, “make sure there were checks and balances.”

The rejection sparked criticism from Republicans hoping to unseat Democrats this fall, and while the party isn’t fielding candidates in any citywide races or the school board race, they are focusing on a couple of ward races and on specific good-government issues.

“The residents need to know they have choices,” Mr. Craney said. “We can go to a grocery store and pick one out of 50 cereal boxes. We want to make sure voters know they have choices, too.”

Tim Day, who faces no Republican challengers in the Sept. 14 primary for the Ward 5 seat, said City Hall has a one-box-fits-all approach that leads to enormous government waste. He said property taxes and parking enforcement are two specific places where the city can root out waste.

Mr. Day told the story of Northeast residents whose cars were struck by a fallen tree during a recent storm. Mr. Day said he contacted the homeowner to inquire about having the damaged tree removed. But the owner, he said, seemed nonplussed and instructed him to contact a third party, the property manager.

As an elected advisory neighborhood commissioner, Mr. Day said, he felt obligated to aid the owners of the cars. So he visited the D.C. Recorder of Deeds and learned that the homeowner was receiving two forms of property tax relief. One, called the D.C. homestead exemption, offers up to $67,000 off the owner’s property-tax liability; another provides additional relief to senior citizens.

But to qualify for the tax relief: “The property must be the principal residence (domicile) of the owner/applicant,” according to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue.

“He owns five properties in Ward 5 and doesn’t live in any of them,” Mr. Day said. “That’s problematic. People know how to work system.”

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