DMV Daily: D.C. GOP Offers Norton a Hand

Party suggests joint meeting with House Republicans

By P.J. Orvetti
|  Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011  |  Updated 8:46 AM EDT
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DMV Daily: D.C. GOP Offers Norton a Hand

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At-Large D.C. Council candidate Patrick Mara, the only Republican in the race, is hinting that his party affiliation could help the District deal with the new masters of the House of Representatives.

The Washington Examiner writes that the D.C. Republican Party, and Mara, have “offered to lend a hand” to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, telling her in a letter, “We encourage you to work with the new Republican Congress. … We would be happy to meet with you and freshman Republican Members of Congress on Capitol Hill in support of D.C. voting rights.”

The Examiner says city Republicans hope they could use such a meeting “to create inroads with their fellow party members who now control the House.” But it is also “the kind of thing that could help give Mara a boost come April and it’s why he’s counted among the main candidates in the race.”

DCist says “in theory,” the local GOP is offering “a modest and intelligent proposal -- instead of simply assuming that every Republican on the Hill is reflexively against D.C. voting rights, Norton should seek them out and respectfully plead her case. But given the events that have transpired over the last three weeks, it seems, well, a little tone-deaf to what the District is dealing with.”

Since the GOP took control earlier this month, Norton has lost her mostly symbolic floor vote, and Republicans have floated plans for altering District policies on abortion, guns, and same-sex marriage.

Mara’s rivals are focusing on other matters as they try to get attention in the crowded contest. Arkan Haile, running as an independent, released a statement criticizing the $3,900 the District spends each month on leases for Lincoln Navigators for Mayor Vincent Gray and Council Chairman Kwame Brown. “One would think that our ever-expanding budget deficit…would make our two senior-most elected officials a little squeamish about spending so lavishly on personal transportation,” Haile said.

And DCist writes that no one is more surprised than interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle that a guy who was pretty much an unknown a few months ago has become an “insider.” Biddle “seems perplexed by his overnight transformation -- he wishes that a reality show had been based around his ascendancy to the Council, if only to correct misconceptions -- but strongly fights back at any indication that he got where he is because of the people he knows, rather than the work he’s done” in education reform.

Elsewhere in the DMV:

* The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis writes that for the first time, “there is clear daylight between Brown and Gray on a hot-button issue: school vouchers. Brown is on the record for them,” while Gray has opposed them. Gray has called the federal D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program -- which House Republicans want to restore -- “another example of unwarranted congressional experimentation with the District.” DeBonis notes, however, that the charter school system that “Gray now adores” was also foisted on the city by the House in 1998.

* Gray, Brown, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, and District CFO Natwar Gandhi will “be heading to Wall Street” next month “to deliver a message that they’re prepared to make deep cuts to the city’s budget to preserve D.C.’s creditworthiness,” the Examiner reports. The team will meet with the top three bond rating agencies in an effort that “could save the District millions of dollars in interest on the cash D.C. borrows to construct buildings and roads.”

* The Examiner reports Gray spokeswoman Linda Wharton-Boyd “told the media contacts for city agencies at a recent meeting that they’re free to answer reporters’ questions.” This “would be a huge shift from the days of Mayor Adrian Fenty, when reporters were told to contact Fenty’s spokeswoman directly with any question. Questions were then rarely answered.”

* In her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras says Gray “didn’t get the memo about the city’s fiscal crisis. Even as his administration acknowledged that the budget gap for fiscal 2012 has grown to more than $545 million, he appears unwilling to curb his spending.” Barras criticized Gray for restoring “the wholly superfluous post of deputy mayor for public safety” and planning to do the same for “the now defunct" deputy mayor for human services position.” And Gray is “continuing the tradition of paying exorbitant salaries: Gray’s chief of staff makes $200,000 a year; the budget director gets $152,240; and that deputy mayor for public safety makes $185,000.”

* Sen. Jim Webb says he has yet to decide on whether to seek a second term, and that George Allen’s much-anticipated entry into the race will not alter his timeline. Webb told reporters, “For me today is no different than yesterday when it comes to that issue.” He says he is discussing the issue with his family.

* The Examiner reports “a major platform of the Tea Party cleared the Virginia House of Delegates” on Tuesday, as legislators voted 59-34 in support of “the ‘Repeal Amendment,’ [which] would put Virginia on record as supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would give states the power to overturn federal law if two-thirds of state legislatures agreed.” But the Post reports state Senate Republicans say majority Democrats are “trampling on the minority party’s rights,” refusing to take up that bill and others.

* The Post reports Virginia Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw “wants add language to Virginia’s constitution that would cap the amount of debt the state could take on the future.” The Democrat says “he is not targeting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s current proposal to bond $2.9 billion over the next three for transportation.”

* Prince of Petworth writes that a D.C. resident claims the city improperly seized and sold her home -- for less than one-tenth its purchase price.

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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