The Washington Post

Gray to pitch for D.C. statehood at GOP convention

District Mayor Vincent C. Gray(D) plans to take his push for statehood back on the road this summer, including to potentially unfriendly turf : the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Speaking at the D.C. Democratic State Committee caucus Saturday, Gray told party activists he will lobby Republicans to embrace his passion of making the city the 51st state.

Although convincing Congress to grant statehood to the District remains a longshot, Gray said he’s emboldened by recent statements by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in support of easing congressional oversight over the District’s budget.

It’s unclear what Gray has planned for Tampa to try to gain some of the spotlight in late August. But he surely hopes to avoid a repeat of his disastrous statehood trip to New Hampshire in January, where GOP legislators grilled him and D.C. Council members for hours about the city and whether it was constitutional for it to be made a state.

Acknowledging that the New Hampshire trip did not go as planned, Gray told D.C. Democrats he won’t be making a return to a GOP-dominated State House without more assurances that legislators will at least be somewhat receptive to the city’s wish for self-determination.

So, Gray is taking his the city’s statehood road show to a national audience.

The mayor also plans to attend the Democratic National Convention, where delegates from the District have traditionally advocated for the cause for in front of largely sympathetic audiences.

By planning to attend the national GOP gathering, Gray is following in the footsteps of former mayor Anthony Williams, who went to both the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2000 to speak out for District voting rights.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.


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