Battle for DC Dems Central Committee


By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, jwright@

On June 19, District of Columbia voters will go to the polls to vote in the Democratic primary. Many will focus on the mayoral, attorney general, D.C. Council chairman, and ward council races. However, near the bottom of each ballot will be positions that don’t get a lot of attention but are important to the direction of the District’s Democratic Party.

Voters in the District will choose representatives on the District of Columbia Democratic Central Committee, the city’s arm to the Democratic National Committee. These positions are important in helping Democrats shape the party’s message in the District and implementing campaigns such as voter registration and education.

Ward 8 State Board of Education member Markus Batchelor is running for national committeeman. (Courtesy Photo)

“People are concerned about the state of politics in D.C.,” Philip Pannell, a well-known Democratic leader who lives in Ward 8, told the AFRO. “I have joined a group of activist Democrats who have formed a slate, Dump Trump Dems 4 Action. There are 41 of us and we are running across the city.”

The chair of the District’s Democratic Party is D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large). She is running for re-election to the council on the June 19 ballot. All indications say she wants to remain the party chair. Within three months of the June 19 primary, there will be an election for party officers.

Pannell’s slate is one group of Democrats seeking to take control of the central committee. Others are Democrats Moving Forward #Resist and Democrats 2020.

Ward 8 State Board of Education member Markus Batchelor is a leading figure on the Dump Trump ticket as its nominee for national committeeman and activist Nikki M.G. Lewis is its national committeewoman hopeful. Democrats Moving Forward is led by D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Sylvia Martinez as national committeeman and national committeewoman, respectively.

Former Small Business deputy administrator Marie Johns is running for national committeewoman independently.

There are several candidates running for at-large committeeman and at-large committeewoman, including Pannell. There are also races for each ward to have a committeeman and committeewoman.

Philosophically, there is little difference in the slates as far as opposing the Trump agenda and wanting statehood for the District. The difference appears to be style, with the Democrats Moving Forward being the more established organization, while Dump Trump is the more grassroots and outspoken group.

The District is an overwhelmingly Democratic jurisdiction with 76 percent of all registered voters in the party. The District participated in its first presidential election in 1964 and has supported the Democratic presidential nominee since then.

Each mayor and D.C. Council chair has been a Democrat since the advent of Home Rule in 1974 and about 90 percent of all council members have been members of the party.

Pannell said there is concern among some Democrats that the District’s party has lost its focus.

“The central committee is pretty much ineffective,” Pannell said. “We need to be more active in getting people to register to vote and participate in the political process.”

Members of the central committee receive no compensation.