- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

It is time to get serious about this election year. With five months to go before the September primaries, Mayor Anthony Williams remains unchallenged. Mr. Williams, who is seeking a second term and has so far raised more than $1 million, is nonetheless talking tough. "I don't think anybody could outrun us or outgun us," he said in a luncheon meeting with editors and reporters of this newspaper. Unfortunately, he has a point.

Indeed, the D.C. Republican Committee has previously found a viable mayoral candidacy in Carol Schwartz, a populist lawmaker whose best showing came in November 1994 against Marion Barry (56 percent to 42 percent). She has no stake, however, in this year's race. Nor does David Catania, the District's other Republican lawmaker. "I wish he'd run for mayor," Betsy Werronen, chairman of the D.C. Republicans, said. "At this point, we do not have a candidate. There are individuals who are looking at the situation is not running this year, [and] hopefully we will have a choice."

But is choice a truly operative word when it comes to elective office in the District? Democrats have always controlled every citywide elective office of any consequence in this city. Accordingly, the push this year to draft Mr. Catania, a hard-charging champion of health care, into the mayor's race is making considerable waves.

In an April 5 cover story titled "The Great White Hopeful," the Washington City Paper essentially laid out why Mr. Catania is considered mayoral material but will likely never be elected. "The underclass black wouldn't vote for [Mr. Catania], because he's white," political scientist Ronald Walters told the City Paper, adding that "a number of whites still feel that as long as there is a black majority, the city ought to have a black mayor." Analyst Jamin Raskin commented on the fact that Mr. Catania's childlessness would be a "tough sell." For his own part, Mr. Catania is quoted in the article as calling it a "stay in your place, faggot" piece.

Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that the District is a one-party town. For one thing, D.C. Republicans, like those in the national party, are just now getting around to understanding that it is in their best interest to campaign on the grass-roots level. "Basically," Mrs. Werronen said, "we're taking the Republican message into the [eight] wards. We've met in every ward in the city."

Secondly, as things now stand, the way the primaries and general elections are structured, Republicans are prohibited from capturing all four at-large council seats, just as the Democrats are. That means they will never be able to capture a majority. To give District residents a choice, this law ought to be rewritten. And choice is what District residents deserve. The Republicans' new strategy appears to be a clear sign that the party is headed in the right direction.

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