- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty will attend tonight’s State of the Union presidential address as a guest of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a departure from his predecessor’s tradition of attending as the guest of first lady Laura Bush.

Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, had promised to watch the address from outside the first lady’s viewing box at the U.S. Capitol to protest a lack of congressional voting rights for the District.

During his two terms as mayor, Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, attended the address nearly every year as a guest of Mrs. Bush or of Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was first lady.

“I view it as an invitation to the mayor in his capacity as mayor of the District, as opposed to a personal invitation,” Mr. Williams said. “The District should be represented in the halls of Congress for the State of the Union. That’s how I always saw it.”

It was not clear yesterday whether Mrs. Bush had extended an invitation to Mr. Fenty.

Officials in Mrs. Bush’s White House press office said the list of those invited to attend the speech with the first lady would not be released until today, and Fenty officials could not confirm whether Mrs. Bush had invited the new mayor.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said Mr. Fenty would attend as a guest of the House’s new speaker, a California Democrat.

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Fenty have met to discuss voting rights and other D.C. issues that will come before Congress.

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Fenty “met shortly after her election as speaker to discuss a number of issues with respect to the District,” Mr. Hammill said. “They came out of that meeting agreeing to work closely together on the District’s priorities.”

An invitation to watch the address with the first lady is part recent tradition, part honor for the District’s chief executive.

Nelson F. Rimensnyder, a historian and former research director for the House Committee on the District of Columbia, said the practice of inviting guests to the address took on a grander meaning during the administration of President Reagan, who often singled out his invitees for honor during the speech.

“My recollection is it’s a more recent thing, the mayors’ being regularly invited to sit in on the State of the Union,” Mr. Rimensnyder said. “Particularly of course, Tony Williams was invited all the time.”

D.C. Council member Marion Barry could not recall yesterday whether he was invited or had attended the annual address while he was mayor, his spokesman said.

Mr. Fenty’s attendance as Mrs. Pelosi’s guest does represent a contrast between himself and Mr. Williams.

The former mayor has been criticized for not being more aggressive in advancing D.C. voting rights and not mobilizing more energetic efforts for the cause, although he did advocate for the issue during speeches both home and abroad.

Mr. Fenty said in his Jan. 3 inaugural address that “our goal is to become the 51st state.” He has met with members of Congress about D.C. voting rights and is spearheading several initiatives, such as a lobbying day in February and a march in April, to further highlight the cause.

Mr. Fenty also has pledged to aggressively push for passage of the D.C. Voting Rights Act, a measure introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who serves as the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, that would give the District a House vote and also add a seat in the House for Utah.

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