In an interview on Saturday, Tim Day, the only Republican vying to replace Harry Thomas Jr. on the D.C. Council, won't go on the record and delve into mayoral recall territory or talk trash about the two dozen other contenders vying for the Ward 5 council seat.
Mention waste, fraud and misappropriation of tax dollars, though, and Mr. Day lets loose his inner Newt Gingrich and lays much of the problem at the threshold of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
Natwar "Gandhi has to go," said Mr. Day, adding that the city's coffers under the current and previous mayor are on a see-saw of spending pressures during one fiscal quarter and surpluses the next.
"We don't need additional taxes or higher fees. We don't need any more misappropriations, waste or fraud," he said. "We need stricter council oversight and more mechanisms to control our waste and abuse. We need to catch them before the zeros mount.
"We know where the revenue comes from, but voters want to know is where it goes. That's the explanation voters expect from a lawmaker that grills the administration.
"The problem is metastasized throughout city government," he said.
Mr. Day rightly pointed out that deeper and broader probing by the council would have red flagged several of the illegal practices and questionable policies carried out in recent years by City Hall, including the rip-offs of unemployment funds, thievery in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, $400,000 tents for the Obama inauguration, questionable lottery contracts and housing expenditures and, of course, the ongoing Harry Thomas Jr. affair.
Mr. Day and the D.C. Republican Party began looking into Mr. Thomas' connections with tax money in 2008, when Mr. Day first ran for the Ward 5 seat.
As the probe unfolds outside of City Hall, some of Mr. Day's Democratic opponents preferred to take a sort of turn-the-other-cheek attitude, saying they keep Thomas and his family in their prayers, while some ward Republicans and independents say that incestuous relationship (and political hacks) are the fulcrum of D.C. politics.
"We shed light on the Harry Thomas stuff," said Mr. Day, who added that federal prosecutors are still "delving into D.C. spending practices."
Whether Ward 5 voters will find Mr. Day an opportunist or truth-seeking fiscal conservative won't be known until election day, May 15.
But it's clear voters citywide have taken a liking to veteran at-large Council member David Catania for the precisely that reason.
Indeed, Mr. Day shares much in common with Mr. Catania, a Republican-turned-independent, who frequently draws praise from his lawmaking colleagues even when they disagree with him.
"David always does his homework," Mr. Thomas once told me.
And, like Mr. Catania, Mr. Day is hardly a social conservative.
"No I'm not," Mr. Day said Saturday.
That is why, when it comes spending, Mr. Day is still doing his homework in preparation for setting himself apart from the Democratic crowd during the upcoming Ward 5 debates.
"So far I've tracked $6.7 million [in misspending] since 2010," he said.
That's truly intriguing, since it reaches back to Mayor Vincent C. Gray as council chairman, when Mr. Gray was the hammer that eventually nailed Adrian Fenty's coffin.
The theme: irresponsible spending and over-taxation.
Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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