A March 7 editorial repeated some misconceptions about the campaign to have the first-in-the-nation presidential primary here in the District.
The purpose of the campaign is to dramatize the disenfranchisement of D.C. residents, but this is not merely symbolic. It would allow the District's 270,000 Democrats to cast the first primary ballots in the nation on Jan. 13, 2004.
This primary would not violate Democratic National Committee rules. The DNC's general counsel, Joe Sandler, has said that it is within party rules to hold a "beauty contest" primary on Jan. 13 and select delegates later. Further, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said that he would not move up his state's primary before the District's scheduled date. New Hampshire law requires holding its primary before that of any other state, but the District is not a state.
I also disagree with the editorial's argument that the candidates won't campaign in the city where most of them live. The District will be the only majority African American jurisdiction to hold a presidential primary. African American voters make up a significant core of the Democratic primary electorate. Civil rights organizations, including the D.C. chapter of the NAACP, already are drafting letters inviting the presidential candidates to campaign here. Knowing this, would the candidates "boycott" the only majority African American primary?
Former senator Carol Moseley Braun has already said that she will seek our votes, and other candidates are clearly leaving their options open.
This primary is an annoyance to party operatives who prefer that their nominee be vetted in "middle America" swing states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. But 200 years of paying taxes and dying in wars without a vote in Congress is of far greater annoyance to the 600,000 residents of Washington.
-- Sean Tenner
The writer is executive
director of the D.C. Democracy
Fund, which launched
Washington's primary drive.