As D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) prepared to attend the Democratic National Convention in Boston, he got some unexpected praise from an unlikely source.

During a speech in Detroit last Friday to the National Urban League, President Bush announced that he is "proud to support Mayor Tony Williams," who, the president noted, is "my mayor right now."

The president then explained that "Tony" is the mayor of Washington, and "a very good mayor, by the way. He's a good man. Maybe you know him." The audience applauded dutifully.

Working with "Tony," Bush said, he "signed a bill into law creating taxpayer-sponsored scholarships for students in Washington, D.C.," because "if school choice is good for the wealthy, it's good enough for disadvantaged children in America."

Bush called the public school voucher program "a good piece of legislation, which is going to help improve education for all children in the nation's capital."

No word from the president, however, on the city's troubled bid to find a new school superintendent. Bush apparently is letting "Tony" handle that one on his own.

Handgun Ban Stands

Although a pledge by House Republicans to prevent the D.C. Council from granting some non-U.S. citizens the right to vote in city elections irked some home rule advocates last week, just as noteworthy was a dog that didn't bark during passage of the District's 2005 budget.

The House easily approved the $8.2 billion bill, including $560 million in direct federal aid, but did not consider repealing the District's ban on handgun ownership.

Such an amendment was possible. Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Ind.) has 226 co-sponsors for a bill in committee "to restore Second Amendment rights" to keep and bear arms in the District. That's eight more than needed for passage in the 435-member House.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she moved to head off an effort to attach the legislation to the budget. Democrats threatened to retaliate by proposing to renew a 10-year-old federal ban on assault weapons, which expires in September. House GOP leaders have blocked a renewal, although President Bush in 2000 did not campaign against the weapons ban.

Norton said she also worked with Senate appropriators to secure an agreement that repealing the D.C. handgun ban would not be part of the D.C. bill.

GOP managers kept all controversial amendments off the budget bill.

Noncitizens Bill Falters

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is sponsoring the council bill to change District election law to allow permanent U.S. residents to vote, went on the attack against a congressional critic, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.).

Tancredo spoke on the House floor against Graham's proposal, and Graham cited a letter that Tancredo had written in support of Vernon Robinson, a conservative Republican candidate for Congress from North Carolina.

In the letter, Tancredo criticized illegal immigration.

"The Mexican drug cartel is now using Brazilian documents to smuggle in Middle Eastern aliens for $50,000 a head," Tancredo wrote. "Many of these Arab Muslims are terrorists who are coming into this country because they want to kill your family and mine."

Graham said Tancredo's opposition to noncitizens voting "is an anti-immigrant, racist point of view that no reasonable person would subscribe to."

Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa said Graham was confusing border security with noncitizen voting and was resorting to racial epithets because he was losing the argument. "They are simply two separate issues, and I don't see how he could even tie them in," Espinosa said.

Graham's bill does not appear to have majority support on the D.C. Council. He said he has five co-sponsors on the 13-member panel, two fewer than a majority. Graham said he hopes that Council member Vincent Orange (D-Ward 5) will at least hold a hearing.

Petition Fight Dropped

Adam Eidinger, candidate to become the District's "shadow" representative to Congress, withdrew a challenge to nominating petitions filed by two-term incumbent Ray Browne (D) and Democratic challenger Susana Baranano last week.

Eidinger, making his second run on the Statehood Green platform for the unpaid elected post of statehood lobbyist, initially said that both Democrats on the Sept. 14 primary ballot had fallen short of the 2,000 signatures needed.

But signatures that were illegible on photocopies provided by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics were legible on original petition sheets, said Eidinger, a 30-year-old District public relations firm owner and veteran protester. He also said he had misunderstood election rules, which do not require registered District voters who sign to provide a correct address.

"Even though we didn't succeed in removing these candidates from the ballot, we performed a public service to voters by verifying their signatures," Eidinger said.

Browne said Eidinger abused the system by trying to disenfranchise voters.

"They've taken a party of principle and character, and now it's a party of stunts trying to win elections in this fashion," Browne said.