- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

The D.C. Democratic State Committee last night urged the City Council to drop its proposal to move up the date of the District's presidential primary next year to make it the first in the nation.
By a 21-20 vote, the District Democratic Party declined to support Council member Jack Evans' bill to move the primary to the second Saturday in January. District Democrats won't ask the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to change its rules to allow the move.
A defiant Mr. Evans said the vote won't affect his bill. "The council will have its hearing. We will vote in favor of it. The mayor will sign it, and we will hold our primary."
The resolution adopted last night is not binding on the city, but any primary set by the city government would be unsanctioned and would lead to severe penalties. Half of the District's 28 delegates, for instance, could be disqualified at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and all "super delegates," that is, elected officials and other local prominent members, would be disqualified.
Joseph Sandler, attorney for the DNC, reminded the District that local governments do not set the dates of primaries the political parties do. "The delegate selection process is not decided by the D.C. government or Congress or any other state," Mr. Sandler said. "It is decided by this committee," he said, a reference to the Democratic State Committee.
Four members of the DNC, including Donna Brazile, attended the meeting of local Democrats at the invitation of Norman Neverson, chairman of the local Democratic Party.
Mr. Evans argued that the District must not "give in" and accept a late primary date in which "we will be lumped in with five or six other states." As things stand, "We are last and we don't want to be."
The standing-room-only meeting was held in the former City Hall at One Judiciary Square.
Ms. Brazile, a Democratic political consultant and campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, had earlier speculated that acceptance by the presidential candidates would be the key to changing the District's presidential primary.
Two of the seven Democrats running for president opposed moving up the District's primary next year, but the other candidates didn't announce their positions.
Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean announced that they have no intention of backing the city's efforts to alter an election practice that has existed since 1913.
"Mr. Gephardt supports the tradition of New Hampshire's first primary status and Iowa's first caucus," said Eric Smith, spokesman for the former House minority leader.
A chief motivation behind the District's proposal to move up its Democratic presidential primary election, according to proponents, was to bring more attention to the congressional disenfranchisement of the city's 572,059 residents.
City officials were looking for an economic windfall, such as the $100 million in increased sales tax revenue collected in New Hampshire and Iowa every four years from special events and the throngs of journalists and campaign entourages that set up shop and spend freely in the weeks leading up to the primary.
Dean spokeswoman Susan Allen said, "Governor Dean supports the tradition of Iowa and New Hampshire leading the primary schedule, so he would not support the District's proposal to make its primary earlier than theirs."
Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, introduced a bill Jan. 21 that would move up the city's presidential primary date from the last Tuesday in May to the second Saturday in January.
Several candidates have been unwilling to express backing for a first-in-the-nation presidential primary in the District.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said he had not taken a position on whether it would be appropriate for the District to jump ahead at the last minute.
"I haven't taken a position on it, but I've been following it with real interest," he said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton also had not taken a position. Mr. Sharpton has supported voting rights for the District and participated in D.C. statehood marches with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, did not respond to numerous phone calls and e-mails seeking comment. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, is in hospital for prostate cancer surgery. Former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, announced her candidacy yesterday.
There is widespread speculation that the opposition of the national committee stems from belief that Mr. Sharpton would win, muddying party prospects in November.

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