News & Politics

“It’s Very On-Brand”: The Chairman of DC’s Republican Party on Nikki Haley’s Primary Win Here

Patrick Mara talks about leading Republicans in a jurisdiction where Joe Biden won 92 percent of the vote in 2020.

Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event at The Madison Hotel on March 1, 2024, in Washington, DC. Photograph by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

Nikki Haley finally beat Donald Trump in a primary. Unfortunately, the victory came in Washington, DC, where only about 2,000 Republicans turned up to vote Sunday—and Haley won them convincingly, with 1,274 votes. We asked DC GOP Chairman Patrick Mara about the challenges of running a party in a jurisdiction where Joe Biden took 92 percent of the vote in 2020.

Photograph courtesy Patrick Mara.

You’ve probably heard the jokes that this primary could have been held in a phone booth.

Oh it’s a common thing. You hear it [in DC] but you do in Vermont, you do in Rhode Island, or even somewhere like Massachusetts. I really can’t make that reference because no one’s going to know what a phone booth is.

Do we have the most lopsided partisan ratio in the country?

It’s hard to compare us [to other states] because we’re a city. The biggest game-changer in DC, ideologically, would be to pivot to nonpartisan elections. If DC did that, that would change things overnight, because a lot of these races are decided on primary level. So you generally will get the most left-leaning member of that group. This is a really big challenge for DC.

How would a nonpartisan election format help?

What you do is you have jungle primaries, with basically no party affiliations and then the top two vote getters come out of the primaries. It would completely revamp who was elected to the DC Council.

Were you surprised to see Haley win?

I guess I was and I wasn’t. I am very aware of who the average voter is, and I know a lot of Republicans in DC, so when you see someone come in to vote, you generally get a sense of who they might vote for. I guess the best quote is that “It’s very on-brand for DC.”

Do you ever talk with party chairpeople in states that have similar lopsided electorates? Like Vermont Republicans or Alabama Democrats?

I spoke with the chairman of the Vermont GOP this morning. Because we both live in blue jurisdictions, we have many of the same problems with encouraging people to be engaged and issues with our data.

Have you ever considered moving somewhere you wouldn’t be so outnumbered? Maybe Virginia?

I like it in DC. My wife and kids are here. I never thought about it until this crime situation. This has been the first time I’ve ever considered it. If I was to move, I might even go farther like New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Florida—a variety of places we could go.

Egan Ward
Editorial Fellow