You won’t find her mentioned on the D.C. Republican website, but activist Missy Reilly Smith constitutes a kind of one-woman “tea party” movement in the liberal bastion that is the nation’s capital.
The staunch pro-lifer, running a long-shot campaign against longtime Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, is trying to wake up the city’s lethargic GOP and push the abortion issue to the front of the party’s agenda with new, graphic ads airing this week.
The D.C. Republican Party does not support Mrs. Smith’s campaign, and local party leaders asked her not to run. In an interview, she said they told her, “You never will be able to win.”
Mrs. Smith, who worked in real estate sales and ran an anti-abortion advocacy group, is challenging a popular liberal incumbent who has defeated all comers since 1990. In 2008, for example, Mrs. Norton faced no Republican challenger and won more than 92 percent of the vote in the general election.
Mrs. Smith acknowledged a steep uphill climb, with only an estimated 30,000 registered Republicans in the city versus more than 336,000 registered Democrats. But she said the District’s Republicans “blew me off” because of her conservative platform, not the voter registration numbers.
Mrs. Smith said her critics have miscast her as a one-issue candidate because of her uncompromising stands against abortion, which she called “murder,” and homosexuality, which she called an “abomination.” Fellow Republicans are simply refusing to pay heed to America’s Judeo-Christian morals and “Republican principles,” she said.
Mrs. Smith’s platform rests on many of the issues highlighted by the tea party movement — limited government, support for the military, school vouchers and “pro-family” values.
While embraced by tea party enthusiasts across the country in growing numbers, those positions run contrary to the platforms of many D.C. GOP and Democratic candidates alike.
Mrs. Norton and most of the Republicans running in the Nov. 2 general election support gay rights. Mrs. Norton also is pro-choice and opposes gun rights and federal funding of the city’s school voucher program.
Republican D.C. Council candidate Tim Day said the District’s electoral landscape has to be prepared before conservatives can take on such hot-button issues as abortion.
Mr. Day, who is trying to unseat Democratic incumbent Harry Thomas Jr. in Ward 5, said the GOP’s strategy is to get non-Republicans in the District used to the idea of voting for Republicans, who trail both Democrats and independents on voter registration rolls.
“Yes, [abortion] is something that we should talk about, but it’s an area where [voters] go far to the left or far to the right,” he said. Abortion “is an issue we have skirted because it needs a well-thought-out plan.”
Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Party, didn’t offer any apologies for spurning the Smith campaign. He said it was a matter of priorities.
“We’re concentrating our efforts on the four council races,” he said. “We are not coordinating” with Mrs. Smith’s campaign.
But Mrs. Smith accused city Republicans are taking on the habits of Democrats: “skirting social issues” and “taking the black vote for granted.”
“I don’t want to cross wires with anybody,” she said. “God bless them. But it is the duty of party leaders to cultivate candidates.”
Mrs. Smith said her plan is not only to win, but to impress on voters what she characterized as “the evils” of abortion.
“It’s not a partisan campaign,” she said. “I have no hidden agenda and I’m certainly the underdog. There’s no doubt about that.” The D.C. Republican Party should stand with their national brethren, she said, against their well-funded liberal opponents and support pro-lifers “unapologetically.”
The Smith campaign’s pro-life ads began airing on her website and on YouTube earlier this week. YouTube officials subsequently pulled the ads, which depict bloodied, disembodied babies, but the Smith campaign bought local airtime on several late-night shows, including those of Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman and Jay Leno, as well as on Oprah Winfrey’s show.
The Smith campaign has been concentrating its get-out-the-vote efforts in predominantly black neighborhoods to counter same-sex marriage advocates and pro-choice groups, which she said were targeting minority voters.
Mrs. Smith said she was especially seeking support in heavily black Ward 8, which has a high concentration of young and single black mothers.
“There are many very traditional families in Ward 8 who will vote,” said Mrs. Smith. “They are not for same-sex marriage and they are not aborting their babies.”