- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Republican Theresa Conroy has five days left to persuade the overwhelmingly blue voters of Ward 3 that she offers a viable alternative to the developer-friendly Mary Cheh, the Democratic nominee heavily favored to earn a seat on the D.C. Council.

Mrs. Conroy and Ms. Cheh will debate one last time tomorrow night, starting at 7 at the Washington International Church on River Road.

Mrs. Conroy also plans to walk the neighborhoods of Ward 3 in the coming days and talk the talk of a candidate who has felt a sense of momentum in her previously improbable bid to upset a Democratic candidate in what is essentially a one-party city.

“I would say my campaign has continued to generate a lot of excitement,” she said yesterday by telephone. “People are calling wanting signs to put up in their yards, and they want literature that highlights my positions. Nothing has dampened the enthusiasm, except the occasional person who says I can’t win because of the registration numbers.” Those numbers are fairly stark for a Republican candidate. Of the nearly 40,000 registered voters in Ward 3, 31,720 are registered Democrats and 8,230 are registered Republicans.

Mrs. Conroy suspects those numbers are somewhat misleading because of the inclination of centrists to register as Democrats in order to have a vote in the party primary, which usually determines the winners in the general election.

If the turnout Tuesday is similar to 2002 — when Democrat Kathy Patterson (who is not running for re-election) secured 17,045 votes to Eric Rojo’s 4,642 — Mrs. Conroy figures she needs to energize the Republican base and siphon off a considerable number of Democratic loyalists to claim victory.

Mrs. Conroy already has earned the backing of a group called the “Ward 3 Democrats for Conroy.” The 42-member coalition mailed out a four-page letter to voters this week that touts her positions on growth, her decision to be a full-time member of the D.C. Council and her willingness to listen to the various advisory neighborhood commissions and civic associations.

The coalition also notes Ms. Cheh’s plan to remain a professor at George Washington University while serving on the D.C. Council, which could pose a conflict of interest any time business concerning her principal employer comes before the 13-member body. If so, Ms. Cheh has promised to recuse herself, a gesture that would leave Ward 3 without representation.

Mrs. Conroy says that she has noticed a growing acceptance of her candidacy, a sense that her first political foray has advanced from distant hope to genuine. Her aides have planted her yellow political signs all across Ward 3 and continue to work the subway stops.

Mrs. Conroy is finding that voters recognize the benefits of a two-party system and the need to have opposing viewpoints.

“I’ve gotten those phone calls where the person says, ‘I’m 62 years old, and I’ve never voted for a Republican candidate in my life,’ ” Mrs. Conroy said. “Then they ask: ‘Can you bring me over three yard signs?’ ” Mrs. Conroy has been showered with animosity on occasion, as if this 55-year-old educator is somehow a misguided rebel who has no real stake in Ward 3 and the Cathedral Heights neighborhood she calls home.

Of course, being a Republican qualifies as being fiercely independent in a city that prays at the altar of the left.

Mrs. Conroy has been amused on occasion by those who have decided to ignore the group pressure of the left, if only in this election.

“People will come over to me, then kind of whisper, ‘I’m going to vote for you in the election,’ ” she said.

Mrs. Conroy also has been amused by the attempt to link her to the national Republican Party and the war in Iraq, as if the D.C. Council works on Capitol Hill instead of in the Wilson Building.

“I don’t yet have the feeling we’re losing,” she said. “There’s excitement, even among Democrats.” And Mrs. Conroy has five days left to orchestrate the unlikely.

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