- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

Members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee yesterday said the District's first-in-the-nation presidential primary will be little more than a "beauty contest."
"The major players are not going to come," said Philip Pannell, a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. "The delegate-selection plan is probably going to suggest holding a caucus, and if they do, those chosen in the caucus will in no way be affected by the primary.
"The January contest will truly then have no meaning," he said. "It will be a beauty contest."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed legislation Tuesday to move the District's presidential primary to the first Tuesday in January. Mr. Williams and members of the D.C. Council say the change will draw attention to the District's lack of voting representation in Congress.
The District's new primary date is two weeks ahead of the tentative date for the New Hampshire primary, which by state law must be a week before that of any other state. New Hampshire officials said yesterday they would not take action to move their primary, noting that the District is not a state.
The Democratic National Committee and the D.C. Democratic State Committee oppose the earlier primary, saying it doesn't meet party guidelines.
"The government chooses when to hold an activity, and we decide what that activity will be," said Norm Neverson, chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. "It could be a convention, a caucus or a primary. We are in the process of deciding that now."
Mr. Neverson said a caucus would be held Feb. 10, if the committee opts for one. He noted that none of the Democratic Party's presidential candidates has said he or she will participate in the earlier D.C. primary.
Candidates such as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have not stated for the record their positions on the D.C. primary. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut has not stated his position but has strongly supported D.C. voting rights. Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun has said she will campaign in the District.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-to-1 in the District.
D.C. Republicans will not participate in the earlier primary, officials said.
"We urged an earlier primary within the guidelines of our parties," said Betsy Werronen, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee. "We think the whole thing is silly. We are now looking into holding a caucus."
Congress can overturn the District's decision, but aides to Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, the Virginia Republican whose committee oversees the District, have said he would not interfere.
When Congress reconvenes at the end of this month, the House and the Senate will have 30 days in which to overturn the District's decision. If they decline to act, the change will become law.

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