- 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.”

The city also is losing money in its prolific parking-ticket system. For the most part, D.C. residents can’t make a move regarding motor vehicle services if they have unpaid parking tickets, but that is not the case for out-of-towners and council members.

Now, Mr. Day said, the city isn’t even effectively going after out-of-state scofflaws. Either there is no memorandum of understanding with various states or the city isn’t enforcing its own laws.

“There’s no tracking mechanism, no reciprocity,” he said. “Other states catch up with us but we can’t track others down.”

As for other battles, Mr. Day said, the party is forging ahead on principle - not partisanship.

Last week, the D.C. Republican Committee urged D.C. Office of Campaign Finance to investigate whether Vincent C. Gray’s mayoral campaign violated city law with three advertisements that were published in the Hill Rag newspaper in June, July and August and for a fundraising invitation. Neither the ads nor the invitation stated who paid for them.

All campaign literature is “defined as any printed matter distributed with the intent to support or oppose candidates, initiatives, referenda, or recall measures,” according to the campaign finance website. “Campaign literature must be identified by the words ‘paid for by’ followed by the name and address of the payer or the committee or other person and its treasurer on whose behalf the materials appear.”

The D.C. Republicans running in September are hardly cookie-cutter Republicans.

They know the die was cast long ago, but today’s Republican candidates want to remind D.C. voters of their options and that they share with Democrats some of the same concerns. The Republican candidates in the other ward races - Marc Morgan in Ward 1, Dave Hedgpeth in Ward 3 and Jim DeMartino in Ward 6 - support school reform, making D.C. a greener city, innovative economic development and targeted social services, and want to combat government waste.

“I’m anti-gun and pro-choice,” said Mr. Day. “We’re not all Dick Cheney.”