Ronald Reagan either opposes or takes no position on most of the key issues affecting home rule for citizens of the nation's capital, perhaps indicating that relations between a Reagan White House and the District government would be rocky.
Reagan opposes both statehood and full voting representation in Congress for District residents, and according to aides is "probably" against giving the District authority to impose a commuter tax. He has refused to take positions on budgetary or prosecutorial autonomy for the local elected government, and on several other issues. An aide said Reagan would take no positions on the home rule issues until after the presidential election.
None of the three major presidential candidates favors all the home rule measures. Neither President Carter nor independent candidate John B. Anderson has taken a position on statehood or the commuter tax, and Anderson opposes budget autonomy.
But Carter and Anderson both favor the Voting Rights Amendment to the Consitiution, which would give the District full voting representation in the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives. And both also favor a fixed formula for the annual federal payment from the federal government to the District, as well as transfer of prosecutorial functions from the U. s. Department of Justice to city officials.
With only three electoral votes at stake and a solid history of voting Democratic, the District is something less than a key state in the three candidates strategies. In fact, Reagan and Anderson have all but conceded the District to Carter. The Carter-Mondale campaign, meanwhile, has concentrated its efforts in states in which the stakes are bigger and the outcome less predictale.
The Washington Post asked the national campaign organizations of all three candidates to submit positions on the home rule measures, and found that none of them had ready answers.
Carter-Mondale officials referred the inquiries to local campaign workers. Anderson's campaign people had to research the issue before they responded. But apparently least familiar of all with the D.C. issues was the Reagan campaign, which took several days to deliver a partial response.
Reagan has already made campaign statements unlikely to woo D.C. voters. During a Texas campaign swing earlier this year, Reagan told reporters gathered in front of the Alamo that he opposed the Voting Rights Amendment, and that, if District residents felt "really deprived" by not having representation in Congress, they should look into becoming a part of the state of Maryland.
Reagan has also promised that if elected he would impose an immediate, absolute freeze on federal government hiring, a stance unlikely to be popular in a city whose chief employer is the federal government.
Reagan press aide Ken Towery said Reagan opposed statehood, voting rights and "probably" the commuter tax, and promised to have a staff member research the other questions. Several days later, campaign worker Mary Catherine English said the other issues involved "the kind of detailed budgetary questions the governor really hasn't taken a stand on." She added, "You can ask after the election."
Anderson's domestic policy adviser, Bob Walker, said Anderson opposes granting the city budgetary autonomy "until the city's finances have been brought into better balance." Statehood and the commuter tax, Walker said, are both issues for which no position has been developed. But Anderson favors the other home rule measures.
Anderson believes that a predictable formula-based federal payment -- the annual sum Congress appropriates to the District in lieu of property tax revenues for federally occupied sites -- would "enable the District to begin long-term financial planning," Walker said.
Anderson as president would "work in close partnership to ensure the balance between the legitimate needs for District autonomy, and the needs of a world diplomatic capital, which Washington D.C. has become," Walker said.
Barbara Lett Simmons, vice president of the D.C. school board and coordinator of Carter's District campaign, said Carter has consistently shown support of home rule through a hands-off approach to the District budget and support of eventual budget autonomy, as well as his backing of a fixed formula federal payment, the transfer of prosecutorial authority and the Voting Rights Amendment.
The Democratic Party platform explicitly backs the amendment. As far as statehood is concerned, Simmons said after conferring with officials of the national campaign, the president is willing to "investigate" the idea, but has taken no position.
Carter is concerned, she said, about the nature and extent of a proposed smaller "federal enclave" that, under the provisions of the statehood initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot for D.C. voters, would remain under federal control in the eventuality that the District became a state.
Except for a recent appearance at a fund-raiser here by Anderson, none of the candidates has actively campaigned in the District. Simmons noted that First Lady Rosalynn Carter made an appearance here last week.