- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Local Democrats are showing little support for a D.C. Council bill that would move up the date of the District's primary election next year to before New Hampshire's.
The 72-member D.C. Democratic State Committee tabled a vote Thursday on a measure of support to hold the District's primary Jan. 10, 2004. Local Democratic Party Chairman Norman C. Neverson said the vote was suspended after a "cantankerous" discussion about the D.C. Council's failure to consult the committee before introducing the proposal last month.
"There were not enough votes to support the measure, and it was tabled in favor of a later vote at a special meeting to be held Thursday, Feb. 13," Mr. Neverson said. Members at that special meeting will address a variety of concerns with the proposed change in law. Some members said they were uneasy about gambling with D.C. residents' votes for the next Democratic presidential nominee by thwarting the will of the national party, he said.
The Democratic National Committee has the right to disqualify as many as 25 of the 38 D.C. delegates that will be elected to go to the Democratic National Convention in Boston next year if the District goes ahead with a primary outside the sanctioned primary window anytime before Feb. 3, DNC officials said.
"Those who plan to run for delegate seats don't want to be disqualified before they are even elected," Mr. Neverson said.
A bill introduced last month by council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, would change the city's 2004 primary date from the last Tuesday in May to the second Saturday in January.
The DNC rules committee mandated after the 2000 presidential election that no state would be allowed to hold a primary election before the Iowa caucuses, expected to be held Jan. 19, or the New Hampshire primary, expected Jan. 27.
"The issue of the primaries was resolved 18 months ago, and it is difficult to change the rules once they have been established and the process begun," Mr. Neverson said.
Mr. Evans said the measure would come up for a council vote in March after a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 19, the day before the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting.
Mr. Evans held an informal discussion with residents last night to discuss the issue and said he would continue to promote the bill.
Some local Democrats were concerned about how the council handled the matter, proposing the bill without consulting the party first, and how the party would hold a mandatory caucus 90 days before the primary, which would be in October if the new primary date is set.
"When it comes to party matters, the membership feels it should be first at the table … and if the city gets the first primary, it will completely alter our process," Mr. Neverson said.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the 13 council members are unanimous in the opinion that the city would offer the best representation of the nation's diversity and should hold the first primary.
Although local Democrats support the reasons for changing the primary date, party members are not optimistic about a vote in favor of Mr. Evans' bill.
A favorable vote by the local party would mandate that the issue be raised at the DNC's winter meeting Feb. 20, along with a request by the local membership for the DNC to vote on changing the rules, which would likely be struck down.

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