- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

The 2004 presidential race is on and it begins here.

The District’s Jan. 13, 2004, primary will be the first in the nation as Congress took no action yesterday to overturn the law. The bill changing the primary date was passed unanimously by the D.C. Council in February and endorsed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams in May. The law goes into effect today.

“I don’t think Mr. Davis has any interest in bringing [the primary bill] up to the committee,” said David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III.

Mr. Davis, Virginia Republican, is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee that has oversight of the District’s laws and budget. Congress has 30 legislative days to overturn any new D.C. law. The deadline for overruling the “first in the nation primary” expired at midnight.

“It’s wonderful that the Congress enabled the legislature to enact laws that affect District residents …,” said Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp.

The District stands to reap a $100 million windfall from the vast media and political entourages that will pour into the city weeks before the primary begins.

D.C. officials had a difficult time persuading the leadership of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and Democratic National Committee (DNC) to allow the change. But a recent shake-up in the party and a new focus have changed the views of party members.

Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, bore the brunt of criticism after he introduced the bill to change the primary without discussing it first with party members.

“The January primary will become law and it ought to count,” said newly elected D.C. Democratic Party Chairman A. Scott Bolden.

Mr. Bolden a week ago took the seat left vacant by former party Chairman Norman C. Neverson — who resigned after an article in the Washington City Paper quoted him as saying he would have voted for the 1787 three-fifth compromise counting blacks as that fraction of a human being.

The Washington Times first reported in February that the D.C. Democratic Party had declined to support Mr. Evans’ bill by a 21-20 vote and wouldn’t ask the Democratic National Committee to change its rules to allow the move.

Local and national party leaders were concerned that if the early primary violated Democratic National Committee rules candidates would not participate, Mr. Bolden said.

The local Democratic Party is not bound to assign delegates to the National Democratic Convention to the winner of the D.C. primary. The convention will be held next year in Boston.

“If D.C. were not recognized as the first primary, do you think [Sen.] John Kerry [Massachusetts Democrat] would be trying to meet with residents of Ward 8 or Howard Dean in Ward 4?” Mr. Tenner asked.

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