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In late April, the D.C. Democratic State Committee realized it had a little problem. Its own rules allowed presidential candidates to pay $2,500 to get on the Feb. 12 primary ballot. That’s easy enough.
D.C. law, however, had a different requirement: Candidates needed to gather signatures, a messy task requiring all manner of political organizing. The committee quickly made calls to several councilmembers, says delegate selection Chair Donald Dinan. Lo and behold, eight months later, the trouble disappeared.
On Dec. 11, the D.C. Council passed legislation decreeing that candidates may follow the rules outlined by their own party, meaning they didn’t have to get the signatures after all, as long as they paid up. The Republicans, on the other hand, had no clue that a fix was in the works and didn’t learn of the new policy until Dec. 10.
“If there had been a council that represented both Republicans and Democrats, the council wouldn’t have bailed out the Democrats and just [chosen] to ignore all the laws,” says Republican National Committeeman Tony Parker.
For months, Republican volunteers and staffers have staked out grocery stores and banged on doors in the hope of collecting the roughly 300 signatures—1 percent of registered D.C. Republicans—required by the old District statute. But given proper notice, they probably wouldn’t have abandoned their grassroots approach, say both Parker and D.C. Republican Committee Executive Director Paul Craney. They just want the Dems to play by the rules:
“There’s one party in this town that decided to change the rules last-minute because they couldn’t do [the signature-gathering],” says Craney. “It’s the equivalent of driving a car without a license and saying, ‘Oh, but I’m going to get one soon.’”