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The Rent Is Too Darn High: An Obscure D.C. Primary Race with Big Consequences

04/01/2014 09:17 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2014

In D.C.'s Democratic primary on April 1, voters will have the opportunity to choose candidates for mayor, the D.C. Council, and the D.C. Democratic State Committee. That last one is an admittedly an obscure office. But it shouldn't be. Because the state committee has the capacity to matter - if it has the right people on it, that is. Fortunately, there are dozens of good people on the ballot for Democratic state committee in D.C. They are on a slate called The Rent Is Too Darn High. I am on the slate. Here is why my colleagues and I are running - and why voting for state committee is so crucial.

It is a critical time for D.C. statehood. Not since 1993 has there been a statehood bill before both houses of Congress. We have a historic opportunity to achieve full citizenship rights for the 646,000 disenfranchised, tax-paying residents of Washington, D.C. We need the statehood legislation to move - now.

The fate of D.C. statehood is frankly in the hands of the national Democrats. Of the more than 70 Congressional co-sponsors for the existing D.C. statehood bill, exactly 0 are Republicans. And the reality is that Republicans don't want to give D.C. residents the right to vote. As Ted Kennedy once astutely observed, conservatives believe D.C. to be "too liberal, too urban, too black, or too Democratic" - and thus ineligible to elect the people who make the laws that govern them.

The D.C. Democratic State Committee's job is to do outreach to national Democrats about D.C.'s political interests. The Rent Is Too Darn High slate has statehood on its platform. If elected, I and my running mates will work get D.C. statehood on the national Democratic platform as well.

And our slate would be pretty good at that. We are a diverse group of activists, all progressives, who know how to persuade, mobilize, and effect change. Just a brief sampling of our membership: Alexandra Beninda, D.C.'s first openly transgender candidate for a citywide office, Greg Cendana, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and Veronica Davis, a leader in environmentally and socially-just urban planning in Washington, D.C. As individuals, all of us on The Rent Is Too Darn High slate are committed to making D.C. a more equitable, democratic place. Collectively, we believe we can - and should - amplify D.C.'s voice in national policymaking discussions.

Oh, and what about our slate name, you ask? We were inspired by New York's Jimmy McMillan, who created The Rent Is Too Damn High party in New York. All over the country, income inequality threatens to erode our democracy and future economic well-being. And in D.C., racial and economic disparities are particularly stark. My slate members and I believe that, in addition to statehood, we need to contribute meaningfully to the national dialogue about economic mobility and empowerment, especially for vulnerable populations. In an early strategy meeting, we overwhelming voted to name our slate The Rent Is Too Damn High, because it reflects our values so well. (Our board of elections however, deemed the word "damn" too profane, so we had to change that part of our slate name to "darn.")

D.C. Democrats will vote in several important races on April 1. And there are policy consequences to the decisions we make in the voting booth. I am honored to be part of the movement bring real democracy and justice to D.C. I hope you will join me by voting for The Rent Is Too Darn High when you get to the polls.