The Georgetown Voice
November 13, 2003
by Dave Stroup
Five prominent Democratic candidates for president struck a blow to the District’s hopes of attracting attention to its lack of congressional representation this week. Senators Joseph Lieberman, John Kerry and John Edwards, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and retired general Wesley Clark have removed themselves from the District’s January Democratic primary election.
The early primary was an attempt by the D.C. Council and other officials to attract national attention to the fact that the District’s nearly 600,000 citizens have no representation in Congress.
By moving the primary ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire, the city hoped that the District would join the ranks of the early primary states as a key measure of voter preference. Furthermore, they made the primary non-binding in order to avoid conflicts with party officials (meaning that the District will choose convention delegates at a later date). City council members hoped this would attract attention from the media and from the candidates.
Instead, a majority of candidates have cited Democratic National Committee rules and have withdrawn from the race. These rules say that no primaries should be held before the first Tuesday in February, with the exceptions of Iowa and New Hampshire.
“We have pointed to DNC rules, which encourage candidates not to participate in primaries which are beauty contests,” said DNC spokesperson Tony Welch.
The Democratic Party’s obstruction of the District’s fight for representation shows how out-of-touch the party has become. The District has long been a Democratic stronghold, and obtaining representation is an important goal for a party that has been struggling in recent elections.
The behavior of the DNC is disappointing-it shows that the party establishment does not see the lack of representation in D.C. as an important issue. If the District cannot find support from Democrats, where else can it turn?
Dismissing the District’s primary as a “beauty contest” in order to uphold the absurd tradition of New Hampshire and Iowa having the first say in each election cycle is unfair. Not only do citizens in those states have representation in Congress, they have a disproportional influence over choosing the party’s nominee.
With only four names remaining on the D.C. ballot, it is unlikely that the media will even mention the results. With only one “front-runner” among the pack, the primary will no longer serve any purpose to indicate voter preference.
It is a shame that a city that will almost undoubtedly deliver the Democratic candidates three electoral votes can’t even get their attention for one non-binding primary. But then again, maybe that’s it-for those five candidates, they know they can count on our electoral votes, and that’s all they care about.