- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

Once, as a guest on C-Span's "Washington Journal," a caller asked me why, since I am a conservative, I am registered as a Democrat. I explained that, in the District of Columbia, Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-1, so, if I don't vote as a Democrat my vote doesn't count. If my vote doesn't count, I don't have much sway one way or the other. Or so I thought.
Democrats, conservatives and Republicans even D.C. voters registered as with other parties or as independents can make a huge difference if we do two things: Change D.C. law and hold open primaries; write in the name of the candidate we think will best serve our interests regardless of the names on the ballot or party affiliation.
The former is a complicated and an awesome task, so let's dispense with the latter first.
D.C. Republicans have no candidate in the September mayoral primary. Some conservatives hoped, and pushed, for D.C. Council member David Catania, an at-large member who managed a stunning upset in a special election three years ago, to run. Mr. Catania has considerable support among Democrats, and has a black base to boot. Republican leaders, however, chose to wait and build on the grass-roots level for a possible mayoral bid in 2006. I can't imagine Mr. Catania declining such an opportunity four years from now unless we make regrettable choices in September.
And allow me this, too: Much is at stake in the current mayoral race, which essentially pits Mayor Anthony Williams and the Rev. Willie Wilson in a head-to-head Democratic battle. Let's see how others recently handled a similar situation.
A perfect example is the 4th Congressional District in Georgia's DeKalb County. That district's Republicans essentially had two choices, and both were Democrats. One was Rep. Cynthia McKinney, an outspoken Democrat with deep, liberal party-machine roots, who fell into favor with the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and ranted about white, big-business conspiracies, and out of favor with Jews, conservatives and the black middle class. The district's other option was former state Judge Denise Majette, who didn't rant at all and simply cast herself as a black Democrat who would get things done in Washington on behalf of Americans in general and her constituents in particular. That's all the judge did. And she won. Fair and square.
Miss McKinney, in her concession speech Wednesday morning, said, "It looks like the Republicans wanted to beat me more than the Democrats wanted to keep me."
Miss McKinney has said an awful lot in the ten years she has been in Congress, and some of what she has said has been so outrageous that it hit the front page. But she remains politically naive. Voters expressed both pro-Majette and anti-McKinney sentiment. And, over the years, there also was a bit of "Hey, you Democrat, don't take my vote for granted." They spoke up at the polls on Tuesday. Longtime McKinney supporters also said they voted for Judge Majette because Miss McKinney continued to play old-style black politics. "Just yelling and making any statement you want and thinking as long as you're black people are going to vote for you. Well, we're not that stupid."
Therein lies a lesson that should help settle one of Washington's dilemmas a choice at the polls between two easily distinguishable Democrats.
However, changing the law regarding closed primaries is a monstrous undertaking in a town that pimps the black vote and considers the status quo more precious than democracy.
So, I will briefly explain what we're up against, then await you're feed back and letters on strategy.
The District was granted the right to elect a school board, and president and vice president before it was granted the right to govern itself. That governance authority is called home rule, and the voting rights were granted in 1973, when Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. Hence these mandates: The District must hold closed primaries to decide nominees for the major parties; the two candidates with the highest vote totals in the general election for the at-large council seats win; but the two winners cannot be of the same party. In other words, the vote is rigged in favor of the Democratic Party. Republicans cannot hold more than two at-large seats at a time. If Republicans are in both seats, as they now are, everyone else is shut out. If Republicans don't hold either seat, closed primaries still favor Democrats.
Somehow, that doesn't sound very, well, democratic. What say you?

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