D.C. Councilmember Robert C. White’s (D-Ward 6) attorney said at a press conference Tuesday that he is leaving the Democrat’s caucus and becoming an Independent in reaction to the council’s opposition to new voting districts.
Councilmember Tim Ryan (D-37) also announced at the press conference that he is leaving the Democratic caucus, although he said he will continue to work with Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) on a resolution that would authorize this.
The newly formed MPP (Meaning “People’s Party”) said it would be voting along the lines of the Council majority and could spur other members to jump into the fold.
“Some individuals will decide that they want to leave our caucus to become part of our caucus. Others will decide that they are better suited to join an alternative caucus that is bipartisan. Some will decide that because we will be in the majority we will vote on things that are consistent with the values we hold, while others will want to choose sides,” MPP chair Elizabeth Johnson said.
“These actions are at the forefront of our caucus’ objectives. We strive to serve as a positive force to help other municipal branches act in accord with the people of District of Columbia. We will continue to work with legislative colleagues to change the Legislature’s traditional process of electing its chairs. We hope to represent government in a manner which respects the residents of the District. We will stand up for good people, regardless of political affiliation.”
In April, Johnson and Gray were working on an amendment that would have been rushed through the city legislature to begin the redistricting process, thus requiring a referendum. MPP had campaigned for the referendum, and eventually the ballot question that would have required a new redistricting plan passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
But Mendelson passed the charter amendment known as DP 70 up to the city council, and demanded the Council adopt it as their own.
Johnson met with Mendelson and Gray several times this year to work on a way out of the situation. With the planning stage underway for the city’s next redistricting plan, a compromise was not feasible.
“He (Johnson) decided that that effort to put that proposal on the Council table … needed to cease for one reason. We couldn’t find a compromise with the Council. The majority of us didn’t agree, and that ultimately the best way to move forward to enact a new redistricting plan is to go to a referendum,” Mendelson said.
“Fortunately, the citizenry will have the opportunity to have a say in how their district will be redrawn,” he added.