Election season will begin a little earlier this year, as the race for the White House kicks off not with the traditional Iowa Caucus but with a primary in the District. According to Drew Johnson-Skinner (COL ’04), one of the co-chairs of Campaign Georgetown, the shift will have implications both on and off campus, as the national political spotlight focuses on the city.

In previous years, Washington’s primary has been held late enough in the cycle that it has had little impact on the outcome of the nominations, Johnson-Skinner said. In 2000, the primary was held on May 2. But moving it up nearly five months to Jan. 13 will draw attention to the District and the political issues it faces, such as the lack of Congressional representation.

The campaign to move the Washington, D.C. presidential primary began in January with a proposal in City Council. The measure was signed by Mayor Anthony Williams in March and later accepted by Congress, which has the power to overturn District laws and ordinances.

Inside Healy gates, Johnson-Skinner sees the change as a windfall for Campaign Georgetown. The increased emphasis on Washington politics will encourage more students to register to vote in the District and participate in local government, the organization’s two main goals.

“It’s something new for us and it’s a help. Something like this is great to get Georgetown students interested in D.C. politics and out there voting in the District,” he said.

Matt Ingham (COL ’04), another Campaign Georgetown co-chair, said that having the first primary would give students more opportunities to see national politics first hand.

“They will get to see the presidential candidates campaigning right here, on our turf and, of course, they will be able to vote in the nation’s first presidential primary,” Ingham said.

Being the earliest stop on the campaign trail will force politicians to campaign in the District, Johnson-Skinner said. With Washington, D.C., being an overwhelmingly Democratic city, this will be especially true this year for the nine Democratic candidates seeking the party’s nomination. In 2000 roughly eight times as many Democrats as Republicans voted in the presidential primary in Washington, D.C.

“This means that the Democratic candidates will come to D.C. to campaign. And when you come to D.C., you have to pay attention to D.C. issues,” he said.

The Washington issues that Johnson-Skinner, Ingham and other District politicians hope that the presidential hopefuls will address revolve around the ongoing campaign to get the city representation in Congress. Currently, Washington, D.C. has one non-voting Representative with the ability to speak on the House floor.

The Washington primary will also be different from those in many other states because it is completely non-binding. The Democratic National Committee mandates that the first primary of a presidential campaign be the Iowa Caucus, which this year will be held on Jan. 19. Therefore, the District vote, held six days earlier, cannot be used to determine who will receive Washington’s delegates’ votes at the nominating conventions next summer. According to Johnson-Skinner, however, many District delegates have already announced that they will lend their support to whomever Washington voters choose in January.

In what would normally be a quiet year for Campaign Georgetown, without any local ANC elections, the two co-chairs say they are already gearing up to spread the word about the new Washington primary election date. The organization will be running a large-scale registration and information effort, but has some concern that the primary’s date immediately at the beginning of the spring semester may somehow discourage students from getting out to vote.

“But that just means we have to work a little bit harder,” Johnson-Skinner said.

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