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Norton blames Obama for no convention speaking slot

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Photo - Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (Getty Images)
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (Getty Images)
Politics,Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District's congresswoman blamed President Obama's re-election campaign Wednesday for denying her the Democratic National Convention speaking slot she has usually received to advocate for D.C. rights.

"It's [from] somewhere in the Obama campaign," D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said of the decision. "It's pretty hard to know where the decision was made."

The Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Norton has routinely addressed Democratic conventions to press the city's case for statehood and voting rights. But this year, Democratic officials told Norton that an abbreviated convention schedule meant she wouldn't be able to take the podium.

A brouhaha between District and national Democrats has been brewing for weeks as top officials stalled on adding a statehood plank to the platform, prompting Mayor Vincent Gray to threaten a floor fight about the issue during the convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Democrats ultimately included a brief mention of the District in their platform, but they stopped short of urging statehood outright.

"Every citizen of the United States is entitled to equal citizenship rights, including the 638,000 residents of the nation's capital who pay federal taxes without representation," the party said. "The American citizens who live in Washington, D.C., like the citizens of the 50 states, should have full and equal congressional rights and the right to have the laws and budget of their local government respected without congressional interference."

Norton said that even without explicit mention of statehood, she was pleased Democrats backed its components.

"We would have preferred to have the word 'statehood,' " Norton said. "But as far as I'm concerned, the elements of statehood are unequivocally in the platform."

Ilir Zherka, the executive director of DC Vote, said that although he was disappointed in parts of the platform and the lack of a speaking role for Norton, he didn't think they slowed momentum for more District rights.

"Those things are important, but they're not determinative," said Zherka, who has focused his recent efforts on an effort to allow D.C. to sign off on its municipal budgets without congressional approval. "They don't affect the campaign long-term."

Still, 2012 has emerged as a year with a mixed record of success for D.C. advocates.

Although Obama signaled his support for budget autonomy and Norton has made inroads on Capitol Hill with top Republicans, a high-profile visit to New Hampshire to lobby Granite State lawmakers to support statehood fell flat. After a Gray-led delegation visited Concord in January, a resolution supporting statehood died in committee.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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