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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation's capital

by the editor of The Common Denominator

WHO'S IN CHARGE? As much as Mayor Tony Williams and Democrats on the D.C. City Council would like to think that legislating the first presidential primary election in the nation is within their authority, the whole escapade really could result in a colossal waste of taxpayers' money. That's because D.C. Democratic State Committee Chairman Norm Neverson is absolutely correct when he asserts that the political party itself, not the government, decides how to choose its convention delegates and candidates.

Mayor Williams signed legislation April 15 that moves the District's next presidential primary to Jan. 13, 2004 about two weeks ahead of the New Hampshire primary. However, the change that Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans championed as a way to bring national attention to the District's lack of voting representation in Congress now seems likely to turn the election into little more than an expensive beauty contest.

D.C. Republicans say they plan to choose their delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention during a party caucus, not a primary. And with the Democratic National Committee threatening not to seat D.C. delegates to the 2004 Democratic National Convention who are elected in an unsanctioned primary, Neverson's organization also appears to be moving toward holding a party caucus to select its presidential convention delegates.

What the whole exercise could actually end up showing is how little influence the mayor and Democratic elected officials in the District have within their own political party.

REST IN PEACE: Lorraine Whitlock, 83, a Ward 7 civic and political powerhouse known throughout the city for her commitment to the District, was laid to rest on April 16. Her packed funeral was like many recent services for community activists. Her political supporters and opponents were both in attendance, which was a testament to the generations of Washingtonians she influenced. In the '70s Mrs. Whitlock was the coordinator for Marion Barry's early runs for mayor. She then broke with him and became one of his staunchest opponents. Mrs. Whitlock was also one of the early Ward 7 draft supporters of Mayor Williams in 1998. In the end she also broke with him and eventually supported Carol Schwartz for mayor last year. Mayor Williams did attend her funeral but was not as visible a figure at the event as he has been in other funerals.

Her battles ran the gamut from leading the opposition to Children's Island to spearheading the campaign for the District's no-fault insurance law. She was a Democratic Party activist in the '80s until the early '90s. In 1980 she was a strong supporter of Sen. Ted Kennedy's quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. She was instrumental in convincing the national Democratic Party to include non-discrimination in its federal hiring platform, which was one of the core gay rights issues in the '80s. Friends and supporters say they still plan their own memorial service for Mrs. Whitlock later this month.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator