Robert Turner, president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Washington, D.C., is expected to step down from that post later this month to become executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee.
Turner was to be appointed to the executive director’s position by Ron Phillips, who was the strong favorite to win election on Jan. 10 as chair of the 126-member DCRC, which serves as the governing body of the city’s Republican Party.
Turner would replace Nick Jeffress, the executive director who resigned at the end of last year and was appointed by outgoing DCRC Chair Robert Kabel.
Kabel, who’s gay and is the former president of the board of the national group Log Cabin Republicans, won election last year as one of D.C.’s representatives on the Republican National Committee. He’s ineligible for another term as DCRC chair because of a term limit rule.
Turner is believed to be the first out gay to serve as executive director of a state or D.C. Republican Party committee.
A native of Austin, Texas, Turner moved to D.C. in 1995 to work as a congressional staff member before starting his own political consulting company, The Turner Group.
He also serves on the board of Capital Pride Alliance, the governing body in charge of running D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade and festival.
Turner said voter outreach would be his top priority when he assumes the day-to-day operations of the DCRC.
“Most people who live in D.C. either think the party doesn’t exist or it’s a joke,” he said of the city’s Republican Party.
“And we need to change that mentality,” he said. “We need to show that we are a viable alternative to the corruption in the Wilson Building. We need to talk to voters, first and foremost, and see what their ideas are and then show them how the Republican Party of D.C. can jell with their ideas.”
He said the DCRC’s top priority in the first part of this year is to help elect GOP candidate Patrick Mara, the current Ward 1 school board member, to the City Council in a special election in April to fill an at-large seat.
The seat became vacant when Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) won election as Council chair. The seat was filled last month on a temporary basis under city election rules when the D.C. Democratic State Committee appointed its chair, Anita Bonds, as interim Council member until the special election is held on April 23.
Mara is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights and testified before the Council in 2009 in support of the city’s same-sex marriage bill, which passed in the Council later that year.
Turner said he believes Mara has a shot at winning the special election if Republican and independent voters as well as a sizable number of gays who supported Mara in the past turn out in large numbers.
“There are 30,000 Republicans and 350,000 Democrats,” he said in pointing to the city’s voter registration rolls. “But there’s also about 80,000 registered independents that we can tap into, and a lot of those voters are disaffected voters.”
Turner was quick to reply when asked what he thinks the national Republican Party should do in the wake of President Obama’s defeat of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney.
“Well, the first thing the party needs to do is talk to more people than straight, white men,” he said. “There are women, gays. There are minorities out there who believe in the principles of the Republican Party – of less government, less taxes, less regulations and a strong military. Let’s talk to those people and show them Republican Party ideals work in tandem with their principles as individuals.”