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D.C. GOP in Unfamiliar Territory: A Competitive Race

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Mara, a D.C. Council at-large candidate, talks with Joan Murphy of Glover Park outside of the Safeway in Tenleytown.

Still, D.C. GOP officials are banking on Christie’s message resonating with D.C.’s base of moderate Republicans who might not otherwise bother going to the polls.

“He’s a moderate conservative Republican, and that really matches a lot of the profile of the Republican[s] in the District of Columbia, and Patrick Mara,” said Phillips, who helped orchestrate the endorsement calls.

GOP activists are also hoping Christie’s support will rouse the potentially powerful voting bloc of young Republican staffers, transplants who moved to the area to work for a lawmaker on Capitol Hill and don’t feel a desire to get involved in the local political process — yet.

Stephen Jackson, the chairman of the D.C. Young Republicans, said the influence of Republican congressional aides in the local political process could not be understated.

“We sent about 500 volunteers to 11 different states for the November election, because we saw where tough campaigns were and where our work would be recognized,” he explained. “Now we can go to Hill staffers and say, ‘Hey, this is where you can make a difference in your own backyard. You can change your voter registration and you can make a different right here.”

The narrative should sound familiar to someone like Mara, who moved to the District of Columbia in 1997 to work as an aide to Chafee. Mara then became a lobbyist and went on to serve on various D.C. public service boards. “When you first arrive in D.C., you know certain top-level things and that’s how you define the District,” Mara recently told CQ Roll Call. “When I purchased my home ... 10 years ago, when I moved off the Hill, my awareness ... increased quite a bit.”

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