Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Is D.C. Government Enemy No. 1 in the Fight for Statehood?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
When asked what he would do to win D.C. statehood during a second term, Gray said he’s already done “as much as I possibly can do.”

Bowser said the city needs to be more strategic. If elected mayor, she would “employ partners that would help the District on the Hill with all of its federal issues.”

At the debate on Wednesday, Councilmember Vincent Orange noted that he has introduced a bill to fund the efforts of D.C.’s shadow delegation — three people, not officially recognized by Congress, who effectively serve as elected lobbyists to the Hill — but his fellow lawmakers, including the candidates beside him on stage, have refused to advance it.

Councilmember Jack Evans, who has represented Ward 2 for more than two decades, didn’t mention corruption in his response. He does think the city’s “Taxation Without Representation” license plate campaign and other attention-grabbing ideas have flopped.

Evans said the “crux of the matter” would be working with the governors of Maryland and Virginia to bring their congressional delegations on board. Neighboring jurisdictions oppose any efforts to establish “New Columbia” because they are concerned D.C. would use statehood to level a commuter tax, “which we probably would do,” he acknowledged.

If elected, Evans said he would sit down with leaders of both states to talk about the financial ramifications of statehood in hopes of easing their concerns.

When asked what he would do to win D.C. statehood during a second term, Gray told CQ Roll Call that he’s already done “as much as I possibly can do.”

“I think we have to be optimistic and say we’re going to have to look at components of statehood and move on those.” Budget autonomy is one component, Gray said, and language in the recently passed spending deal that exempts D.C. from the threat of a federal government shutdown in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 is a positive step.

“We have to be in this for the long haul. We have to develop friends,” Gray said, suggesting Reid, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., were among his closest allies in Congress.

“As much as I would like to say, you know, we’re going to go get everything all at one time, I’m not sure that’s realistic,” Gray said. “But we’re going to work on those elements that are important to statehood.”

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