Sep 28, 2022 - News

Town Talker: D.C. mayor considers new statehood push

Supporters of D.C. statehood hold a large banner while marching down a street

A 2021 rally for statehood. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

D.C. is mulling one last push for statehood before the end of the year.

What I’m hearing: Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office is fleshing out a concept to lobby Democratic senators to combine pro-democracy reforms with D.C. statehood in one package.

Why it matters: Bowser's campaign would be the most urgent push in recent memory by a D.C. mayor for statehood.

Democrats and President Biden have talked about saving American democracy, so District leaders would argue that statehood is integral to that end.

  • They point to Biden’s recent comments that he needs “two more senators” to pass his agenda. D.C.'s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate would make that wish a reality.

State of play: Statehood legislation has passed the House, but lacks support to move out of a Senate committee — let alone pass the full chamber.

  • Currently, 46 Democratic senators are signed on to the statehood bill. Centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are the major holdouts.

The game plan: Bowser hopes to personally meet with members of Congress, under the idea being discussed, which hasn’t been finalized yet.

The pitch could go something like this: two Democratic senators from D.C. would help Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democratic leadership stay in power and pass Biden’s agenda items, including codifying the right to abortion.

  • Bowser's push would run between the end of midterms and the new Congress being sworn in.
  • Beverly Perry, a top Bowser aide, has been tasked with dialing up progress on statehood.

Yes, but: In order for this to work, Democratic leadership would need to muscle through the legislation during a potential lame duck period.

Between the lines: This full-court press faces long odds. Sinema and Manchin would need to let go of the filibuster for statehood, which neither is keen to support.

The talk of Ward 7

🎙 Ward 7 council member Vincent Gray is signaling he will run for re-election, indicating that the former mayor is eager to remain in the political arena.

  • The 79-year-old is recovering from ankle surgery after tearing an Achilles tendon while on vacation this past August. He suffered a stroke last December.

I asked Chuck Thies, who was campaign manager and treasurer for Gray’s three past campaigns.

  • “Everything I’ve spoken to him about 2024, he has expressed interest in running,” Thies told me.
  • No formal process has begun to launch a campaign. But Thies added it was a question of “when” over “if” he’ll run.

🗣 Chatter: Other potential candidates include Wendell Felder, chair of Ward 7 Democrats; Veda Rasheed, who sought the seat in 2020; and Karim Marshall, an independent currently running for at-large.

💬 Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics. Send tips to [email protected]


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