D.C. Council Chairman Arrington Dixon has introduced council legislation to put off until 1983 the election of two senators and a House member to represent the District of Columbia in Congress under a proposed constitution now being written in the city's bid for statehood.
Several delegates to the D.C. statehood convention noted that Dixon's proposal would, in effect, free candidates tied up in mayoral and other city elections this year to run for the congressional seats next year. Dixon is seeking reelection this fall.
Dixon spokeswoman Carol Richards said, however, "I don't think he Dixon has any plan like that at this time . . . . There's no personal motive" in his proposal.
The statehood convention, now about halfway through a 90-day constitution-writing session, hopes to put the finished document on the ballot for city voters' consideration in this fall's election. Many convention delegates also want election of the two senators and representative to be held at the same time, while the issue is fresh in the voters' minds.
Richards said Dixon feels congressional elections this year could become "embroiled or confused" with the other city elections being held this fall, including party primaries in September and a general election in November. Dixon was reported on vacation in Florida yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
Under statehood admission procedures, city voters must first approve the constitution. At that time or later, they must also elect two senators and a representative--the District's congressional entitlement under the current apportionment formula--who would officially present the constitution to Congress. Each house would then have to approve the constitution by a simple majority for statehood to be implemented.
Statehood convention president Charles I. Cassell said interest in the statehood issue "could wane" if the congressional elections are put off to 1983. On the other hand, he said, there may not be enough time after the constitution is completed next month to mount a campaign for the congressional seats for the September primaries.
"It may be a reality that we've got too much to do," Cassell said. He suggested a special election could be called in early 1983 as a compromise between an election this year and Dixon's proposal for late 1983.
Dixon says he is willing to put the constitution on the ballot this year but wants to separate it from the congressional elections.
"My bill clarifies the wording in the original statehood initiative and defines a more orderly procedures for the voter to follow," he said in a prepared statement.
"Under my bill, the voters would approve the statehood constitution one year and elect their senators and representative the next," Dixon said. "This would allow the delegates the time to educate the community about the new constitution and would permit greater focus to be placed on the election of our representatives to Congress."