Congressional Republicans oppose the District becoming the 51st state of the union but the city’s local GOP members look at the matter a little differently.
“The District of Columbia Republican Party has officially always supported the right of D.C. residents to have voting rights in the Congress as well as budget and legislative autonomy,” Patrick Mara, the chairman of the party, said. “That is where we stand on that issue.”
Mara articulates the views of his District party members as the U.S. Congress considers D.C. statehood legislation. No Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives supported D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s The Washington, D.C. Admission Act of 2021 when it successfully cleared the House on April 22. Presently, there are no Senate Republicans co-sponsoring Sen. Thomas Carper’s (D-Del.) D.C. statehood bill, with 45 Democrats and Independents signing on to it.
Former Rep. Wayne T. Gilcrest representing Maryland’s Eastern Shore remains the only Republican to vote for D.C. statehood legislation, and he voted for it Nov. 21, 1993 when the House rejected Norton’s first bill to reach the House floor.
Ron Moten has participated in District GOP activities for years and disagrees with his party’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill regarding D.C. statehood.
“I think everyone deserves democracy and equality, especially Black people,” Moten, a candidate for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat in 2012, said. “We as Blacks have to work harder to have a better quality of life. When the federal relief from the coronavirus was handed out last year, D.C. was short-changed. It has been proven in this city that Blacks are being hit harder by COVID. Not having the money we needed at the time to deal with the pandemic affects us more here in D.C. is because we aren’t a state.”
However, Moten said he understands the primary reason Republican lawmakers oppose D.C. statehood.
“D.C. is a liberal city,” he said. “If D.C. becomes a state, it would be a liberal state.”
Ralph J. Chittams Sr., has served as the vice chairman of the D.C. Republican Party and ran for the at-large council seat in 2018. Chittams said while he enjoys living in the District, it should not be a state.
“D.C. should never be a state for constitutional reasons,” Chittams said. “It is outlined in the papers of the founding fathers of our country that the nation’s capital should be a federal enclave. The founders put that in the Constitution so that the federal government couldn’t be held hostage by any state. The state that houses the nation’s capital could coerce the federal government by withholding fire, police, water and sewage services. If this new state—Washington, the Douglass Commonwealth—were to come into being, that could possibly happen.”
Chittams said he could see a scenario where the White House, the Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court building and other federal facilities are dependent on the resources of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.
Chittams does agree District residents should be exempt from paying federal taxes because they, like residents in the territories, lack voting representation. He said retrocession, meaning District residents should become Marylanders politically, “is feasible” but rejected that idea ultimately.
“The same scenario that could happen with Washington, Douglass Commonwealth could happen with Maryland,” he said. “The federal city is supposed to be autonomous.”
Mara said the D.C. statehood legislation debate has one good point: it puts lawmakers on the record.
“People in Congress need to take a position on this,” he said. “Whether Democrat or Republican. Our second-class citizenship in this city needs to be dealt with.”