- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

District politicians are not backing down from a proposal to leapfrog New Hampshire and Iowa to hold the first primary in the 2004 presidential race.
City leaders have said a bill that would move the primary to the second Saturday in January is too important to concede to any deals that would change the desired date. The city's current primary date is the second Tuesday in May.
The bill was introduced last month by D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, who said the measure will come up for a vote in March after a public hearing scheduled for February 19.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the council have said the District should be first to hold a primary. Officials said the new primary date offers an opportunity to highlight the District's lack of congressional voting rights.
"It's important because the District is a very representative city. We have some of the most knowledgeable people in the country, some of the wealthiest people in the country, as well as some of the poorest," Mr. Williams said yesterday on WTOP Radio's "Ask The Mayor" program.
Mr. Evans said he hopes that holding the nation's first primary would help promote voting rights for the District on a national level, and that the influx of sales-tax money would give the city an economic boost similar to what has been experienced in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Officials of the Democratic National Committee insinuated to Mr. Evans last month that the D.C. delegation will not be seated at the convention if it moves the primary date, because the change violates party rules.
The DNC has not set its primary schedule, but under a rule, no state can hold a presidential primary before the one in New Hampshire or Iowa. New Hampshire is expected to have its primary for 2004 on Jan. 27. The Iowa caucuses are expected to be Jan. 19.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting congressional representative, said she will fight for the bill.
"She would strongly defend a change in any D.C. law on the Hill and will work with any city officials serious about changing the date to get it done," said Doxie McCoy, spokewoman for Mrs. Norton.
As with all D.C. bills, Congress will have the final word on the change.
Members of the Maryland and Virginia delegations to Congress have said little on the issue. But if comments Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, made yesterday to The Washington Times are any indication, there is little opposition on Capitol Hill.
"Pretty soon, if this keeps up, we're going to have the first primary for the 2008 election the day after we find out who won the 2004 presidential election," Mr. Hoyer said, joking about the numerous states that have moved their primary dates up during the past two elections.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, has taken no position on the District holding the first primary, said an official in his office. Mr. Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, so his support could be vital should strong opposition surface.
Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat, said he welcomes the dialogue generated by the proposal.
"It seems to be a symbolic move for [the District] to highlight D.C. voting rights, and as a supporter, the congressman supports any attention that can be gained from it," said Amaya Smith, spokeswoman for Mr. Wynn.
Council member Evans will hold a "bullpen" community meeting at Hamburger Mary's restaurant in Northwest on Monday night to get an idea of what D.C. residents think about the bill. The bullpen is an informal gathering for anybody who wants to chat with public officials, journalists and advocates.

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