The presidential campaign for former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently kicked off in the District and from all indications, a full-throttle effort to win the June 14, 2016 Democratic Party primary is taking place despite the small number of delegates up for grabs.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) were among the 30 people at the Hillary Clinton for President campaign office that opened on Pennsylvania Avenue., S.E. on May 19. Clinton was not at the event. Another office opened that day in the DuPont Circle neighborhood of the city.
Malik Williams, the Clinton campaign coordinator for the District, said there was a good reason to open two offices in the District. “We can’t take anything for granted,” Williams told the AFRO. “We want to make sure that we have a presence all over the city and get support for Secretary Clinton.”
Allen said he was “thrilled” that the campaign set up an office in his ward. “I am excited because I know that D.C. will come in strong for Hillary Clinton for president,” Allen said. “The closest I want Donald Trump to the White House is staying at his hotel. We need a president who works with my mayor for D.C. statehood.”
Norton, who knew Clinton for a number of years before she became first lady, said “Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to introduce herself to D.C. When she was first lady, she was working for D.C.”
Her husband, then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton won the D.C. Democratic Party presidential primary on May 17, 1992 with 73 percent of the vote against Jerry Brown, who is the current governor of California, and the late former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas.
Clinton served as first lady from 1993-2001 and she was active at the multi-racial Foundry United Methodist Church located at 1500 16th Street NW. As first lady, she and her family served food to struggling Washingtonians during Thanksgiving, served as the commencement speaker at Howard University in 1998, and spoke at a Banneker High School graduation ceremony.
Norton told a brief story that took place several months ago. The delegate was in line with her congressional colleagues to greet Clinton and when it was her turn, Norton asked the presidential candidate whether she supported statehood. “Hillary looked at me flabbergasted and said ‘Eleanor, I have always been for statehood'” Norton said.
While Clinton is highly-regarded in the District, it didn’t translate to a victory in 2008. In the presidential primary on Feb. 12, 2008, Clinton got 23 percent of the vote while then Sen. Barack Obama received 75 percent. The District has a total of 45 delegates available in the Democratic primary. As of May 24 Clinton had 2,305 delegates while Bernie Sanders had 1,539. A candidate needs 2,383 delegates to secure the Democratic Party nomination.
This year, Clinton has the support of D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), and all Democratic D.C. Council members except at-large member Anita Bonds. Bonds is the chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and chose to stay neutral in the presidential race.
Norton said while Clinton will have strong support in the District on June 14, residents should not take the primary for granted. “People need to turn out and vote for Hillary but also for the sake of D.C. statehood,” she said. “We have to do this for D.C. and that means having a big vote on June 14 and a bigger vote in November. In addition to voting here in the District, we need to head out to Virginia to support Hillary, also.”
The location of the two offices has some political leaders in eastern Washington concerned. Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), at a Ward 7 Democrats candidates’ forum on May 14, asked Williams publicly whether the campaign will open an office east of the Anacostia River.
Williams said the campaign is considering making that move. Philip Pannell, a well-known political and civic activist in Ward 8, told the AFRO he heard that a Clinton office located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road. S.E., is in the works.
Bowser is enthusiastic about the Clinton campaign in the District, noting that the Democratic frontrunner “will not take D.C. for granted.”
“In 2008, we elected Barack Obama as president and made history and this year we will make history again by electing Hillary Clinton president,” the mayor said. “We need to fight to keep a Democrat in the White House.”
The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign has an office on Massachusetts Avenue in Northeast D.C. and is led by Chuck Rocha, who owns the political firm, Solidarity Strategies.