D.C. advocates see hope in Puerto Rico's bid for statehood
Tuesday night a majority of Puerto Ricans voted to become the 51st U.S. state. The non-binding referendum would ultimately require congressional approval.
Back on the mainland, advocates of D.C. statehood see an opportunity in the island's bid.
President Barack Obama's re-election has renewed optimism among advocates of D.C. voting rights and statehood.
"We hope now with four more years and not having to be re-elected again that he'll become even more forceful in his advocacy for the city," Mayor Vincent Gray said.
Many Washingtonians hope the president will be more outspoken, advancing their cause.
"History shows that a president's second term is easier for him, because he doesn't have another election hanging over his head," added Delegate Eleanor Homes Norton.
There's also new chatter about Puerto Rico, where 61 percent of voters favored trading territory status for statehood.
James Jones of DC Vote said, "If there's any opportunity at all for D.C. to hitch their wagon onto Puerto Rico we will definitely be there."
At the Democratic National Convention, D.C. Councilman Jack Evans and others reached out to Puerto Rican delegates, hoping to create an alliance in joint pursuits for statehood. The quest is similar to the political balance of Alaska and Hawaii, admitted in 1959.
"Every opportunity is presented to us. We want to seize upon it," Gray continued.
In the GOP's 2012 platform, Republicans promised to support statehood for Puerto Rico if its citizens pursue it.
As for the district, that same platform says "we oppose statehood for the District of Columbia," and it's unclear if this new Congress will have an appetite for bipartisan solution on the issue.
Jones said, "We still have a set up in Congress where a small minority of determined people can stop us from making progress."
Norton is less hopeful about a statehood deal.
"This isn't one-on-one, it's one-on-six. They would be entitled with their population to six representatives, and some members of Congress have said that they would not entertain them for statehood unless Spanish no longer was the first language. I see more barriers to Puerto Rico than I do to D.C., and I wish it weren't so," Norton explained.
For now, Norton is focused on D.C. budget autonomy with some support from key Republican leaders like Darrell Issa, Eric Cantor and Bob McDonnell.
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