Posted 1:46pm January 26
by Aaron Huertas
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Three Democratic candidates for President participated in a debate Friday in Washington DC, for that city’s primary election on January 13th. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the Reverend Al Sharpton and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun agreed on many issues including granting full statehood rights to the District of Columbia. Howard Dean was invited to the debate, but did not show up. The other five Democratic Presidential candidates are not on the DC ballot.
DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton addressed the crowd of 200 in the Jack Morton auditorium, saying the primary was important to bring attention to the lack of federal representation for DC residents. The primary is non-binding and actual delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be chosen in February.
Norton herself advocates for the district in Congress, but has no voting rights. There is no Senate representation for DC residents. Original plans for the primary included making the vote binding, but Democratic Party rules prohibit delegates from being chosen before the traditional Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
Moseley Braun said federal representation for DC citizens would fit into a larger historical trend.
“When the Constitution was written,” she said, “women could not vote, blacks were counted as three fifths of a person, and poor people couldn’t vote. The history of the US has been an expanding of our democracy.”
Sharpton asked, “How can we fight for the right to vote for people in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, when people in our capital can’t vote?”
The other dominating topic of the debate was Howard Dean’s absence. One fo the moderators questioned Dean, asking why he was not there.
Later in the debate, the candidates were allowed to ask questions of one another. Sharpton turned to Dean’s empty chair and said, “I’d like to ask Governor Dean, ‘Why are you not here?'” He accused Dean of showing ingratitude to his supporters in the Washington, DC area.
Before the debate, about 20 supporters of Congressman Dennis Kucinich gathered outside the auditorium. When Kucinich arrived, they surrounded him and chanted, “We want Dennis!”
Deborah Vollmer, who is running in the Democratic primary for Congress in Maryland’s eighth district, said she came to see Kucinich because, “He works for us instead of special interests,” she said.
Liz Arriaza said she has been voting since 1980, but has not really supported a candidate until she heard about Kucinich. “He really speaks to me,” she said. Both cited Kucinich’s stance against the Iraq war and his demand to bring US troops home as soon as possible as a major reason for their support.
The candidates also touched on school vouchers, all agreeing that they would undermine public education in the country. Kucinich argued giving vouchers to parents to pay for private education takes money away from public schools. “When we fully fund public schools, our children will have the education they deserve,” he said.
The candidates also discussed news that the Bush administration is planning on sending humans to the moon and Mars in the near future. The candidates agreed that money on such projects would be better spent elsewhere.
Sharpton suggested the President visit Wards 7 and 8 in DC instead of Mars or the moon. “It’d be cheaper,” he said, “and he’d learn just as much.”
Radio station WTOP sponsored the event along with the George Washington University, the NAACP, local chapters of the Urban League, DC mayor Anthony Williams, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.