Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser took her plans for statehood to the Democratic National Convention, hosting a celebrity luncheon Tuesday funded in part with District taxpayer dollars.
The luncheon aimed to elevate the debate over D.C. becoming the 51st state to a national audience who may not be familiar with the issue. Sixty delegates from the DNC and 15 celebrities attended the luncheon, including David Schwimmer, Ashley Judd and cast members from shows Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black. While funded primarily through the non-profit advocacy group D.C. Vote, officials said several thousand dollars came from District funds used to advocate for statehood, reports The Washington Post.
“We need to take this debate nationwide – and this is a chance to highlight and bring the issue of statehood to larger national attention,” Paul Strauss, D.C.’s shadow senator, told The Washington Post. “These folks can touch people and take our message to people I and others in D.C. cannot.”
— DCstatehood51 (@DCstatehood51) July 26, 2016
— DC Vote (@DC_Vote) July 26, 2016
Bowser spoke Tuesday on the floor of the DNC representing the delegation from the District, using the moment to draw attention to statehood and what she argues is the “biggest ongoing voting rights violation” in the country. (RELATED: Bowser Treks ‘All Over’ Cleveland Promoting DC Statehood)
“Madam secretary, I’m the mayor of the District of Columbia, the best city in the world and soon to be the 51st state in our great union,” Bowser said Tuesday. “We are 670,000 taxpaying Americans just like you, and with statehood, and only with statehood, will we have votes in Congress just like you.”
Bowser surprised many by bringing the cause to the RNC and appearing at the convention last week, after the party included language opposed to statehood in its platform. If the District became the 51st state, Democrats would likely gain two extra seats in the Senate, which party leaders and Congressional Republicans are not likely to allow.
The D.C. Council voted unanimously to approve a referendum July 12 to put the question of statehood to District voters in November.
Longtime statehood advocates are extremely critical of the current process and argue the voice of the people has been silenced. Despite holding a “constitutional convention” in June, residents criticized its structure and transparency. There were no elected delegates representing community interests, and at the end of the day, the New Columbia Statehood Commission had final say on what the document included. Residents had no real power to make their requests binding.
“I’m not going to support it, because I don’t know what I’ll be voting for,” Ann Loikow, with the activist group DC Statehood Yes We Can, told The Washington Post earlier this month. “This whole process is a sham. They’re not offering us democracy – they’re offering us autocracy, and they’re the autocrats that are going to keep running it.”
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