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51st State for Obama Slate Candidates Ready for Delegate Challenge

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On Saturday, March 3, the local Democratic Party in the nation's capital will start its first round of delegate election to fill its 46-member delegation to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The elections will take place at the University of the District of Columbia, Van Ness Campus from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

To allocate the first 15 delegate seats, the only delegates that will be elected by the people, the city has been divided into two Congressional Districts, Congressional District #1 and Congressional District #2. Wards 1, 2, 6, 8 belong to Congressional District #1, and Wards 3, 4, 5, 7 to Congressional District #2. Over 90 individuals filed applications for a shot at one of the 15 available District level delegate seats. Included in the 90 candidates are D.C. Council Member Marion Barry, from Ward 8, and DC Council Member Jack Evans from Ward 2. The delegate selection plan calls for some delegate seats reserved for party leaders and elected officials (PLEO) that will be elected later in the process by members of the local Democratic Party in D.C. Because there are not enough PLEO seats available for all of the D.C. Council Members, Mr. Evans and Mr. Barry have decided to compete with ordinary citizens to ensure they are seated as delegates in the September Convention in North Carolina.

Given the longevity in city politics these council members have -- Marion Barry was former mayor of the city and Jack Evans is one of the most senior members of the D.C. City Council -- combined with the fact that both of these council members are in the middle of their reelection efforts, many believe it is all but certain that they will each get one of the 15 delegate seats. The issue for some is that, because both of these council members are from Wards in District #1, and that District will only allocate four male delegate seats, over 20 male candidates running in District #1 will have to compete for the remaining two seats in District #1.

Many are hoping that grassroots individuals running turn out enough supporters to defeat the hopes of the two council members. One such attempt comes from the 51st State for Obama slate. This slate is made up of 15 individuals chosen from every Ward in the city, representing every ethnicity. Some members of the slate, like Ward 2 Activist Susan Meehan have over 50 years of community service in D.C., others like Ward 6 resident Laura Shin, have recently made D.C. their home. The slate also includes GWU freshman and former D.C. Youth Mayor Markus Batchelor from Ward 8, Ward 4 educator Dr. Julia Lara and former Gertrude Stein Democratic Club President Jeffrey Richardson from Ward 6. All members of the 51st State for Obama slate represent progressive activists that are part of a wave to bring change into local politics in Washington. The slate has called on both council members to withdraw their aspirations to allow ordinary citizens greater opportunity of participation. Some believe that electing these council members to be delegates would be an embarrassment for the city.