Evanna Powell has volunteered with the D.C. statehood movement since 2000, largely with her close friend Anise Jenkins and the organization she runs, Stand Up! for Democracy in DC.

Over the years, Powell has participated in rallies, handed out literature at forums and demonstrations, lobbied on Capitol Hill and played a role in information sessions known as freedom schools on behalf of D.C. statehood. Powell said she became excited when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to support a bill written by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) to make the District the 51st state of the union in June. Her enthusiasm has intensified, she said, with election day victory for Democrats Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris will be vice president, knowing both of them favor D.C. statehood.

“With Biden and Harris in the White House, I think prospects are as good as they have ever been for a D.C. statehood bill to pass the Congress,” she said. “I know the new House that will come into power in January will support it because the chamber is controlled by Democrats and if we can get a few more senators, the matter will be finalized.”

Jenkins agreed with Powell, expressing optimism on a D.C. statehood bill passing in the next Congress and ending up on Biden’s desk.

“During his victory speech on Nov. 7, I noticed President-elect Biden recognized Sen. Thomas Carper,” Jenkins said. “Senator Carper sponsored the D.C. statehood bill in the Senate and I thought it was a good sign for the president-elect to acknowledge him. If we can win the two Senate seats in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will be great and D.C. statehood legislation has a real chance to move. We will not have to deal with Senator Mitch McConnell as the majority leader in the Senate because he is overbearing.”

Even though the new Congress doesn’t convene until Jan. 3, Norton is working now to get a vote on her D.C. statehood legislation on the House floor early in the next congressional session.

“I have already begun gathering cosponsors for our D.C. statehood bill for the next Congress,” she said on Nov. 10. “I’m encouraged by the significant support that statehood got with this year’s House passage of the bill and in the number of cosponsors already in before the next Congress begins. As of now, we have 128 original cosponsors and expect more will be added before the 117th Congress convenes in January. I fully expect to surpass my previous record of 155 original cosponsors of the bill by then.”

Bo Shuff, executive director of DC Vote, an organization advocating for the statehood, knows of Norton’s moves. He said Norton’s re-introduction of her bill in the next Congress has become a part of a long-term strategy that District officials and statehood advocates conceived a few years ago.

“Three years ago, my organization and people from the mayor’s office and other stakeholders created a strategy where D.C. statehood legislation could pass the House and the Senate in 2023,” he said. “We looked at the senators who would be up for re-election in 2022 and found most of them are Republicans who could be vulnerable. Our goal in 2022 would be to elect a Democratic Senate and with a Democrat in the White House and maintaining a Democratic House, a D.C. statehood bill’s prospects for passage are real. However, if Democrats win both Senate seats in Georgia in January, that would speed up our timeline. There would be a 50 Democrats-50 Republicans Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris would be the tiebreaker in which a D.C. statehood bill could pass. But for now, we are educating people on the 2023 timeline.”

Nelson Rimensynder, a District Republican who supports the city’s aspirations for voting representation on Capitol Hill incrementally, said many in the GOP oppose D.C. statehood because they fear the District will send two Democrats to the Senate consistently thereby hindering the party’s chances of controlling the chamber. Moreover, Rimensynder said the D.C. statehood movement has become too one-sided and without Republican support the District’s chances of becoming a state are dim.

“If our approach is statehood or nothing, we will get nowhere for a long time,” he said.

James Wright photo

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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