- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2006

He’s the District’s “other” Tony Williams. The one without the bow tie. The one who is not the mayor. The one who is a, um, Republican.

Antonio “Tony” Williams has heard the jokes: the cracks about being a D.C. Republican and the observations that he shares a surname with the mayor.

“I get tons of jokes,” says Mr. Williams, who is running for the Ward 6 seat on the D.C. Council. “Like ‘Oh, you’re the other Tony Williams,’ or ‘Oh, what’s up, Mr. Mayor?’ ”

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Mr. Williams’ aspirations are no joke, even in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-to-1.

At 26, the D.C. native has launched an ambitious campaign, and his candidacy is seen as part of the foundation for revitalizing the Republican Party in the District.

“I went into it thinking that this is a longer-term project in terms of building the party, in terms of letting people know … that there’s a different voice and that there’s a different option,” he says. “It’s been too long that we’ve just voted party ticket and gotten nothing for it.”

The son of two Democrats — his mother, Delise, is a social worker and his father, Juan, is a political commentator for the Fox News Channel — Mr. Williams registered as a Republican after watching what he calls “the death of the African-American middle class” occur under D.C. Democrats.

His social ideals are strictly Republican, favoring small-business incentives, cutting commercial property taxes and promoting a government that encourages upward mobility and personal responsibility.

But Mr. Williams also points out that a D.C. Republican often withers in the shadow of the national party: The moral issues that congressional candidates stump on aren’t the most pressing problems facing the District.

“I talk to Democrats, and they’re like, ‘I’ll never vote for a Republican …’ ” he says. “Unfortunately, local politicians are often overshadowed by national politics here in D.C., and people don’t take the time to really investigate and look beyond the party.”

It is an opportunistic blend of applying Republican principles in an urban setting like the District that makes Mr. Williams the new hope for the city’s Republican Party.

He is the fresh face — a black Republican in a city that the U.S. Census Bureau says is 57.7 percent black — of a party base once founded upon at-large council members Carol Schwartz and David A. Catania. Mr. Catania switched from Republican to independent because of the national party’s stance against same-sex “marriage.”

Now, Republicans in the District are holding out hope they can secure a more prestigious ward seat on the council with Mr. Williams or Theresa Conroy, 54, who is running in Ward 3.

The party also has endorsed mayoral candidate David Kranich, a 34-year-old real estate agent, and 25-year-old Marcus W. Skelton for an at-large council seat.

“We have been reaching out over the last year or two to recruit younger, talented Republicans like Tony who are willing to step up and run for office on the Republican ticket,” says Robert Kabel, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee. “In a way, it’s a generational shift.”

In Ward 6, Mr. Williams says crime and development are the two most pressing issues, along with the struggling school system.

He would favor equity involvement in development for local businesses and proposes a mandate that 80 percent of the school system’s budget be spent in the classroom.

Mr. Williams has raised more than $30,000, according to recent campaign-finance reports. His slim hopes of winning hinge largely on whether Will Cobb, an independent candidate, can take enough votes away from Democratic front-runner and former school board member Tommy Wells.

Still, in Mr. Williams’ mind, the Ward 6 race is the first leg of a marathon to give credibility to D.C. Republicans. “We shouldn’t be afraid to differentiate ourselves,” he said, “and to do it with a loud voice.”

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