DMV Daily: Norton Tries Again

D.C. delegate introduces three voting rights bills

By P.J. Orvetti
|  Thursday, Jan 13, 2011  |  Updated 7:24 AM EDT
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DMV Daily: Norton Tries Again

Getty Images

U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) smiled as she answered questions from reporters after a news conference on Capitol Hill Feb. 26, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Senate earlier passed the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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If at first you don’t succeed…

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has dutifully if pessimistically introduced three bills that would address the District’s lack of congressional representation.

The New Columbia Admission Act would create a 51st state out of what’s now D.C., while the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act would give the District representation equal to that of a small state: one full House member and two senators. The third, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, would give D.C. a House vote alone. While that final option has come close in the past, none of the measures has a chance with a Republican-controlled House.

Indeed, the Washington Post says the “new measures come at a bleak time for the voting rights movement.” DCist’s Martin Austermuhle agrees, writing, “It is truly a depressing sign of the times for the D.C. voting rights movement when our congressional delegate introduces legislation that has been introduced before with no additional expectation that it will pass this time around.”

But Norton said in a statement that the three bills serve a symbolic purpose: to show District residents’ “determination to never relent or retreat until we have obtained each and every right to which we are entitled, whether through the frustration and anguish of the incrementalism that Congress has always forced upon us or with the full and complete set of rights, which, would be achieved through statehood.”

Meanwhile, the D.C. Council “is considering renaming a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue, just one block from the White House, to reflect the city’s ongoing quest for statehood,” the Washington Examiner reports -- because renaming that segment of South Capitol Street “Taxation Without Representation Street SE” worked wonders for the cause.

Elsewhere in the DMV:

* Washington City Paper reports the effort to draft Ward 1’s Bryan Weaver to run in the At-Large D.C. Council special election had raised $280 by Wednesday evening -- more seems to have been collected online since then -- and Weaver “says he’s giving himself the next week to decide” whether to run. While Weaver seems likely to give it a go -- even his wife has signed an online petition urging him to run, and Weaver teasingly posted a photo of a “Draft Weaver” sign on his Facebook page -- there are reasons why he might not.

Weaver “says he hardly saw his two young kids during his failed attempt to unseat Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham,” City Paper writes, and “he also gained 8 to 10 pounds eating all sorts of fried food that’s typically served at candidate forums and meet-and-greets. Not to mention, Weaver adds, being a political candidate means being the target of a certain level of unpleasant animosity from your opponent’s supporters.” He also finished a disappointing third in the race, with just 21 percent of the vote, after months of heavy campaigning.

Still, I expect Weaver to run. The opportunity could be too good to pass up, and he’s already got a growing cadre of supporters raring to go.

* In the aftermath of the D.C. Democratic State Committee’s selection of Sekou Biddle to serve as an interim At-Large D.C. Council member, and subsequent criticism of the process, the Post’s Mike DeBonis considers what’s wrong with the DCDSC. While many members are “conscientious and interested in the progress of the city,” he writes, “the institution throughout its recent history has been mired in mismanagement allegations, financial woes and, most often of all, irrelevance.” Since D.C. is a one-party town, DeBonis argues, the Democratic committee “is less a political party than a social club for D.C. residents who like politics -- which is fine, until the club gets tasked with exercising real power, and outsiders resent it.”

* The Examiner reports Gov. Bob McDonnell used a portion of his State of the Commonwealth Address Wednesday evening to call for greater civility in political debate. After calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the Tucson shootings last Saturday, McDonnell said, “We stand together tonight and make clear that this grand experiment in liberty that we call America shall never be shaken or silenced by the cowardly actions of one person, one group or one nation. … Let us remember that before we are Republicans and Democrats, we are Virginians and Americans.” McDonnell also discussed his transportation plans and his call for borrowing funds.

The Post reports state House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong delivered the Democratic response, saying, “While he talks a pretty good game about small government and cutting spending, his legislative agenda suggests that he has not gotten the point made in the last election when it comes to deficit spending.”

* ARLnow says the Virginia chapter of the League of Women Voters is not pleased by how the state redraws its legislative boundaries each decade, and has been calling for a nonpartisan commission or process to take over the past. The Virginia chapter’s president Olga Hernandez said last week, “We believe that although we have some great state legislators, them drawing their own lines is like having the foxes guarding the hen house.” But it “may be too late for this go-round; the redistricting process is set to get under way in April.”

* The new session of the Maryland General Assembly kicked off Wednesday in Annapolis. The Frederick News-Post reports, “Frederick County’s new delegates and senators spent Wednesday celebrating before they have to get down to work.”

* The Post’s Robert McCartney observes that “conventional politics has been turned upside down in Virginia and Maryland.” Virginia’s “conservative governor” McDonnell “is the big-government guy who wants the state to borrow billions of dollars so it can keep fixing its roads for a while. … Meanwhile, across the river, Maryland’s liberal governor, Martin O’Malley, is talking about closing a yawning budget deficit by cutting spending on education and on public employees’ pensions and retirement benefits. For now, at least, he’s proposing only to slash expenditures and not to raise taxes.”

* Ward 8 D.C. State Board of Education member William Lockridge, a veteran community activist, died Wednesday following a stroke suffered at home last week. He was 63. In a statement, Mayor Vincent Gray said, “For decades he showed that he cared deeply for the District of Columbia and particularly for our children.”

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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