Some Democrats Cross Party Lines Over Development
By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006; Page B04
Some members of the Democratic Party are trying to influence future neighborhood development by backing the Republican candidate over Democrat Mary M. Cheh in Tuesday's election for the Ward 3 D.C. Council seat.
Cheh, a law professor at George Washington University, won the Democratic primary in September with 44 percent of the vote in a nine-way race. But in recent weeks, Republican Theresa Conroy has been endorsed by a group of Democrats who say they like her stance on development in the ward and fear that Cheh does not know enough about the community.
Mary Rowse, a former Advisory Neighborhood commissioner and a Democrat, said 42 Democrats signed a letter in support of Conroy that went out to more than 20,000 Democratic voters this week.
"We have met with Theresa and know that her vision much more closely mirrors ours than the Democratic candidate," the Oct. 30 letter reads. "Professor Cheh, while intelligent and articulate, has not shown that she has the community experience or the willingness to learn and listen that are the basic requirements for representing Ward 3."
The letter also says that "electing Mary Cheh will likely get us higher density development on all our major corridors."
Cheh, 56, said she has reached out to the community. "I think I counted that I had 50 house parties since I got into this in April," she said. "I've been on thousands of porches and in living rooms."
She also said she has not changed her views on development and still advocates "smart growth" around Metro stations -- a concept that some Tenleytown residents are opposing on Wisconsin Avenue NW.
On her campaign Web site, Conroy, 55, lists "unrestrained development in residential neighborhoods" as her first concern.
Despite the Democrats' letter of support, Conroy has an uphill battle against Cheh. About 63 percent of registered voters in Ward 3 are Democrats; Republicans account for 16 percent. In the primaries, Cheh received 6,642 votes; Conroy, who was unopposed, received 577 votes.
Still, Conroy, a teacher at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, is trying to run a competitive campaign with mailings, signs and automated phone calls this weekend.
Conroy said she knew that some Democrats were planning to back her but that she has been surprised at the level of support. She said she is fielding several calls a day from people who have received the letter. "I never dreamed that all these people would call me," Conroy said.
Cheh said that she remains confident of victory and that her views match those of the majority of Ward 3 voters. "I don't expect to get every Democratic vote, and she, as a lifelong Republican, won't get every Republican vote," she said. "I had Republicans tell me that they've already voted for me absentee."