Getting Off the Sidelines in D.C. Politics

In February, I announced my campaign to be one of the 14 district delegates from D.C. to the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in North Carolina. And yesterday, unlike most people hustling between lunch meetings and appointments, I stood outside D.C. Democratic Party headquarters talking to residents about early voting for their delegates. Throughout my conversations, one thing became clear: District voters had little idea that they had a choice in who would represent their views in Charlotte.

Their lack of awareness is not about voter apathy or misunderstandings about what delegates do. In fact, the opposite is true. The growing gap in our economic and political circumstances has created a need for D.C. to have the right representation at the Convention supporting President Obama, and pushing the issues of statehood and D.C. ethics reform. Unfortunately, many voters have voiced their frustration with a disorganized state party.

Over the last few weeks, I have talked to many people who support my campaign and are excited to vote for someone who shares their values. Three days before the election -- and as an example of the state party's lack of a transparent process -- they finally confirmed the availability of same-day voter registration, an issue about which voters had been seeking answers. Here's the kicker: the confirmation was only made public on the same day as early voting. Now I'm a proponent of same-day registration, but you need to announce clear rules from the beginning and share them with all candidates, volunteers and voters.

The process has been frustrating but that is part of why I'm getting involved -- to shed light on a system bent on maintaining the status quo.

Generally, my views align with the D.C. Democratic State Committee, but I am most committed to the people that were behind the grassroots movement that built the Obama campaign, the small-dollar donors, the first-time donors, and the non-citizens that gave their time and baked goods to elect the first black president. Additionally, I support statehood so that the residents of this city will have the power to determine their own agenda and give voice to the issues they care about. 

It can be easy to wonder why I would still run in an election that I have found to be troublesome, and seemingly cavalier about the grassroots. But I have always believed that progress depends on challenging institutions that create barriers for others. Sometimes it is easier to speak truth to power when you do not share the same values as those who are in power. It is more difficult to challenge institutions you believe in, that you value, and that represent you. Sometimes, however, these are the very institutions that need to be pushed. I am not afraid to speak truth to power and fight for what D.C. needs, even if that means challenging the Democratic State Committee.

It is troubling that getting involved has been such a difficult and confusing process, especially considering that participation is a basic principle of democracy.

I am running to be a delegate to use my voice at the convention to create opportunities for people who have not always had it. My hope is to channel an urgently needed perspective for people who believe in government transparency and reform. And ultimately, I am running to create the kind of party that won't have their members guess who will represent our issues at the national level.