WITH THE education tax credit and the
school board race on Tuesday's ballot, there has not been much attention to the contests for delegates to the District's constitutional convention. This is the follow-up to last year's vote to begin efforts to make the District a state. The District is to present Congress with a state constitution and send elected state representatives to Congress to press its case for statehood.
A constitution must now be written, subject to approval by the voters, and that is why there are 103 candidates running for 45 seats at the constitutional convention.
The race has not become a competition between differing views of what the constitution should contain. Instead, candidates have been trying simply to make their names known. District residents may have to wait until next January, when the convention is likely to begin, to find out how many delegates favor a bicameral state legislature or expanded powers for the executive branch. But what is beginning to be an issue among the candidates is the scope of their mission. Some are talking of writing a document that would correct wrongs that they perceive in national law, by proposing that the constitution contain a wide-ranging bill of rights and more.
To make a proposed constitution into a Christmas tree for every crusade and idea would be a deadly mistake. It could kill the statehood drive even before the difficult job began of getting Congress to give it serious consideration. Basically the constitution should set out the argument that it is consistent with the United States Constitution for the District to be a state and should set forth the procedures for a state government.
In choosing five delegates from each ward and five delegates city-wide, voters need to look for serious candidates who understand that the expense and commitment necessary for this convention may make it a one-time opportunity. If the convention is not handled well, the damage to all efforts to accord the rights of other Americans to this city's residents could be devastating.