The D.C. Democratic State Committee, whose new leaders believe is rising out of several years of dormancy, held its first annual Kennedys-King Day yesterday at the Shoreham-Americana Hotel.
The day-long affair, highlighted by workshops and scheduled appearances of Cabinet members, top party officials and local and national black leaders at a $100-a-plate dinner last night was the first such event in years by the local Democrats.
State committee chairman Robert B. Washington, Jr. said he expected the party to raise more than $10,000 from the event, but more importantly to assert itself as a recognized and emerging political force in a city where local politics is just beginning to come alive.
Even though three of every four voters in the city is a registered Democrat, the party has been active as an organization only during the past 15 years when local citizens were given the right to vote in national elections.
Since the establishment of limited home rule in 1974, political activity in the city has increased, largely because, for the first time in more than a century, D.C. residents are choosing their own elected officials. The Democratic Party now hopes to capitalize on that increased activity by building a grass roots organization similar to that in other cities where the local political process is more mature.
Yesterday's events symbolized that emergence in many ways beginning with the choice of its name. Local Democrats believe the three men - President John R. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. represented social and political ideals that are close to those that would most benefit persons who live in the nation's capital.
Then there was the long list of scheduled speakers whose appearances, local Democrats feel, showed that the city's local part organization is on par with other state Democratic groups, and is recognized by the top elected officials in the country.
Those scheduled to appear included Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris (a former member of the D.C. State Committee), Maine Gov. and Democratic National Committee chairman Kenneth Curtis, a presidential assistant Hamilton Jordan, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Rev Martin Luther King Sr. and the widow of the slain civil rights leader, Coretta Scott King.
To emphasize the party-building theme, workshops were held on the nuts and bolts of political organization, covering everything from how to make silk screened T-shirts to how to finance a campaign and which issues to deal with.
Among those honored by the state committee were Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) and Reps. Charles C. Diggs, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Don Edwards (D-Calif.). All three occupy key roles on the congressional committees having jurisdiction over District of Columbia affairs.
Edwards is chairman of a House subcommittee expected later this year to consider whether the District should be granted full voting representation in Congress rather than the present single nonvoting congressional delegate. An afternoon luncheon, at which Mrs. King was the key-note speaker, awards were presented to NBC news reporter Marilyn Robinson, who spearheaded community efforts to preserve the historic LeDroit Park section of the city, D.C. School Supt. Vincent E. Reed and long-time Democratic Party activist Lee A. Carty.