U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is behind in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Courtesy Photo)
District supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) say they will work hard to win the June 14 Democratic presidential primary in an effort to prevent the country from turning into a place where a wealthy minority holds control. While it is likely that Clinton will have the numbers to clinch her party’s nomination by June 14, Sanders’ District backers continue to argue that their candidate should be the next president.
“I do feel the Bern,” Gary Butler, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 7B03 in Ward 7, told the AFRO referencing the Sander’s campaign slogan. This country is controlled by an elite few and this city is becoming that way. As a result, there does need to be a revolution in this country and in this city.”
Clinton has received the endorsement of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and 10 members of the D.C. Council, including the chairman, Phil Mendelson. Sanders is supported by some advisory neighborhood commissioners such as Butler, Andy Litsky, chairman of commission 6D in Ward 6 and Absalom Jordan, commissioner for district 8D03, who could become a Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next month. As of June 1 Clinton held a commanding lead of 2,312 delegates to Sanders’ 1,545 delegates. A candidate needs 2,382 delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.
“I really like that Bernie isn’t catering to the establishment. I agree with him that we need to take the money out of politics,” Butler said.
Joshua Lopez, a staunch Bowser ally, wants District residents to vote for Sanders. “Bernie Sanders represents a fresh start,” Lopez, a businessman, told the AFRO. “As a young, Democratic voter, I can relate to the issues that he is talking about. I also support Sanders because he is a strong supporter of D.C. statehood and voting rights.”
On Nov. 23, 1993, Sanders, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent representing Vermont, voted for Norton’s bill, “The New Columbia Admission Act” that would have granted the District statehood but it failed, 277-153.
Sanders, as a senator, voted on Feb. 26, 2009 for “The District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act” sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to give the District a voting member of the House with Utah gaining an additional representative. The Lieberman bill passed the Senate, 61-37, but Norton’s companion bill in the House fell apart because National Rifle Association lobbyists demanded the legislation include an amendment allowing District residents to have unlimited access to firearms.
In June 2015, Sanders became one of 16 co-sponsors of “The New Columbia Admission Act” authored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) to grant the District statehood. “I think it is morally wrong for American citizens who pay federal taxes, fight in our wars, and live in our country to be denied the basic right to full congressional representation,” he said in the June 25, 2015 edition of The Hill newspaper.
Clinton has enjoyed substantial support among Blacks over Sanders during the campaign. For example, Clinton won the Mississippi primary on March 8 over Sanders, 83 percent to 17 percent, on the strength of the Black vote. Mississippi has the highest percentage of Blacks in the nation comprising 37 percent of the population according to 2010 census data. Seventy-one percent of Democrats in Mississippi who voted on March 8 were Black, according to CNN exit polls. Those results mirror Clinton’s strength among Blacks nationally and this dynamic could take place in the District, which is 49 percent Black.
Even with Clinton’s gain, Butler says he talks to his neighbors about supporting Sanders. “They are receptive to Sen. Sanders’ message but some say that Bill Clinton was the first Black president,” Butler said. “That’s what they know.”