‘Paul on the D.C. Republican Committee’ by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.

“While my parents are Republican, they weren’t raising me to become one. I came to the party on my own. The thing that really provoked me to get political was when Bill Clinton left office. You may remember that as he was leaving, he took a bunch of stuff from the White House that wasn’t his and also pardoned some people who were not that great. As all of this was happening, he got an opportunity to speak at a school by my college and was paid something like $100,000 for the lecture. I thought it was ridiculous that people wanted to pay so much for him while there were all of these ongoing scandals around him. I was annoyed and decided that I wanted to get involved in Republican politics, so I went to work for New Jersey Assemblyman Steven Corodemus. From there, I took a job with the Republican Party in Massachusetts.

“While I was in Boston, I met a woman who is now my wife, and she eventually took a job down in D.C. I followed her here, and got a job as the Executive Director of the D.C. Republican Committee. As a Republican, I thought that Massachusetts was probably the most difficult state party to work in. Somehow, I managed to fall into one that is even more difficult. D.C. has over 70% registered Democrats and we are outnumbered 11-1. If D.C. were a state, it would be by far the most democratic state in the country.

Continues after the jump.

“The good news for Republicans in D.C. is that while people here generally vote Democratic for the presidential elections, locally they want alternatives. In the past, those alternatives have been people like Republican Councilmembers Jerry Moore, Carol Schwartz, and David Catania who is now an Independent.

“Our candidates here have typically run on the issues of crime, education, and taxes. On education, Republicans want to expand our charter schools and continue some of the progress made by Michelle Rhee. Many of us had a feeling that Obama coming in might not be so bad and may actually help the education system in D.C. Then, we saw him kill the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which, in my mind, is a perfect example of him putting interest politics in front of the kids in D.C.

“The program provided about 1,700 low-income, minority children with a small scholarship to go to a private or parochial school of their choosing. A new crop of students was selected by lottery and sent acceptance letters. Then, the White House and Arnie Duncan’s office pulled the funding and had to send a letter to the families saying that the scholarship was revoked. It was a really sad day for our schools. Our kids need help and options now, not promises that D.C. Public Schools will get better in 15 years.

“We also feel that D.C. needs to be a more business friendly environment. Did you know that D.C. is the 51st best place to do business in the country? Just go look at Cleveland Park, which is a very affluent neighborhood, and you will see a lot of vacant buildings and closed shops. There is a reason for that. They get overtaxed and their rents go up and they can’t afford to stay in business. We want to make it easier to do business in this city, end cronyism, and see that our tax dollars are spent better at the local level.

“From a political perspective, we have seen these issues help our party and candidates gain votes. In this past election cycle, Dave Hedgepeth, a first-time Republican, ran in Ward 3 against a very popular incumbent. You will see that while he may not have won, in some precincts he was able to beat Mary Cheh, which is very impressive and the first time in recent memory that a Republican has done that. We also had Patrick Mara, a former Republican candidate for City Council, win the Ward 1 schoolboard seat.

“While the Council may remain Democratic, we look at our gains where we can find them. This past election was an important gain for us, and we hope that next cycle will bring even better returns. Until then, our office will continue to recruit and train candidates and help them run for office. During the off-season, we will work with the Democrats at the Wilson building and hold them accountable.

“You know, when I started this job over three years ago and people asked me what I did, they would always say, ‘I didn’t know there was even a Republican party in D.C.’ I have worked hard with our committee and staff to change that. Now, when I tell people what I do, they say, ‘I heard about your candidate or your platform,’ which is great progress for us. While I think about how much easier my job would be if I worked in a red state like, Texas, I like working for the Republican Committee in D.C. because when you win, the victories are so much more meaningful.”

If you have any questions for Paul or where the DCGOP stands on certain issues, contact him directly at [email protected], Twitter @pauldiegocraney, or work direct 202 407-7069.

45 Comment

  • Good luck with that…

    And by the way, all the Clinton hating doesn’t go far in DC.

    I for one would consider myself a conservative Democrat. So if the Republican party can get a few good people to speak and do for this city, you have a chance (very slim but a chance nonetheless)at sucess.

    I for one have voted Republican before and will never forget Carol Swartz who “represented” for years in DC – despite the big R by her name on the ballots.

    • You’re right about Bill Clinton. They still had a parade for him after it was revealed he was getting his knob gobbled by that nasty little intern lady. You see, in DC among the older crowd, such infidelities are seen as a badge of manliness.

  • So you say we are already overtaxed and yet you want to give public tax money to private and parochial schools? And determine which of our children may have access to a good education by picking their names out of a hat?

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve been told that, according to DC law the Council may not be made up entirely of members of one party. The 2 At Large seats can’t be from the same party, effectively reserving at least one seat for a Republican or Independent. The Republicans that fill these seats have almost nothing in common with the platform of their national party.

    • +1 Carol Schwartz and David Catania are Republicans? It is to laugh…

      DC goes about 89% Dem in presidential elections… if only 70% are registered Dem, then we see that a lot of DC’s ‘Republicans’ are only registered that way so libs can control both primaries.

  • jburka

    I walk past the DC Republican Committee’s offices on my way to work. For something like 18 months they had a sign in the window asking visitors to knock, as the doorbell was broken. Eventually, rather than just, y’know, fix something, they replaced it with a sign that no longer referenced the broken doorbell.

    Oh, and then they had the bags they were giving away, printed with the slogan, “Bag the bag tax.” Which, y’know, is sort of just reinforcing the idea that it’s not a big deal to carry around a reusable bag, saving yourself money and helping the environment at the same time. The bag tax is actually, if anything, too successful, as it’s not raising the expected tax revenues because people have so quickly changed their habits and started carrying reusable bags! (ref: http://money.cnn.com/2010/10/04/news/economy/DC_bag_tax/index.htm)

    I’ve voted for the occasional Republican in this city, but it’s not because of anything the local committee has done — it’s because occasionally moderate republicans run for office here, knowing that anyone too far to the right has a doomed campaign.

  • Hard hitting question. Why didn’t the Tea Party install a candidate in DC and flood that person’s campaign coffers with a boatload of cash?

  • Someone who has lived here three years is gonna give me advice about D.C. politics… REALLY? Oh yeah, and the clinton years really made you see the light and join the republican party. Due us all a favor and go back home to Mommy and Daddy and get the hell out our city… Cheers..

  • I meant 51st worst place to open a business… as someone opening a business I can vouch for this.

  • Pardon me… he meant.

  • As usual, the PoP forum is home to bunch of closed minded idiots. God forbid someone expresses an opinion that is outside the usual PoP drivel about how white people are great for gentrification and a discussion on whose cat looks better in a sweater.

    I may be a Democrat, but I can appreciate what this guy has to say and encourage more voices who never get carried by these kinds of blogs or mentioned by their mediocre commenting class.

    Thanks again for giving the Republicans more fodder for thinking that Democrats are just a bunch of elitist, arrogant yuppies.

    • Is disagreeing with someone closed minded? By that definition, you must be what you abhor. If you want more voices that are moderate in their judgement here, you should really lead by example to help bring them out of the woodwork.

      As it is, you’re only adding to the static. The comments to this point have be overwhelmingly reasoned and fair, less one or two instances — of which yours is most glaring example. My sleuthing skills tell me you just wanted to get on a soapbox about something, and look at you — you did! Congrats.

  • Republicans are funny.

  • Worst reason for becoming a Republican ever. Of all the crap the Clinton years gave partisan republicans, he could only pick out the missing W keys on the computers and a few pardons?

    Give me a break. This guy is a lightweight.

    Whats with Republicans always needing to have a story about how they saw the light and “matured” into a Republican? I never hear that from Dems.

    • That was my reaction, too — you became a Republican because of *that*? Deep thinker there. Maybe need to re-work your inspirational story.

      Plus removing the “W” keys from keyboards was pretty damn funny.

    • If you are young and a Republican you have no heart, if you are old and a Democrat you have no brain. Isn’t that the saying?

      • Yeah, thats the saying. Then there are a bunch of other sayings too… like “Republicans are the devil”. Doesnt make it valid.

    • Ha: Why are you a Democrat (or Republican)? Is your reason much better? For many people it takes one event to really make them examine their policitcal beliefs and develop them. I can guarantee you that there are a lot of people who claim they became Democrats because of Bush.

    • “Whats with Republicans always needing to have a story about how they saw the light and “matured” into a Republican? I never hear that from Dems.”

      That’s easy: Dems are people who’ve never matured. They’re just little children screaming for what they want, and they expect someone else to provide it.

      As a conservative/libertarian, I love that DC is unabashedly Democrat controlled. It is a shining beacon of liberal policy failure!

      I love that Fenty was ousted primarily for his efforts to improve the schools. It’s like candy to me, it’s so sweet!

    • Wow, to decide one’s political philosophy based on a fiction. That’s just… sad.


  • Hard hitting question. Why didn’t the Tea Party install a candidate in DC and flood that person’s campaign coffers with a boatload of cash?

    There isn’t a single Republican in office in DC or the surrounding DC suburbs.
    Would be a waste of money.

  • Hilarious post! It’s satire, right?

  • The longer I live in DC, the more moderate I become. I’d love to see Democratic and Republican ideologies better balanced in this here. The more invested I become in the city, the more I wish a strong Republican voice would be heard. I’m a registered Democrat, but if the right Republican came around, I’d support that agenda.

    • Living in DC has actually got me to leave the Democratic party.

    • Most PoP posters had heart failure when Fenty lost the primary and talked up writing him in at the expense of the chosen dem. Reason? Because these posters liked the perceived accountability factor that Fenty represented and feared going backwards into what can only reasonably be described as the traditional DC Democratic system of loooooww expectations.

      Now a post about the DC repubs comes up and everyone sophomorically reverts back into conservative bashing mode.

      Y’all get what you deserve.

  • “So you say we are already overtaxed and yet you want to give public tax money to private and parochial schools? And determine which of our children may have access to a good education by picking their names out of a hat?”

    Well, there aren’t enough seats for pre-school children as it is in a public school so EVERY SINGLE SLOT is by lottery. I am far from a Republican but I say if you can save any kids by putting them in a good school be it catholic, hindu, or spaghetti-monster, I’m all for having my taxes pay for that. As it is now, some of these kids have no hope for a good education. The Democrats aren’t always right and the Republicans aren’t always demons.

    • But the scholarship program he mentioned was not just for pre-school children so that comparison isn’t applicable – not all DC students go to schools based on lottery.

      Furthermore, an independent assessment of the program found:
      “No evidence of a statistically significant difference in test scores between students who were offered an OSP scholarship and students who were not offered a scholarship” so it was hardly ‘saving’ kids.

      Even if the program were having a positive impact, I would prefer my tax dollars go toward educational solutions that could benefit all students and not just a select few.

  • In the 90’s we had Clinton in office. We also had Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now we have Obama in office and we have no Hope and no Cash…

  • I haven’t seen any local Republicans worth voting for, but I do appreciate the importance of being open-minded and giving consideration to different viewpoints. He talks about local education and supporting local businesses, but does the local Republican party support attaining for DC residents the same rights as enjoyed by residents across the DC line through statehood? If not, why not? If so, what are they doing to encourage their national affiliates to grant such rights?

  • Bill Clinton’s conduct annoyed him so he joined the Republican Party? Is this a joke? If such a tiny thing set him off, why didn’t the wholesale lies of the Bush administration cause him to turn away from the Republican party?

    • I have a few years experience on this guy and I can say after growing up in the South I have no illusions about what is left of the GOP.

      He looked at Clinton and saw a reason to become Republican. when I registered to vote in 1986 I registered Republican but after a few years of listening to Republicans – many of them from the South – I could no longer stomach them. I just can’t vote for a party that in many cases seems like the Party of The Confederacy.

      SF – I am sure that he has swallowed the GOP groupthink lock, stock, and barrel so re-thinking the GOP based on Bush is a non-starter.

  • Shame on this young man for having views on issues and very concisely explaining how he developed these views so that others could perhaps attempt to understand them from his perspective.

    • I welcome his story and am glad it is being shared. But that doesn’t mean I can’t question his views and how he developed them.
      Bill Clinton’s personal failings turned him Republican but nothing about the 8 years of Republican rule that followed Clinton lead him to question that choice?
      He mentions the fact that David Catania is an Independent now but does not acknowledge why Catania no longer felt in good conscious that he could be a member of the Republican party.
      Empty storefronts in Cleveland Park? Is that really because of high taxes or because the economy tanked, old businesses folded, and fewer new businesses are able to afford the kind of primo rent that the people who own those storefronts are charging? As bad as DC may be for business, plenty keep opening. There must be some kind of special tax break for designer cupcake, pizza, and burger joints because we get new ones every day.

  • Hey there — This is Paul Craney and I am happy to talk to anyone that has any questions about the DC Republican Party, what we are doing, what we stand for, etc. My email is Paul (at) dcgpop (dot) com, my work direct is 202 407-7069 and twitter @pauldiegocraney. This was suppose to be a fun type of interview and if you have serious concerns/questions — I am happy to talk.

    • You may remember that as he was leaving, he took a bunch of stuff from the White House that wasn’t his…

      Ah, right. Leave it to a Republican to launch their political career based on a steaming mound of horseshit.


      “I got into politics after a Islamo-fascist named Hussein Obama was elected president. You may remember he was actually born in Kenya, and was schooled for jihad in a series of terrorist training camps in Indonesia…”

      And the line between the rubes and the grifters becomes every fainter.

  • Hey, for all of you people who are attacking this young Republican, just look at what he’s done with the local party. See his accomplishments and see how far he’s taken the GOP. Remarkable!

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