The Honorable Trey Gowdy, Chairman
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
U. S. House of Representatives
2157 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Gowdy,
The leadership of the Republican Party of the District of Columbia herewith formally petitions the U. S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate an oversight investigation regarding a major provision of the DC Home Rule Charter.
As enacted, the Charter reserves two at-large Council seats for nonmajority party candidates. The specific language holds that “At no time shall there be more than three members (including the Chairman) serving at-large on the Council who are affiliated with the same political party.” D.C. Code § 1- 204.01 (d)(3).
It was the intent of Congress that this provision would enable candidates of various recognized political parties to run successfully for these at-large Council seats. Indeed, in the first years of Home Rule, D. C. Republicans held at least one of these seats and did actually hold two seats at one time.
However, in recent years this process has been perverted by Democrats changing their registration to “No Party” and running as “Independents” even though there is no recognized “Independent Party” in the District of Columbia.
See Jonetta Rose Barras, D.C.’s Democrats in ‘independent’ clothing, THE WASHINGTON POST (Apr. 17, 2014). The D.C. Courts have refused to intervene on the grounds that the Board of Elections should not “embark on a largely standardless quest to determine a candidate’s ‘actual’ allegiance by examining his day-to-day ‘associations’ with one party or another.” Kobe! v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics. 962 A.2d 919, 921-22 (D.C. 2008).
D.C. Democratic Party leaders maintain this provision was made a part of the Home Rule Charter solely on the insistence of U. S. House Republicans. NOT SO! Indeed, the strongest advocates for minority party representation were U. S. House District of Columbia Committee Democratic members Brock Adams (D-WA) and Donald Fraser (D-MN). The provision was supported by testimony from the League of Women Voters and numerous civil rights leaders, including Joseph Rauh of Americans for Democratic Action. Advocates cited one party rule as potentially fostering corrupt and inefficient government. Examples of corruption in big U. S. cities with one party governments were specifically mentioned at the time. During hearings on the Home Rule charter there was also discussion of how selected state legislatures, county commissions, and city councils have established electoral procedures that ensure minority party representation.
D.C. Democratic party leaders also contend that the provision is unconstitutional. NOT SO I The U. S. Supreme Court has held otherwise. See Hechinger v. Martin, 429 U.S. 1030 (1977).
Research and documentation on the Minority Party Representation provision of the D. C. Home Rule Charter legislation is available from Nelson Rimensnyder, of the New Columbia Archives. Mr. Rimensnyder is an active member of the D. C. Republican Party and served from 1971 – 1974 as a government analyst with the Congressional Research Service, providing research to the U. S. House Committee on the District of Columbia during the drafting of the Home Rule Charter. He has first-hand knowledge of the discussion, debate and adoption of the minority party representation provision and has written a legislative history of it.
As part of a Committee investigation of the matter, it might be helpful to request assistance from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the Congressional Research Service and the U. S. Office of Government Accountability to make recommendations on language amending the Home Rule Charter to ensure that the spirit and intent of the minority party representation provision is respected and observed. As stated in a plank from the 2016 National Republican Party Platform supporting the D. C. Republican Party’s request: “We call for congressional action to enforce the spirit of the Home Rule Act, assuring minority (party) representation on the City Council.”
Jose Cunningham, Chairman of the District of Columbia Republican Party
Robert Kabel, District of Columbia Republican Party National Committeeman
Jill Homan, District of Columbia Republican Party National Committeewoman
cc: The Honorable Mark Meadows, Chairman, Subcommittee of the Government Operations Committee on Oversight and Government Reform