Virginia state Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) was incorrectly quoted in an article Friday as saying that only one female member of the House of Delegates voted for a bill that would restrict abortions for girls under 18. Saslaw said only one woman legislature sponsored the measure.
It's the District of Columbia's friends on Capitol Hill, not its detractors, who reveal just how difficult it will be for the city to become the 51st state.
Consider the view of Rep. Julian C. Dixon of California, a Democrat, a Black Congressional Caucus member and longtime supporter of the city on money and autonomy issues -- just the kind of congressman to whom the city is looking to form a core of support for statehood.
"I have no position on statehood," said Dixon, who as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District has a broad knowledge of city affairs and is aware of the statehood issue.
He paused, then sighed.
"If it came to the House floor, I suppose I would vote for it," he said, with an obvious lack of enthusiasm.
District voters officially approved statehood and a controversial constitution for the proposed state of New Columbia in 1982. For the next fiscal year, the city has budgeted $100,000 to lobby for statehood.
But also consider Rep. Stewart B. McKinney (R-Conn.), ranking minority member on the House District Committee, who has supported almost all proposals to strengthen the city's home rule authorities. Earlier this year, he proposed giving the District some of the significant autonomy it still lacks -- over its judicial system, over its budget -- and then abolishing the House District Committee that oversees city legislative affairs.
But McKinney opposes statehood. He argues there are constitutional issues that have not been resolved, involving the original concept of the District as a "federal enclave."
He has said in the past that it would be "just stupid" from the city's point of view, because D.C. would lose financial support from the federal government and would not gain any new taxing powers to replace it.
Last week D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy announced proposed changes to the state constitution to make it more palatable to Congress, which has the authority to create new states by a majority vote of both houses.
The last time Congress did so was when it voted to make Hawaii the 50th state in 1959, a year after it approved Alaska as the 49th state. Both those efforts for statehood had spanned decades.
Statehood for the District, Dixon said, is not a "burning issue" with Congress, his constituents or others in the far West. "I sense in conversations I hear that it statehood has a long way to go."
Fauntroy, who has scheduled hearings this week on the proposed changes to the statehood constitution, has an optimistic schedule for pushing the issue. His goal is to get a test vote in the House late this year or early next year.
Senate passage is unlikely, even the most optimistic supporters acknowledge, while there is a Republican majority in the Senate. This is because the District is overwhelmingly Democratic and presumably would shift the balance of power in the Senate by electing two Democratic senators.
But the issues go beyond mere partisanship, or what Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who introduced statehood legislation in the Senate, has referred to as the "four toos" -- that the city is too black, too Democratic, too urban and too liberal to win approval as a state.
"A lot of people say it is just racism, but we have gotten more home rule in the past decade than we have ever had before with a predominately black city," said one key official who is helping in the lobbying efforts. "Also, we have Democrats who will vote against it for personal and parochial reasons."
Among the groups that might be expected to oppose statehood are those opposed to abortion, gun control and homosexual rights -- volatile issues on which the District has generally been a proponent -- according to those who have been involved in previous D.C. home rule battles.
Charles I. Cassell, president of the D.C. Statehood Constitutional Convention, which drafted the proposed constitution in 1982, approaches the lobbying effort idealistically, saying he will argue from the standpoint of simple fairness to 630,000 city residents who now have no senators and no voting congressman in the House.
"A denial of that right to representation becomes big news," Cassell said. "It won't play well around the world." Statehood supporters have been encouraged by mounting support in Congress -- even among some conservative Republicans -- for sanctions against South Africa because of its continuing apartheid policy of racial discrimination, he said.
At the same time, Cassell said he realizes congressmen respond to constituent pressures and that the statehood campaign will have to push for grass-roots support. Cassell, a jazz enthusiast, has written lyrics to four statehood campaign songs, sung to such tunes as "Hail to the Redskins" and "Our Day Will Come."
Another official involved in lobbying strategy said supporters will try to gear up a network of black organizations and labor groups to press for statehood. Its aim would be districts where there is no strong opposition to the idea, so that a congressman could use it as a "throw-away vote" to please black constituents and labor.
The statehood movement here is still in its infancy, however. "Back in the '60s, we District residents couldn't vote for anything, even the president," Cassell noted.
In 1971, the city got a delegate to Congress, with votes in committee but not on the House floor. The newly formed Statehood Party's candidate for that office, Julius Hobson Sr., lost to Fauntroy.
Home rule for the District came just a decade ago, providing for a mayor and City Council elected by residents who could approve local legislation, with Congress retaining an oversight function. Before home rule, Congress approved local laws and essentially ran the city.
Over the past 10 years, the city has gradually gained more home rule authorities, and in 1978 Congress approved the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would have given the city one congressman and two senators but not all of the autonomies of full statehood.
To be ratified, that amendment required approval by two-thirds of all the states within seven years, however. With only 16 states having approved it, and 38 needed, the amendment will die in August.
But statehood supporters say the efforts that in the past had been focused on winning support within the states for voting representation will be turned to the statehood effort. So while statehood is still just a 51st star in the eye of would-be founding fathers, supporters say time and momentum are on their side.
"It will take some education," said Clint C. Hockenberry of the local chapter of Americans for Democratic Action. "There has been an evolution . . . . Eventually people will recognize that statehood isn't such a strange idea after all."