Representatives of the District are taking the D.C. statehood movement national.
The District’s shadow representatives – two senators and a congressman – went to the Iowa caucus earlier this month to convince individual caucuses in the state to adopt resolutions in favor of making D.C. the 51st state. Organizers said students from D.C., including one from GW, played an “instrumental” role in the effort because they could better connect to young voters in Iowa.
This is the first time that the D.C. group has caucused in Iowa. The delegation took the trip after an Iowa group joined the cause for statehood and started laying the groundwork through TV advertisements in Iowa as part of the “51 Stars Campaign.”
The D.C. group joined the Iowans for D.C. statehood grassroots group for the caucuses, where hundreds of political activists and voters gather, to explain disenfranchisement in the District. Sen. Michael Brown, who spent four days in Iowa, said the bipartisan group he visited unanimously passed a resolution supporting D.C.statehood.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton is D.C.’s nonvoting member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She can draft legislation in the House, but does not have a vote in Congress. Brown said most people he spoke to were unaware that the District does not have any votes in Congress.
“Basically, our philosophy is that we cannot bestow statehood on ourselves, so we have to get out to the states and get them involved,” Brown said.
By the end of the trip, 13 groups introduced resolutions for D.C. statehood in the official caucus process. But it will take weeks to determine which ones made it through, Brown said.
He said the group, which is based in the District, does not have any immediate plans to visit other states, but they would visit states that have caucuses because it allows the delegation to introduce official policy changes. Brown said they decided it wouldn’t be as effective to go to voting primaries like New Hampshire because they can’t talk about issues as much.
GW Students for Statehood officially formed in November. One of the group’s leaders, sophomore Angel Zhang, took the trip to Iowa to spent time talking to students there.
Franklin Garcia, the D.C. shadow Congressman and an alumnus, said the Iowa statehood group formed after D.C. shadow Sen. Paul Strauss first made a case there about making D.C. a state. Iowans for Statehood passed a resolution in support of D.C. becoming a state in March 2014. He said the trip was an effort to get people from all political parties on their side.
“It was the young Democrats that started being engaged when we arrived,” Garcia said. “We made an effort to reach across party lines.”