Given the choice in 1973, the D. C. political establishment failed to advocate for a Governor-Legislative Assembly form of government.
From 1955 to 1970, Congress authorized D. C. political parties to put issues to advisory referendum votes in their primaries for local party offices and presidential delegate selection. In 1960, the D. C. Republican Party put a proposition to a vote asking whether registered Republican voters favored a governor-legislative assembly form of government. Over 80 per cent voted in favor. The D. C. Democratic Party declined to put a similar proposition on their ballot.
In home rule testimony before the U. S. House D. C. Committee in 1963, the Chairman of the D. C. Republican Committee stated the longstanding position of local Republicans: “We need a governor, not a mayor, to deal with the Governors of Maryland and Virginia. The unique status of the District involves state functions.” This form of government continued to draw strong support from Republican members of the D. C. Committee, who introduced and co-sponsored governor-legislative assembly bills. The Committee’s Democrats, on the other hand, maintained their preference for mayor-council legislation.
When home rule legislation was under consideration by the U. S. House D. C. Committee in 1973, Chairman Charles Diggs (D-MI) requested that I assist in a quiet survey of members of the local political establishment to determine if they favored a mayor-council or governor-legislative assembly form of government. (At the time, I was working as a Specialist in American Government at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress.) Chairman Diggs asked around as well. Between us, we questioned over 50 local leaders. Responses of both Republicans and Democrats tended to mirror their party’s position in Congress on the issue, with Republicans favoring the governor-legislative assembly and Democrats the mayor-council form of government. Statehood Party leaders, on the other hand, held that they could only support the D. C. Statehood Admission Act, then also under consideration by the Committee. One future Mayor of the City, Democrat Marion Berry, did express support for a governor as chief executive of a local home rule government.
Chairman Diggs was disappointed. He thought Congress should seriously consider giving the District of Columbia a form of government similar to that of a state or territory, because elected officials would be exercising responsibilities and enacting laws on a state level, and that their titles should reflect that reality. Unfortunately, the prevailing Democratic Party opinion on the issue sided heavily with those who favored a mayor and council for the proposed home rule government, insisting that the District was a city and that therefore a government headed by a mayor and council would be more appropriate.