Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly
– a D.C. conflict -
Washington D.C., 1988: Sharon Pratt Kelly - also known as Sharon Pratt Dixon or Sharon Pratt - announced that she would challenge the current mayor of Washington D.C., Marion Barry, in the election of 1990. At that time, the nation´s capital was shaken by scandals, financial problems and a high crime rate. As Marion Barry was arrested on drug charges in 1990 and dropped out of the race, she promised to lead the city back on the right path and she promised to “clean house with a shovel, not a broom”. But Kelly had to face problems during her campaign: she had the smallest campaign staff, the lowest poll ratings, the least money and was only endorsed by black newspapers. This changed as the Washington Post started to support her. Her grassroots and reform attitude attracted the voters and media.
In 1990, Kelly actually won the election against her Republican opponent Maurice T. Turner in her first bid for public office – with 86% of the vote, which was even a new district record! She was the first African-American woman to serve as a mayor the a major American city and with her administrations slogan “Yes We Will!”, Kelly started to work on her new challenges. And she faced big challenges.
The same year, another black woman entered the political scene of the District of Columbia. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a national civil rights advocate, won against city council member Betty Anne Kane and became the first African American woman elected to Congress from the District of Columbia. She as well began working hard to improve the situation of the city and her main goal was and is to gain D.C. statehood.
Both women now had to work together. During the first time in office, they enjoyed successes. For example, they received an additional $100 million in emergency aid from the U.S. Congress to defray the financial burden of the almost broke city.
Kelly also fulfilled her promise to slash the city employment payroll and they both also convinced the owners of the Washington Redskins football team to stay in town. Moreover, riots in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood were handled by the administration with big secureness.
But as time went by, it turned out that the two politicians didn´ t get along very well with each other.
Everybody realized it, citizens as well as everyone who worked with them. A contrast was made between Norton, who quickly responded to concerns and Kellys administration with its nearly nonexistent service.
Not only their working style but also their personal appearance was contrasted in public.
Eleanor Holmes Norton won the hearts of the D.C. citizens with her warm personality, her grounded style and her openness. She was easy to reach for everyone who had a problem or concern and her unpretentious persona attracted people.
Kelly in contrast seemed to be aloof and always extremely concerned about her make-up and clothes. Moreover, her acerbic persona alienated many.
Also the actions of the unexperienced woman were driving Norton and her apart politically.
It turned out that Delegate Norton not only had to fight for the Districts best in Congress but that her biggest struggles actually became the defense of some of the actions of the Kelly administration!
In the District of Columbia, the situation concerning political work is different due to the unique, quasi-independent status. That is why the mayors office and the delegate have to work closely together and that this working relationship is essential to convince the Congress and get its support.
But Kelly ignored that. In most instances, she had not even given Norton briefings or information on measures, that Norton herself later would be forced to defend on Capitol Hill! Norton was often completely surprised about decisions and critical issues.
One of these issues was Kellys plan to introduce casino gambling in the city, a topic which was highly discussed in Washington D.C. When Kelly announced her plans, Norton was completely surprised because it was a plan she had never even heard before. The first time she heard of it was when she has been queried about the matter by the press. The delegate was furious! She thought that her biggest goal of getting D.C. statehood was endangered by Kellys plan and she felt that introducing gambling would lessen the chances of reaching this aim. Kelly had made her project public without even discussing it and Norton didn´t believe that she had thought about the consequences good enough before stepping out with it. She had not even get a tiny information from the mayor´s office.
- Quote paper
- Eva Eckinger (Author), 2010, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly - a D.C. conflict, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/212856