Move Over New Hampshire, Iowa

A war of words is brewing between a member of the D.C. Council and a New Hampshire newspaper over efforts to make the nation's capital the home of the first presidential primary.

The New Hampshire Sunday News ran an editorial blasting Councilman Jack Evans' attempt to move the District of Columbia primary to Jan. 10.

"We think the case against D.C. getting the first primary can be made in two words: Marion Barry," the paper wrote, referring to the former Washington mayor caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine during his third term. Barry later served prison time.

"Our nation's capital is a beautiful city, and its inhabitants include many dedicated public servants. But electorally speaking, the residents of D.C. don't exactly have a stellar track record," the editorial continued.

Evans "took offense" at the comments.

"I don't know if anybody saw the Manchester something or another that ... harkened back to the District of Columbia, oh they elected Marion Barry, they can't elect anybody right. It's really offensive," Evans said Wednesday.

The author of the editorial said Wednesday he was surprised anyone took offense, and that it was written "to make a serious point with humor."

Editorial page editor Andrew Cline told The Associated Press electing Barry was "not even a real reason" for the district not having the first primary. Instead, he said the city "is not representative of the majority views of the American people."

"We feel New Hampshire is more representative," Cline said.

On Tuesday, Evans introduced a bill to move up the D.C. primary, which is usually in May. The 12 other members of the Council back the measure, and Mayor Anthony A. Williams supports the idea.

Under the bill, the D-C presidential primary would be held on the first Saturday in January. Next year, that would be January third. And while no primary schedule has been set, the New Hampshire primary is expected to be on January 27th. The Iowa caucuses are expected to be on January 19th.

"I think we ought to press forward," said Williams, who shared a podium with Evans.

Evans said the main reason behind the move is to turn the spotlight on the district's lack of congressional voting rights. The city's 572,000 residents elect a delegate who can vote in House committees but not on the floor.

"It's to highlight the entire position of the District of Columbia: lack of voting rights, lack of respect that we get," Evans said. "Frankly, I'm glad we're bringing attention to all of this."

Hinting the city's delegates might not be seated at the party's convention, the DNC has indicated its displeasure with any state holding a primary before New Hampshire, but as Evans notes, D.C. isn't a state.

"I'm prepared to proceed to have the primary to hold the elections, and then see what the response of the party's going to be at that point in time," Evans said.