The Washington Post

Gray, council members push D.C. statehood measure in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. -- Much of the District’s elected leadership arrived in slushy New Hampshire on Friday morning for a day-long field trip in support of D.C. statehood.

Mayor Vincent Gray (Sarah L. Voisin/THE WASHINGTON POST)

On the first of what officials hope will be a nationwide tour, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown and four council members plan to testify in front of the New Hampshire legislature to try gain sympathy for their statehood push.

Tired of putting all their hopes in Congress, District officials have crafted a new strategy in which they reach out to counterparts across the country. The first stop is the State House in Concord, N.H. because Rep. Cindy Rosenwald (D) has introduced a resolution expressing “support for admitting the District of Columbia as the fifty-first state of the United States.”

Gray, Brown and Council members Vincent B. Orange (D-At large), Michael A. Brown (I-At large), David A. Catania (I-At large) and Mary M. Cheh (D-At large) all plan to testify this morning before a New Hampshire legislative committee in support of the resolution.

“Anytime you have a state legislator that has introduced a resolution of D.C. becoming a state, its important for D.C.’s legislative body to go thank them and testify in support of an issue important to residents of the District,” Kwame Brown said. “If they take enough time to hold a hearing we should be there.”

Shortly after 7 a.m., the mayor and council members boarded a Southwest Air flight from BWI airport for the 40 minute flight to Manchester.

On the flight, Gray sat next to his legislative director, Janene Jackson. Kwame Brown sat with Michael Brown. Other members sat by themselves or with staff.

Though officials stressed the trip will allow them present a united front, it remains to be seen whether everyone can get along on their outing. In recent days, relations between the mayor and chairman have soured over a dispute about how to spend a $42 million surplus. Catania and Cheh also have volatile relationships with some people on the trip.

“No worries, not at all,” Catania said when asked if everyone would get along on the trip. “This is a reminder of common values, common ground. We should do more of these types of things, not less.

Although some members paid for their own tickets, taxpayers are picking up much of the cost, estimated to be about $4,000.

“How can you put a price tag on democracy,” said Gray, noting his plane ticket was only $133.

The trip was originally scheduled for two weeks ago, but was cancelled due to a predicted snowstorm in New England. On Friday, officials arrived in New Hampshire to find heavy rain falling on a dwindling snow pack.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.


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