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Evans Switches Support To Obama

By Nikita Stewart and Marcia Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 22, 2008

D.C. Council member Jack Evans knows how to party -- and how to send a message.

The Ward 2 Democrat threw a big cookout Saturday to kick off his reelection bid. He used the occasion to give a shout-out to Sen. Barack Obama, who has been busy lately trying to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination.

The rub? Evans has long been a supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). But Evans has decided to join the march of superdelegates who have begun to close ranks around the Democratic junior senator from Illinois.

Evans said he switched his support because Ward 2 overwhelmingly voted for Obama in the D.C. primary in February. He said he is most concerned about having a Democratic White House.

"There is an enormous difference in having a Democrat in the White House and a Republican in the White House," Evans said to the cheers of about 300 people on the basketball court of the Kennedy Recreation Center in the historic Shaw neighborhood.

It probably didn't hurt that Evans had some heavy pressure on him. He made the announcement with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who are supporting Obama, by his side. Evans has gained their support in his reelection campaign.

Evans called the recreation center a symbol of the city's ups and downs. The center was dedicated in 1968 by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) on behalf of his brother, after the riots in the wake of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a boost for the area at the time, Evans said.

Then, "by the beginning of the '90s, nobody came here," he said.

Pointing to a new playground and a renovated Kennedy Recreation Center with its surrounding development, Evans hailed a new era of revitalization.

He might have been sending a shout-out to Obama, but he was also sending a message to his challenger, lawyer Cary Silverman.

Evans made sure he had his political allies and his deep pockets on display. He told the crowd he is running a campaign on "youth and energy."

"It's time for a change, and the change is me," said Evans, a 17-year incumbent.

Fenty and Gray did their part, showering Evans with praise.

"If we're frank about it, for so long people would get elected, and you would never see them again," Fenty said. "One person who has bucked that trend now for 17 years is Jack Evans."

"This is not going to be a campaign," Gray said. "This is the beginning of a reelection."

Not everyone is cheering Evans.

Political activist Peter Rosenstein has sent a scathing letter to Evans, chiding him for endorsing Obama.

"I just think that the problem with Evans is that just two weeks ago he had pledged to be a Clinton delegate," Rosenstein said in an interview. "He made a pledge to be a Clinton delegate. Once you make a pledge like that, people should be able to trust you."

As a pledged delegate, Evans must still cast his vote at the Democratic National Convention in Denver for Clinton as a representative of the small percentage of District voters who supported her.

Douglass Descendants Campaign for Quarter

The descendants of Frederick Douglass are having their say about the District quarter contest. The images being considered for the quarter are sketches of Douglass, scientist Benjamin Banneker and jazz giant Duke Ellington.

Guess which the abolitionist's relatives say is the best choice?

"Frederick Douglass led the abolitionist movement to end slavery. He was a key figure in the Underground Railroad. And he was one of the most important early supporters of the women's suffrage movement. He truly embodies the motto 'justice for all,' " said Nettie Washington Douglass, a great-great-granddaughter of Douglass and a great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington.

The descendants issued a statement noting Douglass's presence all over the District, including the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site at Cedar Hill, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and the Frederick Douglass Museum, his first home in the District.

"Frederick Douglass made history here with his wartime visits to Abraham Lincoln in the White House," Washington Douglass said. "His service as president of the Freedman's Savings Bank, his time as U.S. marshal of the District and his years as minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti all make Frederick Douglass an excellent choice for the quarter."

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