- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2011

A bill that provides federal funding for the District’s courts and other programs got the green light Thursday without any pesky amendments that ruin the city’s dreams of full autonomy.

But that’s not very exciting, now is it? So Mayor Vincent C. Gray upped the ante Friday with this little surprise: A proclamation that declared it “Hayden Pannetiere Day” in the District for her support of D.C. statehood.

Wait, what?

Miss Pannetiere, a 22-year-old actress of “Heroes” and “Scream 4” fame, became an unlikely spokeswoman for D.C. self-determination after a chance encounter with D.C. proponents during a visit to the nation’s capital to lobby against the “abuse of marine mammals,” according to the mayor’s office.

Mr. Gray and a comically high number of staffers posed for pictures with the blond starlet as she accepted a proclamation at the John A. Wilson Building. But what, exactly, had she done to deserve such praise?

“During the 2008 Democratic National Convention, she joined the D.C. delegation at an event supporting full democracy for the District, and she spoke again in favor of D.C. self-determination at an event during President Obamas 2009 inauguration festivities. … She is the featured guest this evening at a fund-raiser to support the D.C. Statehood Fund,” the mayor said Friday.

Oh, well there you have it - just roll with it.

Backhanded compliment?

Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley seldom has had kind words for Republicans, but he offered praise Thursday for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s immigration policies, praising him for standing up to “thinly veiled racism” within the GOP ranks.

Mr. O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, praised the Republican presidential candidate for his defense of a Texas law that allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates. Mr. Perry signed the bill into law in 2001, and was booed by some attendees at Tuesday’s GOP debate after he reiterated his support for the idea.

Speaking with reporters Thursday morning at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Mr. O’Malley expressed admiration for Mr. Perry’s stance while also taking a shot at other Republicans.

“I do admire his willingness to stand up to the immigrant-bashers and thinly veiled racism and scapegoating that is so rampant in their party,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Texas is one of 11 states that have passed legislation allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Maryland passed its own version this year, but opponents have collected enough signatures to force a voter referendum on the plan next year.

Mr. O’Malley also predicted that President Obama would win re-election next year, despite his low standing in the polls right now.

He said Mr. Obama would prevail when the election becomes a choice between two candidates, saying, “Hes not running against the Almighty. Hes running against an alternative.”

Never too soon to ask

Speaking of Mr. O’Malley, the Maryland governor spent much of Thursday’s breakfast gleefully touting the president’s chances of re-election, but dodged a question about whether he will make a widely suspected run for the Oval Office in 2016.

Mr. O’Malley will leave office in January 2015 because of term limits, and many pundits predict he will pursue the Democratic presidential nomination the next year. A reporter at the breakfast asked Mr. O’Malley if he was worried about potential Republican challengers in 2016 and whether he considers himself to be among the candidates.

“If you say no, we’ll know you’re lying,” she said.

The governor quickly answered the first half of the question - “I’m not scared of their bench,” he said about GOP opposition - before deftly changing the subject to how he expects Mr. Obama to win another term and continue setting an example for Democratic governors and mayors.

“I think there’s plenty of suspense in this upcoming year,” he said. “And since you’ve already announced that you’re not going to believe anything I say about 2016, I think we’ll probably just go to another question.”

Tom Howell Jr. and David Hill contributed to this report.

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