D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has abandoned plans to advocate for city statehood at the Republican National Convention next week so he can instead devote his energy toward getting the District more of a voice at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
Earlier this year, Gray said he wanted to go to the GOP convention in Tampa to prove he’s willing to reach out to unlikely allies in his pitch to make the District the 51st state, mimicking a similar trip former mayor Anthony Williams made to the Republican gathering in Philadelphia in 2000.
But at his biweekly press conference Wednesday, Gray said he has since decided to just to attend the Democratic National Convention in September, where city officials are gearing up for a potential showdown over the statehood issue.
“It would be two full weeks that I would be out,” Gray said in explaining his decision. “And realizing now what we have before us (at the DNC Convention), it’s going to take a lot of my time. I didn’t think we would have to wage this kind of fight at our own Democratic convention.”
Gray was responding to concerns from District activists that national Democratic leaders so far have not signaled plans to include D.C. statehood in the party platform. Though the provision was in the 2000 platform, Gray said it didn’t make it into the 2004 or 2008 party document. Gray, a convention superdelegate, is also unnerved that the national party has still not allotted time for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) to speak at the convention.
Later Wednesday, Gray plans to call Anita Bonds, the chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, to begin drafting a strategy for how the District can force the statehood issue at the convention.
“This only comes around every four years, we should seize every available opportunity before us to advance the cause of the people who live the District of Columbia,” Gray said. “I will be fighting, and have an absolutely unwavering commitment to this.”
In response to a question from journalist and statehood activist Mark Plotkin, Gray refused to rule out a potential convention floor flight over District autonomy issues. Gray has also signed a letter to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, asking that Norton be given a speaking slot.
“Statehood should be restored in 2012,” said Gray, who was arrested last year at a voting demonstration on Capitol Hill.
Gray’s announcement that he would skip the RNC convention came a day after the GOP platform committee adopted language opposing statehood for the District. The GOP platform also will include language urging the D.C. Council to liberalize the city’s gun laws.
Gray said he was “very, very disappointed” with both decisions. “It’s undemocratic and not consistent with the principles in which the nation was founded,” Gray said. “Taxation without representation was a fundamental principle upon which this nation was founded.”
As for guns, Gray said there was a “prima facie case” for the city’s strict gun laws when an armed intruder stormed into the Family Research Council last week, wounding a security guard.
“The person who went into the Family Research Council had bought a gun in a matter of days in another state, neighboring state of Virginia, and was able to come into the District of Columbia and use that gun,” Gray said. “It’s an indication of why we need gun control laws.”
But in pushing for more lenient gun regulations in the District, Republicans also cite the Family Research Council shooting. Politico reported Tuesday that Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, asked GOP leaders to insert the District gun rights plank into the platform so “citizens can protect themselves.”
“As we’ve seen in recent days, D.C. gun control laws — some of the most stringent in the country — cannot prevent criminals from engaging in violent acts,” Perkins told Politico.
Gray dismissed suggestions that the shooter could have been taken down more quickly had a civilian be able to legally carry a weapon in the District.
“We are on course right now to have the lowest number of homicides in the District of Columbia since we began recording data on this decades ago,” Gray said. “We could wind up with a fewer than a 100 homicides, which would be far superior to other jurisdictions that have far more liberal gun laws than we do.