D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton wants to continue to serve the residents of the District of Columbia and said she has the energy to do it.
Norton, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a delegate in 1990 and has been re-elected with no serious opposition since then. The delegate said she wants the residents to give her another two-year term to continue the progress she has built.
“What does D.C. need in times like these,” Norton, 80, told a gathering of 30 people at a penthouse located in the District Wharf on Jan. 27. “In times like these, District residents need a congresswoman who knows what to do and knows how to do it. In times like these, we should show resistance and we will not rest until D.C. becomes the 51st state.”
Norton, who the late District mayor and council member, Marion Barry, referred to as “our warrior on the Hill,” said she wants to continue her advocacy of D.C. statehood, noting that 73 percent of the Democratic Caucus in the House and 20 U.S. senators have endorsed her bills for statehood and work as a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to bring or enhance federal government projects in the District. The delegate also hopes to continue to fund the DC Tuition Assistance Grant program (DCTAG) that helps District students attend public and private universities in other states at the rates of their in-state residents and with a grant, respectively.
“I have preserved DCTAG even under Donald Trump,” Norton said.
Norton said that despite the Trump administration’s coldness toward the District, there is a brighter future ahead.
“The polls show that Democrats can take back the House and the Senate,” the delegate said. “I have spent most of my time working under Republicans and I accumulated wins despite GOP control. Imagine what I can do for the District is the Democrats win back the House.”
Perhaps Norton’s most compelling argument for a 15th term is her longevity. She is the 27th most senior member of the House and the second most senior in the Congressional Black Caucus.
Norton is the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. If the Democrats win back the House in 2018, she could be the chairman of that subcommittee and there is an outside chance that she could chair the whole committee, Transportation and Infrastructure, depending on what her senior colleague on that committee, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) decides to do.
Norton has been credited with bringing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to St. Elizabeths West campus and her legislative efforts have led to the development of the Southeast and Southwest Waterfront, the Walter Reed campus in Ward 4, the Navy Yard in Ward 6, and funding for the Frederick Douglass and Memorial bridges.
However, Norton said that her biggest challenges have been fighting Republican efforts to undermine the District.
“In 2016, I helped overturn 15 attempts to block the District’s laws and some of those were attempting to wipe out our gun laws,” she said. “Return me to Congress and I will keep protecting you from Republicans. I have done all of this without a vote on the House floor.”
As of now, only congressional representatives from states are allowed to have voting representation. Norton has fully embraced the statehood movement that calls for a representative in the House and two U.S. senators based primarily on District residents paying federal taxes and have obligations of citizenship but have no vote in either body of Congress.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president emerita of the Bennett College for Women and a well-known columnist with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, firmly supports Norton.
“Eleanor Holmes Norton understands that our work is never done,” she said. “She has been a voice for people of color, women, students and dreamers. She was talking and doing something about sexual harassment before it became popular.
“She has worked across the aisle consistently and because of her, 96 percent of all D.C. residents have health insurance.”
While Malveaux has embraced Norton, some have yet to fully commit to the congresswoman. Greg Davis, a resident of Ward 7’s posh Hillcrest neighborhood, told the AFRO that he likes Norton but that the city is changing and not in his favor.
“Del. Norton has seen a lot of change in the city,” Davis said. “She was there when I could afford to buy a house in the city and now it would be a struggle for me to do so. I’ll have to see what she does.”
While Norton respects the sentiments of Davis, she has one message for District residents.
“Send me back for the 116th Congress,” she said.
Norton has one opponent in the Democratic primary, Kim Ford, and she faces perennial D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Natale Stracuzzi.