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Why would a famously centralized Latin American state begin to re-distribute political power to cities and towns? In the Dominican Republic in the years between 1994 and 2008, a pro-municipal social alliance pressed for decentralization and politicians yielded, seeking power in three-party competition. Reformers utilized the central dynamics of a patrimonial system in order to reform it as rival parties and factions formed a series of shifting temporary alliances on municipal issues. Based on contemporary files and more than 60 interviews with participants, this study examines how electoral, financial, and administrative power has been dispersed. Non-concurrent local elections made municipal political leaders more autonomous; new laws multiplied central revenue-sharing twelve-fold; the centralist Ministry of Municipalities was greatly weakened; and participatory budgeting became mandatory nation-wide. The analysis also documents the continuing power of centralist political forces and suggests innovative strategies to maintain decentralizing momentum.