Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council members are heading to New Hampshire this month to promote statehood for the District, kick-starting an effort that uses state politicians as leverage in their pitch for full voting rights in Congress.
Michael A. Brown and David A. Catania, at-large independents, are handpicking state legislatures that will support D.C. statehood through resolutions in their chambers — beginning with their District-friendly contacts in New England — as part of a multi-platform campaign the city began in November. The idea is that sitting members of Congress will be forced to look at what is happening in their home districts and that some state-level politicians will sympathize with D.C. self-determination efforts before they springboard to Capitol Hill.
Mr. Brown, chairman of the council’s Special Committee on Statehood and Self-Determination, confirmed Monday he will be traveling to the Granite State to testify before state legislators on a resolution to support D.C. statehood, with Florida to follow. Mr. Catania is also slated to testify at the committee meet-up in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 12.
Additional details, including the roster of D.C. politicians expected to be making the trip, should be announced in coming days.
Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown “is organizing the trip for members and will make an announcement immediately before Wednesday’s legislative meeting,” his spokeswoman said of New Hampshire, noting that “nothing is confirmed with regard to Florida as yet.”
New Hampshire will hold its pivotal presidential primary election in one week, giving traction to the hotly contested GOP race before it heads to South Carolina. Florida plays host to the next major primary, on Jan. 31.
“I think it always helps there will be additional press coverage,” Michael Brown said, but added he will push for D.C. statehood in any state at any time.
The effort resurrects a push in 2008 by council members and former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who trekked to New Hampshire about the time of the presidential primary to testify before the state’s House of Representatives on a resolution supporting D.C. voting rights in Congress. A committee reported favorably on the resolution, but it “came to the floor on a snowy day” and failed to get the two-thirds vote required by state law, its sponsor, Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, said in an October interview.
Ms. Rosenwald, a Democrat who has known Mr. Catania for many years as members of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices, has upped the ante this year with a D.C. statehood resolution.
State legislatures are in session at different times, so sweeping through the country in one year is impossible. The District instead will select certain legislatures with members who have some connection to the District or are sympathetic to the goal of statehood.
Maine state Rep. Sharon Anglin Treat has said she supports the District’s efforts, but the second part of Maine’s 2011-2012 session from January to April is “very restrictive” so any pro-District legislation would not see the light of day until 2013.
Meanwhile, the District’s ongoing “D.C. Statehood” campaign involves ads on D.C. buses, brochures and calendars for state legislators and governors and stationery featuring a “D.C. Statehood” logo with the number “51” — for the District as the 51st state.
“People seem to be engaged, they seem to like the attention we’re giving it,” Mr. Brown said Monday, noting that resources are often in short supply and city residents need to get behind the campaign.
The effort is expected to face the usual challenges in Congress, where Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton speaks for about 600,000 D.C. residents but does not have full voting privileges.
House Republicans have said in recent months that federal taxation without representation is unfair, yet the Constitution limits the options for granting the District full autonomy, representation in Congress or even statehood.