Out of Place at Home, Monroe’s Loving NYC

Posted September 1, 2004 at 5:27pm

Republicans seeking office in the District of Columbia are accustomed to getting the cold shoulder in the Democratic-dominated city. So D.C. Delegate candidate Michael Monroe (R) is spending the week in New York — and finding enthusiastic backing for his long-shot bid.

The youngest Congressional candidate in the nation at 25, Monroe has received wide support from GOP lawmakers at the Republican National Convention, but he won’t take any of the campaign contributions just yet. For now, he’ll continue developing the grass roots.

“Money is important, but it isn’t everything,” he said. “My ties to D.C. run deep, and it’s my connection with people that will propel me in this election.”

Monroe will wait to accept donations until after officially entering the race Sept. 14. At that point, he’ll have to work feverishly toward building a viable war chest if he wants to compete with the incumbent, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who has raised more than $156,000.

Plus, Norton is a seven-term Democrat in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 10 to 1. Between 1994 and 2000, Republican candidates facing Norton routinely failed to garner more than 6 percent of the vote, according to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

In 2002, Norton won re-election with 93 percent of the vote after the D.C. Republican Party opted not to field a candidate.

If the history of failed Republican bids for D.C. Delegate is discouraging, the feedback Monroe has received from some Washington political luminaries can be equally disheartening.

When he introduced himself as “the Republican candidate for Delegate” to D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) at a convention luncheon in New York this week, Monroe says the mayor joked, “Really? How’s that going for you?”

Nevertheless, Monroe remains optimistic about his chances in November.

“I’m fresh energy, fresh blood,” he said. “With the support of family and friends, there’s a significant chance you’ll see a November upset, and I’m going full throttle for it.”

A graduate of Gonzaga High School in Washington and James Madison University, Monroe has wasted little time getting his feet wet in local politics.

In 1998, he ran for a seat on Ward 3’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission while also serving as campaign manager for Republican Eric Rojo, who ultimately failed to capture the seat of City Councilwoman Kathy Patterson.

In presenting himself as a “long-awaited” alternative to the city’s current 14-year incumbent, Monroe is quick to highlight policy differences between Norton and himself.

Monroe, for instance, supports legislation by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) that would treat D.C. residents as Maryland voters for the purpose of taking part in Congressional elections.

Norton’s No Taxation Without Representation Act, in contrast, would treat the District as its own state by creating two Senate seats and a House seat for the city.

“Our current Delegate wants too much too quickly,” he said.

The young Republican challenger insists that only a Republican Delegate, like himself, will be able to successfully lobby a Republican-controlled Congress and White House for broader voting rights and representation in Congress.

“We need to get rid of Washington’s monocracy and establish a two-party system if we are going to have any hope of D.C. statehood.

“It may take a few more elections — realistically — for me to win, but I’m confident I’ll be the guy to do that.”