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D.C. Republicans in danger of becoming 'minor' party

UPDATED 1:35 P.M.

Yesterday, on its surface, was not a good day for city Republicans. Plenty of pundits applauded the local party for providing an alternative to the city's Democratic near-majority, but voters simply did not appreciate the the particular alternatives they were offered.

Ward 3's David Hedgepeth did the best, capitalizing on incumbent Democrat Mary Cheh's endorsement of Vincent Gray, unpopular in the ward. Hedgepeth only got 34 percent. Ward 1's Marc Morgan won only 7.6 percent -- less than Statehood Green Nancy Shia -- and Ward 5's Tim Day managed only 5.9 percent -- less than independent Kathy Henderson. Ward 6's Jim DeMartino got 13.7 percent.

There's worse news -- the GOP is in danger of being demoted to a minor party. According to city election regulations, a party only qualifies as "major" -- meaning it's entitled to hold primaries -- if one of its candidates for certain citywide offices earn 7,500 votes or more in the previous general election.

There was only one Republican running for one of the qualifying offices -- congressional delegate hopeful Missy Reilly Smith, she of the graphic abortion ads. She won only 7,385 votes, with an unknown number of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. (A candidate for shadow representative, Nelson Rimensnyder, won more than 10,000 votes but that office is not counted toward major party status.)

Paul Craney, the D.C. Republican Committee's executive director, said Wednesday that he'd been unaware of the major party requirement. The party earlier this year had touted its strategy of sitting out of citywide races, where it felt it had little chance, and focusing on the ward races.

Craney & Co. are now in the awkward position of rooting for a candidate they had all but disowned: "I guess it would be nice if she could meet that [7,500 vote] threshhold," he said, adding that he would probably petition the Board of Elections and Ethics to recognize Rimensnyder's showing if she did not.

He added that if Smith doesn't in fact reach the target, and the party is barred from holding a 2012 primary, "it's not going to change anything that we're doing." If the party doesn't earn itself a primary, its candidates will have to collect a significant but not impossible number of signatures to get on the general election ballot.

There were bright spots for the GOP. They were able to bit a bit of a scare into Cheh and they dug up some dirt on Day's chief opponent, Harry Thomas Jr.

And a well-known local Republican actually did win office: Patrick Mara, the former council candidate, beat an incumbent to win the Ward 1 State Board of Education seat.

State Board seats, however, are nonpartisan; Mara did not run as a Republican. Craney would not discuss his victory on the record.

UPDATE, 1:35 P.M.: It appears that the GOP will safely keep its major party status after all, Martin Austermuhle reports at DCist:

In the end, though, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) came through to save the D.C. GOP. According to D.C. statutes we consulted with a BOEE lawyer, Republicans would have to have come in under the 7,500 mark for both the general election and the previous presidential election. They certainly appear as if they did for yesterday's general election -- but the 17,367 votes McCain received in the District in 2008 puts the party comfortably above the necessary threshold to avoid a demotion.

By Mike DeBonis  | November 3, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010, The District  
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