Meet The Republican Who Thinks He Can Actually Win In DC

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The Council Of The District of Columbia is a completely liberal governing body in an overwhelmingly liberal city, but this Republican candidate thinks he has what it takes to win in next year’s election.

Dave Oberting is a 46-year-old former lobbyist head hunter who has worked for the past three years as the president of Economic Growth D.C., a non-profit focused on creating faster economic growth in D.C., Oberting got the nod from the D.C. GOP in August and plans to peg his campaign on bringing economic prosperity to the city’s under-served areas.

He isn’t your average Republican. He disagrees with some of the things Republicans advocate for, like stopping gay marriage and rolling back immigration, and hopes that will help him cross party lines in D.C.

He is going to need their help, too. According to the most recent statistics released by the D.C. Board of Elections, 76 percent of registered voters are Democrats. Just over six percent identify as Republicans, while 16 percent don’t affiliate with any party.

Carol Schwartz, the last Republican member of the council, lost her seat in 2008 after being defeated in the primary race by Patrick Mara. Mara went on to lose in the general election. Since the D.C. Home Rule Act established the council in 1973, just three Republicans have held seats on the dais. All of those council members came into their seats thanks to a requirement that sets aside two at-large seats for members of a non-majaority party.

Oberting is going after one of the At-Large seats currently occupied by David Grosso, a lifelong Democrat who changed his party affiliation to skirt the non-majority party requirements.

Grosso worked in the office Democrat council member Sharon Ambrose and as chief counsel to Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s delegate to Congress, prior to running as an independent in 2012.

Grosso also sits on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington.

Oberting sat down for an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation Friday. Here’s what he had to say:

DCNF: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Oberting: I’ve always been a socially liberal, fiscally responsible Republican. I could have run as an independent. I was registered as an independent for the last five years, but I thought it would be wrong for my first act as a candidate to be dishonest about my party affiliation. There are a lot of changes the Republican Party needs to make in order to make it competitive in the 21st century, but I’m in this to help make those changes, not run from them.

DCNF: Why are you running?

Oberting: The District faces what I call the ‘Big Four’ challenges: poverty, 22% unemployment for residents without a college degree, homelessness and inequality. We’ve been executing on basically the same economic policies for years and the empirical data says all four of these problems have been getting worse. I decided that holding elective office is the only way I can force the level of change that’s required to resolve these issues.

DCNF: Why are you running as a Republican in a city that’s 80% Democrat?

Oberting: First, let me say I hate the two-party system. It just puts half of us on one side of the room and half on the other side of the room and nothing ever gets done. Next, let me say there’s a lot about the Republican Party I disagree with. The two big ones today are gay marriage and immigration. The base of the Republican Party is wrong on both. There are other things, but those are the two big ones. That said, those “Big Four” challenges the District faces are economic in nature, and Republicans are more right than wrong on the economics.

DCNF: You talk about a different way of fighting poverty, what is that about?

Oberting: Work is the solution to poverty. It’s not a mystery. There were 88,773 adult DC residents that lived in poverty in 2013. Only 1.9% of them had the opportunity to work full-time at some point during the year, and 64% did not have the opportunity to work at all. That is a gross failure of economic policy.

DCNF: What can we do differently?

Oberting: There’s three elements to my response. First and foremost, we have to have an economy that grows faster so that it creates more jobs. We can’t expect people to work if there are no jobs. The single best way we can do that is through vigorous reform of the way we regulate almost everything.

Secondly, we have to completely overhaul the way we spend $125 million per year on job training. We spend way too much money on ineffective training. A significant portion of that $125 million should be redirected to actually connecting DC residents to work. I spent twenty years helping thousands of people find jobs as an executive search consultant. Finding jobs for DC residents, including ex-offenders, is not magic. It’s a straightforward process. You just have to be willing to pay for the people who can do it right.

Thirdly, we have not come nearly far enough, fast enough on education reform. The first PARCC exam results under the new common core came out last week. If you remove the one outlier from our 10th grade math results, an average of 2.92% of the students at the remaining 15 DCPS high schools scored ready for college and careers. There are definitely some things that have improved with DC schools since 2007, but no one can be satisfied with those results.

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