Plans to name so-called "shadow" lobbyists who would promote statehood for the District on Capitol Hill have hit another snag.
Internal disputes have delayed plans by the D.C. Democratic State Committee to hold its September convention to nominate its choices for the lobbyist positions.
Questions over costs of the convention, which may total $15,000, who will pay for it and who may attend, have pushed the convention back to sometime in November, according to Theodis R. (Ted) Gay, chairman of the convention task force. Gay said this week that the state committee, which does not meet in August, has put off approving plans for the convention until its September meeting.
The delay in nominating two so-called "shadow" senators and a delegate is only the latest in a series of setbacks that have thwarted any move toward choosing the shadow lobbyists even though they were provided for in the original initiative approved by voters in 1980.
Last spring, the state committee sharply criticized the city's elected Democratic officials when those leaders supported the latest legislation to postpone election of the shadow lobbyists.
The committee was so angry at Mayor Marion Barry, Democratic members of the D.C. Council and Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) that committee members voted to go ahead with a September convention to choose Democratic nominees for the nonpartisan offices even though a general election isn't scheduled for three more years.
But the move got thrown off track when the committee approved a surprise motion by D.C. State Committee Chairman James M. Christian to table the issue at the committee's July meeting. The committee's September meeting will come too late to plan a convention in September or October.
While "there is genuine disagreement" over how to structure the convention, Gay said in an interview this week, there are some efforts to sabotage the convention. "A lot of people would like to see this just stalled and not happen," Gay said. He said that about one-third of the members of the state committee have consistently opposed the convention.
"The problem is, there were just too many items to bring up at any one meeting," said Christian. "We're still committed to doing" the convention.
Gay said his task force will present revised plans to the committee in September.
Still to be decided are questions over an initial plan to charge $150 filing fees for candidates for the three lobbyist positions. The fee amount rankled many of the state committee members, despite a provision that would allow candidates to claim "hardships" and not pay it.
The task force also must decide how to apportion delegates from the city's eight wards, what costs, if any, delegates will pay, and which city officials will be allowed to become automatic delegates. Barry and the Democratic council members will be automatic delegates, but others have suggested that Democratic members of the nonpartisan school board and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions also should be allowed to attend.
Even if the convention comes off in November, it could still face a legal challenge. Some officials, including D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke, have said that any lobbyists nominated at the convention would not legally become the official candidates of the Democratic Party in a general election. Gay said he expects the issue to wind up in court.
Whatever the legal questions down the road, other Democrats said, the convention is seen as one way of keeping voter interest in the statehood drive. Crab Correction
This column two weeks ago mentioned that Barry held a crab feast for community officials and "as usual" didn't invite the news media. Mary Layton, director of the office of communications, called to say that members of news media previously were invited, but not this year. Two wallops with a crab mallet. Caboose Correction
One more comment on that Liberty Bell Express train to Philadelphia. It's always risky to make lists of people participating in something good -- you may leave out someone's name. That's what happened to D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis. Her name was inadvertently left off a list of council members participating in the July 11 trip to promote statehood for the District. Jarvis was an active participant, was among the leaders in ticket sales for the event and was even interviewed on the train by this reporter.