‘Shadow’ of­fi­cials fight for District to be­come a state

On Tues­day, vot­ers will pick rep­re­sen­ta­tive, sen­a­tor

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JADA BUT­LER

Democrats run­ning for the District’s “shadow” of­fices say their fight for state­hood is at an all-time high, de­spite Repub­li­cans’ con­trol of the White House, the Se­nate and the House.

“The en­tire state­hood move­ment — where we are now — is a state of mo­men­tum,” said An­dria Thomas, a busi­ness strate­gist who is run­ning for the D.C. “shadow” Se­nate seat cur­rently held by ra­dio talk-show host Michael D. Brown.

Vot­ers will go to the polls Tues­day to de­cide who will be their “shadow” rep­re­sen­ta­tive and sen­a­tor — un­paid lob­by­ing po­si­tions that hold no leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity or re­spon­si­bil­ity. The District has elected its “shad­ows” since 1990.

Mr. Brown, who has worked as a “shadow” for nearly 12 years, hails his time in office and his ac­com­plish­ments in talk­ing about mak­ing the District the 51st state.

“I’ve taken the bat­tle from a sin­gle vote in the House to two sen­a­tors, a vote in the House, bud­get au­ton­omy, le­gal au­ton­omy, equal­ity. That’s the big­gest thing I’ve done. I’ve moved the ball for­ward to­wards state­hood,” he said.

D.C. Del­e­gate Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton, a Demo­crat and the District’s non­vot­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Congress, in­tro­duced in March 2017 the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Ad­mis­sion Act, which would create the state of Wash­ing­ton, Dou­glass Com­mon­wealth. It has 159 cospon­sors — all Democrats — in the House.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Demo­crat, has in­tro­duced sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in the Se­nate. It has 25 co-spon­sors — all Democrats.

Con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the District has been an is­sue since the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which es­tab­lished a fed­eral district to be ad­min­is­tered by Congress. (All D.C. laws must be re­viewed and ap­proved by Congress.) The state­hood move­ment has been an on-again, off-again af­fair that has failed re­gard­less of which party has con­trol of the fed­eral govern­ment.

Be­cause Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans 12to-1 in the District, political ob­servers have as­sumed that a D.C. state would be a blue one. Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have long op­posed state­hood, not­ing that Democrats would gain two new mem­bers in the Se­nate.

Lament­ing the lack of con­gres­sional sup­port for D.C. state­hood is Franklin Gar­cia, the District’s “shadow” rep­re­sen­ta­tive, who is run­ning un­op­posed.

“In this Congress, we have less peo­ple to get on board now,” said Mr. Gar­cia, pro­ducer of DCTV show DCiRe­porter and pres­i­dent of the D.C. Latino Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, not­ing that more mem­bers of the pre­vi­ous Congress had backed the move­ment.

Mr. Brown said there are two chal­lenges fac­ing the move­ment: achiev­ing bi­par­ti­san­ship and mak­ing peo­ple care about D.C. state­hood.

Ms. Thomas ad­mit­ted that she be­lieves many long­time D.C. res­i­dents op­pose state­hood and don’t want to “com­mit any en­ergy” to the move­ment. She said “99 per­cent” of vot­ers she en­coun­tered had no idea what a “shadow” sen­a­tor is.

“I don’t ex­pect them to,” she said. “They fo­cus on roles that have a more di­rect in­flu­ence on peo­ple’s every­day lives.”

For ex­am­ple, re­tired teacher Janet Reedy has voted early this month in the District’s pri­mary. She sup­ports state­hood but doesn’t be­lieve “shad­ows” can make a dif­fer­ence.

“They’re there to speak, but they can’t vote. They can’t re­ally rep­re­sent us,” said Ms. Reedy, who cast a vote for “shadow” can­di­dates nonethe­less.

“I have no in­sti­tu­tional power, but I have a voice,” said Mr. Brown. “That’s all I have, but I use it as strate­gi­cally and smartly as I can.”

Mr. Brown shad­ows the Se­nate for the District with at­tor­ney Paul Strauss, who will be up for re-elec­tion in 2020.

They share with Mr. Gar­cia a $235,000 bud­get, funded by D.C. tax­pay­ers, to con­duct their lob­by­ing ef­forts — such as Mr. Strauss’ “51 Stars” cam­paign, in which 51 celebri­ties pledge their sup­port for state­hood, and Mr. Brown’s on­line show “Shadow Pol­i­tics,” which reaches 400,000 lis­ten­ers.

As for fu­ture “shadow” ef­forts, Mr. Gar­cia would like to pro­duce a doc­u­men­tary on the state­hood move­ment, while Ms. Thomas would like to ex­ploit so­cial me­dia to draw sup­port.

JADA BUT­LER/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

“I’ve taken the bat­tle from a sin­gle vote in the House to two sen­a­tors, a vote in the House, bud­get au­ton­omy, equal­ity,” said Michael D. Brown, D.C.’s “shadow” sen­a­tor (cen­ter.) “That’s the big­gest thing I’ve done.”

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