Two independent candidates vying to become the next D.C. mayor presented two different views on achieving voting rights for D.C. and how best to work with — and without — Congress to do so.
David Catania, a member of the D.C. council, told the several dozen voters gathered at the DC Vote forum that District residents cannot count on Congress to help them achieve full voting rights.
With cloudy skies and the Capitol Dome visible through the office window behind him, Catania said, "I think Congress is so profoundly broken at this point that it is really, you know, quite a tall order to expect a broken Congress that can’t pass federal budgets, that can’t really respond to American democracy, to in fact give us ours.” Catania attended the Senate hearing on D.C. statehood in September but said, "It was as if it was simply an empty gesture that members felt obligated to have a hearing."
Given the congressional gridlock, Catania advocated for bypassing Congress and convening a constitutional convention through state legislatures to achieve statehood and full voting rights.
Carol Schwartz, the other independent in the race, said statehood would not be her first choice to achieve autonomy. Rather, she harkened back to instituting a constitutional amendment, an idea that first gained traction in the late 1970s, giving D.C. full voting rights and representation in Congress.
Schwartz argued that forgoing statehood and achieving full voting rights while remaining the nation's capital would allow the city to remain intact.
“If statehood proves to be the only avenue, I’m going there," she said. "But I think the other avenue might be preferable and it might be more doable because then Congress and the president and everybody don’t have to carve out the whole city.”
Schwartz also said she would use her personal connections on the Hill to advocate for representation and would meet with congressional leaders. Catania said conversations with members of Congress should be "respectful but direct," though he also thought the district should target members who work against the district.
In his questionnaire submitted to DC Vote prior to the forum, Catania said he would encourage the development of a political action committee "with the expressed purpose of deploying resources in a lawmaker's home district or state when they intrude in District matters."
Muriel Bowser, Democratic nominee and front-runner in the race, also submitted her answers to the questionnaire, though after the deadline last week. Bowser was notably absent from the forum and, according to her campaign, she could not attend due to prior commitments.
Bowser told CQ Roll Call in July that, if elected, she would deploy a team of lobbyists to the Hill to constantly lobby the members of Congress. Bowser's answers to the questionnaire will be available on the DC Vote website Wednesday afternoon.
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