Even though D.C. played an active role at the recent political party conventions for presidential office, several residents were disappointed by the silence on statehood. The primary business of the conventions was to nominate presidential candidates and their running mates, including billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for the Republican party and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) for the Democratic party. The Democrats met July 25-28 in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I felt that Clinton could have mentioned D.C. statehood given that she supports it,” W. Philip Thomas, a Ward 3 political activist and volunteer for the District’s delegation, told the AFRO. “Other than that, I think the convention noted the differences between Clinton and Trump. One is focused on solutions while the other is focused on rhetoric.”
Ed Potillo, vice chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and chairman of the Ward 7 Democrats, agreed that none of the major speakers talked about statehood while the Democratic platform fully endorsed it. “That only shows that we got more work to do,” he said. “We are a colony but we send people to war and we pay federal taxes but have no voting representation in the U.S. Congress. We have to find a way to make this right.”
Potillo continued, “Overall, it was a good convention and it brought home the fact that Hillary Clinton is the right choice and Donald Trump isn’t.”
Potillo, along with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), and chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), represented city Democrats. Highlights of the convention for District residents included Bowser announcing the city’s delegate count for president on July 26 and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) speaking on behalf of District statehood on July 27.
African-American women played key roles in the Democratic convention. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) served as convention secretary while Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) served as the chairman; District television commentator and activist Donna Brazile was selected as the interim chair of the party, and the Rev. Leah D. Daughtry lead as chief executive officer of the event.
Faye Williams, president/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, told the AFRO she was proud to see Black women in charge of the convention. “The women who ran that convention are people that I know and they are friends,” she said. “Black women cleaned up the problems and things ran smoothly.”
Sandra “S.S.” Seegars, a longtime Ward 8 activist, didn’t attend the Democratic convention and told the AFRO this was the first time she watched it thoroughly. She said she enjoyed Clinton’s and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s speeches and agreed with Williams on Black women managing the convention, particularly regarding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) unruly factions. “Women are organizers while men tend to be competitive,” Seegars said. “Women work better together than men and women should run conventions more often.”
While the District is a Democratic enclave, with a 10 to 1 voter registration advantage over the Republicans, the D.C. Republican Party made its presence known at the GOP Convention that was held July 18-21 in Cleveland at the Quicken Loans Center.
Bowser appeared at the convention with a table supporting D.C. statehood even in the face of a Republican platform that rejects statehood and wants to eliminate District-voter supported budget autonomy. Jill Homan, who is a District’s national committeewoman to the Republican National Committee, told the AFRO, “We Republicans are united in spirit in support of our nominee,” she said. “Donald Trump gave a great speech on dealing with urban issues, favoring school choice, improving public safety in our city, and protecting all Americans. He has what we need to move America forward.”