Our second and final trip to the New Hampshire State House to testify for DC statehood was a failure in the sense that the committee voted 8-3 against it - but a success in that we learned how to strategize better moving forward.
We were hopeful that our obvious sacrifices - the hunger strike, then driving up twice, sleeping in the car, etc. - and a full day of logical and impassioned testimonies would help sway the skeptical representatives. But in the end, almost all of them seemed to find a reason to resort to their original opinions.
Their holdups ranged from the usual, intractable and false insistence that DC statehood would be unconstitutional, to absurd fears about who would be responsible if the Washington Monument fell down and the delusion that if we were given representation our crime rate would somehow spread to New Hampshire.
We are clearly in solidarity with Mayor Vince Gray and the council members who made the trip to New Hampshire and are planning for more such trips to other states, but we feel they can do better. They seemed to have done less research on and outreach to the committee members than we had, as evidenced by a few ill-advised remarks and their choice of the conservative NH State House in the first place. We know they chose New Hampshire first (and Florida next) because of connections they have with legislators in those states, but we are puzzled all the same because of how incredibly conservative the makeup of those state governments are.
When we met with DC ACLU Director Johnny Barnes in January he told us that in successfully fighting for DC rights in Congress he had learned to always count your votes before acting to pass legislation, and to always get your allies on board first. The current trajectory of the mayor and council does not follow that intuitive model.
Therefore we have begun to explore a potential ally much closer to home: Maryland. We will be meeting with a state representative in the next few weeks to discuss getting a letter signed by a majority of the legislature that would support DC statehood. We believe we have a good chance of getting a meaningful show of support from our neighbor state, whose Governor Martin O’Malley recently expressed support for DC statehood.
We will keep you updated as this outreach develops.