Douglass Sloan in underdog campaign to unseat D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray are battling for votes in the city's Democratic primary on Sept. 14.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 6, 2010

Douglass Sloan repeatedly makes two points in his underdog campaign to unseat Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton in the Democratic primary: "It's time for a change," and the District's lone position in Congress is being "underutilized."

Sloan, a Ward 4 advisory neighborhood commissioner and political consultant, is only the second candidate to oppose Norton in the Democratic primary since she was elected in 1990. (The first, neighborhood activist Andy Miscuk, took 7 percent of the vote in 2006.)

Sloan argues that Norton's record doesn't merit such undying loyalty. His most frequent charge: The District didn't have a voting member of Congress when Norton took office, and it still doesn't.

"Twenty years [in office] with no movement on voting rights -- that's hard to defend," he said.

Sloan hopes that message can propel him to an upset victory Sept. 14, but he faces a trio of hurdles: Norton is well-funded, she's well-known, and she's popular.

A new Washington Post poll finds that 78 percent of registered District voters have a favorable impression of Norton and that 11 percent view her unfavorably. Her standing has slipped a bit since a 2002 Post poll, which gave her an 85 percent favorability rating. But her rating is roughly in line with the strong standing she has maintained since entering office nearly two decades ago.

"I run hard with or without an opponent," Norton said. "But normally people look at the numbers of my past runs and decide, 'Maybe not.' "

Norton also suggested that her two decades of service looked good compared with Sloan's résumé. "You've got to have some kind of record to run for Congress," she said.

Norton, who lives on Capitol Hill in Southeast Washington, has defeated Sloan easily in several Democratic straw polls, including in Sloan's home base of Ward 4.

Sloan's favorability has not been polled, and he admits that his name identification pales in comparison with the incumbent's.

"I'm well-known in wards 3 and 4, not so much in 7 and 8," he said.

Sloan said most of his support is coming from west of Rock Creek Park. "West of the park they are ecstatic someone is running against her. They're supportive. They're throwing meet-and-greets," Sloan said.

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