- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Forget Dixville Notch, Think Dupont Circle.
The D.C. Council voted yesterday to hold the first presidential primary of 2004 in the District nearly two weeks ahead of the traditional New Hampshire primary.
"We want to be first," said council member Jack Evans, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation. "We want to bring attention to the fact that D.C. doesn't have voting rights, and urban issues."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, has 10 days to sign the bill. He was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a spokesman said he supports the measure.
"It's important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is symbolic," said Tony Bullock, Mr. Williams' press secretary. "It will provide national attention to the fact that D.C. does not have voting rights, something most people do not realize."
The New Hampshire primary is scheduled for Jan. 27. The council decision yesterday moves the D.C. primary from early May to Jan. 13.
Mr. Evans said the May primary comes too late in the election season and "long after the decisions have been made."
Democrats benefit most by the change because they outnumber Republicans in the District roughly 9 to 1. President Bush would likely be unopposed in the primary process.
Nine Democratic candidates have so far declared intent to run for president. They include U.S. Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, Bob Graham of Florida, John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, U.S. Reps. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former Illinois Sen. Carol Mosley Braun and activist Al Sharpton.
National Democratic leaders have long-standing objections to changes in the primary schuedule. Last year they passed a resolution stating they would not seat delegates chosen before New Hampshire's primary at the party's nominating convention.
More than 4,000 delegates, including 38 from the District, are sent to the convention, a quadrennial event. Next year's will be held in Boston.
"The results of that primary and those delegates could not be [accepted] for the presidential selection process," said a Democratic Party leader familiar with the process.
Supporters are undeterred.
"If the DNC chooses not to seat our delegates, we'll do it anyway," said Mr. Evans.
He also said changing the primary does not mean candidates must be picked right away.
"If Al Sharpton gets 40 percent of the vote and John Edwards gets 30 percent, their delegates could be selected [later]," Mr. Evans said. "And if a candidate is already out of the race by then, the delegates could then be [classified as] uncommitted."
New Hampshire officials are protective of their premier status. Candidates often spend months in the state and meet with hundreds of voters. Tiny Dixville Notch roughly two dozen residents opens the polls at midnight for casting the nation's first votes. State officials have said they will not change the primary date in response to a move by the District, but they would act to move ahead of any state that tries to put its primary first.
Officials in Michigan are also considering moving the primary up to be more competitive.
Michigan is considered a swing state by national leaders of both parties and sends hundreds of delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions.
"It would be interesting to see if they would decide to not seat Michigan's delegates. We send 38; they send hundreds," Mr. Evans said.
Supporters of the change say presidential contenders are unlikely to skip the D.C. primary because they would not want to appear insensitive to urban issues.
"We want to be at the table," said council chairman Linda Cropp, who pointed out the District pays taxes and sends men and women to war, but has little effect in the nominating process with such a late primary.
Mr. Evans said several of the candidates including Mr. Edwards, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman have homes in the District, and that Mr. Gephardt has a residence in nearby Virginia.

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