Now, he is emerging from the shadows of D.C. icons like Julius Hobson Sr. and Calvin Rolark, activists who helped push the statehood agenda to the top of the city’s political heap. He echoes their voices and those of such organizations as DC Vote, and says he relishes personal encouragement from Mrs. Norton, for whom he interned. But this young man vows to raise the bar.
That’s not surprising since Morehouse doesn’t merely churn out graduates. It grooms generations of “Morehouse Men” like Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Calvin Butts of Harlem’s famed Abyssinian Baptist Church, and Friendship Charter Schools co-founder Donald Hense.
Mr. Bennett-Fleming sounds like he has been passed the baton, using words like “galvanize,” “consensus,” “leverage,” “coalitions” and “capitalize” — themes constantly sounded by Mr. Hobson and Mr. Rolark.
Mr. Bennett-Fleming proposes updating the playbook of the civil rights movement by engaging Republicans, organizing a “freedom summer” next year, raising money nationally for the statehood fight and better use of social media to engage young people.
“I’m going to be more bipartisan,” he said. “There’s much more room for consensus … . Democracy is a common issue, no matter who you are.”
He also plans to harness the minds and resources of the religious, legal, trade and other special-interest communities — including Washington’s heavy-hitting lobbyists — behind a united statehood agenda.
As for his citywide primary race, Mr. Bennett-Fleming doesn’t criticize the incumbent. Instead, he parses his comments into a universal message so as not to alienate any voting bloc.
He won endorsements from the D.C. Latino Caucus, Ward 8 Democrats and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.
“Those endorsements show what kind of candidate I am,” he said, “and shows that I can relate to the culture of the city.”
It’s a city in recovery from the scourge of drugs, years of overspending, lax attention to rebuilding infrastructure and other problems.
It’s also a city that Mr. Bennett-Fleming says deserves to be treated by the federal government like a world capital — the way Austria treats Vienna and France treats Paris.
There is, he says, a “fierce urgency” for an aggressive and strategic push for D.C. statehood, and he wants supporters to take advantage of the momentum that is building for the national midterm elections.
And what if he loses the race?
“I’m committed to seeing this through,” he said. “I’m committed to making D.C. the 51st state.”
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Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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