- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2004

D.C. delegates plan to make a strong case for securing congressional voting rights for the District at the Republican National Convention in New York City.

The issue has been backed by the Republican delegation several times but has never made the national platform.

D.C. Republican Committee Chairman Betsy Werronen said she doesn’t know whether voting rights for the District will make it into the national platform this year, but said, “We would hope so.” The convention runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.

Republican platforms have been silent on D.C. voting rights at past national conventions. In 2000, D.C. Republican Party Chairman Julie Finley said she forgot to check whether the issue of voting rights made it to the national platform. In the end, the language was not included.

D.C. Democrats also back voting rights for the District. The delegation tried to bring attention to the issue at last month’s Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The District is the only jurisdiction in the country that pays federal taxes without a voting representative in Congress. The most basic proposals for voting rights would give the District at least one voting House representative.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, can vote only in committee, not on the House floor. The issue does not deny rights to individual D.C. residents, who vote in city, congressional and presidential elections.

Several pending proposals in Congress give D.C. residents hope for change this year.

Mrs. Werronen said the D.C. Republican Committee supports a bill by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, that would give the District one representative but no senators. The bill also would give Utah one additional representative. Mr. Davis’ bill is pending in Congress.

Party leaders in Maryland have called Mr. Davis’ bill “interesting.”

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane said giving the District a voting representative in Congress could strengthen the region’s power when negotiating budget items.

“Cooperation is how a lot of the politics get done,” Mr. Kane said. “The person would be liberal, but it’s a good thing at the end of the day on a regional basis if we have the ability of three large regions to come together and go to the Appropriations Committee to offer each other support.”

Kate Obenshain Griffin, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and member of the national platform committee for the convention, said Virginia hasn’t taken a position on D.C. voting rights but she will keep an open mind.

“I will take the opportunity to listen to the different perspectives,” she said.

At the Democratic National Convention last month, Mrs. Norton led delegates from the District in a mock Boston Tea Party to protest taxation without representation.

Mrs. Werronen said D.C. Republicans will not be staging similar events.

“There are ways to make a statement and to make it count,” she said.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat who attended the Democratic National Convention, also plans to attend the Republican National Convention to lobby for voting rights.

The D.C. Republican Committee in June voted unanimously to adopt a set of platform recommendations on a range of issues of key concern to urban Republicans and to send them to the national convention.

In addition to D.C. voting rights, the committee backed full budget autonomy for the District, as well as more equitable federal compensation to the D.C. government for nontaxable federal land and a wide range of security cost burdens, and called for an end to congressional riders on D.C. appropriation bills.

D.C. Republicans also will use the convention to showcase some of their candidates for local offices.

Among the Republican contenders are Jerod Tolson, who is running for the Ward 7 seat against incumbent Kevin P. Chavous in the November election, and Michael Monroe, who hopes to unseat Mrs. Norton.

Mrs. Werronen said Republicans are showing courage by running in the District, which she considers a “one-party town.” Fewer than 10 percent of the District’s registered voters are Republicans.

The D.C. Council has two Republicans: Carol Schwartz and David Catania, who both were elected at large.

The Republican Party recently snubbed Mr. Catania, who was not included as a delegate to the national convention and resigned from the D.C. Republican Committee this spring.

Mr. Catania, who is openly homosexual, said he could not support President Bush after hearing his proposal to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex “marriages.” However, Mr. Catania has said he will not leave the party.

Mr. Tolson said he is running for office because he is unhappy with Democratic leadership of the District. He doesn’t expect the convention to give his run a boost, but looks forward to going to a national convention for the first time.

“I’m expecting to meet a lot of Republicans and do some networking,” he said.

Mr. Chavous, who has held the seat since 1992, said one of his accomplishments is that more school and libraries are being built in his ward than in any other.

He will face several Democratic challengers in the September primary and said he welcomes opponents from any political party.

“Competition is healthy,” Mr. Chavous said.

Mr. Monroe, 24, attended the 2000 convention as an aide to the delegation.

Mrs. Werronen said either Mr. Monroe or Mr. Tolson might make the delegation’s ceremonial vote to nominate Mr. Bush for re-election.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide