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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Former D.C. Council Member Challenges Longtime D.C. Congresswoman in 2024 Election

Michael Brown, a controversial former D.C. Council member, announced his candidacy against the veteran D.C. House of Representatives Delegate in the June election for the position. 

Brown, who currently works as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, is one of the six candidates vying for the position who have so far qualified for the nomination. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has served in the role as Washington, D.C.’s non-voting representative in Congress for 33 years. 

During his 2009 to 2013 term as the at large representative on the D.C. Council, Brown introduced many popular pieces of legislation as a councilmember and advocated for social programs, launching Uber and Lyft in D.C., establishing the University of the District of Columbia Community College and expanding SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits

“The voter puts all of that in the blender. They’ll say, ‘Look at all the great legislation I have passed,’ and put that in the blender and mix it all up,” Brown told The Hoya.

Brown has a complicated history in D.C. politics, but said he hopes voters will overlook his prior record of corruption in favor of the legislation he was able to enact during his tenure as a city councilmember.

“I’m not perfect but I’m perfect for this race,” Brown told The Hoya. “Hopefully all the good I’ve done outweighs the mistakes I’ve done.”

Brown pled guilty in 2013 to taking bribes from undercover federal officers posing as businessmen seeking government contracts. He also admitted to concealing the source of donations of $20,000 and $100,000 to his 2007 and 2008 D.C. Council campaigns, respectively. Brown received a 39-month sentence, which he served in an Alabama federal prison.

Courtesy of WAMU / Former DC City Council Member Michael Brown, a controversial figure in DC politics who pled guilty to federal bribery charges in 2013, has announced his candidacy against incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton in the June House Delegate primary election.

Norton, who has never faced a competitive primary for the position, confirmed her candidacy and goals to continually advocate for D.C. statehood.

I will be using my valuable seniority to continue to bring home benefits and to make progress on D.C. statehood, where it has passed twice in the House of Representatives,” Norton wrote to The Hoya.

Statehood is currently a hot button issue for many residents and politicians in D.C., as Congress blocked bills passed by the D.C. Council on crime and police reform last year. The House passed H.R. 51, which sought to make D.C. a state, in 2020 and 2021, but both times the Senate voted against it

Brown raised doubts about Norton’s track record with D.C. statehood in an interview with The Hoya, saying that a more aggressive approach is needed to ensure legislation is passed to benefit the District’s residents. 

“I want to take a little more aggressive, proactive approach to representation. She seems to like to be reactionary, but I’d rather take the fight to them proactively,” Brown said. “Issue-wise, I’m sure you’ll find some differences, but generally speaking we have the same core political values. She is more ‘let’s be polite and kind,’ I’m more ‘has polite and kind worked?’ Especially since these issues really impact people’s lives.”

The D.C. congressperson can perform many of the same functions as other representatives, including sitting on and voting in committees, introducing legislation and speaking on the House floor. However, due to D.C.’s lack of statehood, the district congressperson cannot vote on bills. 

Brown added that more creative strategies should be employed to achieve statehood, such as suing the federal government. 

“Why can’t we sue the United States government for statehood, go to the Supreme Court? Because I think we have a lot of justifiable arguments for why we should be a state. Now, if the other territories and districts aren’t going to do it, we do it ourselves,” Brown said.

It is unclear if D.C. can sue the government for statehood, though voters have previously sued the government for full voting rights, including a voting representative.

Brown said that, if elected, he hopes to use the relationships he was able to build with members of Congress while on the Council to pass laws that benefit the District’s residents.

“You know they’re going to have to dispute a parking ticket. They don’t know anybody at the DMV, guarantee. But local election officials do, and maybe we can help facilitate,” Michael Brown said. 

“There are certain things we can help to make their experience in the district as pleasurable as possible while they’re here that other people can’t do. So we have to use other ways to leverage,” he added.

Nadia Brown, professor of government and chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown, said that Norton has faced criticism in the past for not addressing growing urban issues such as gentrification and inequality, as well as skepticism regarding her age. She is currently one of the oldest members of Congress at 86 years old.

“There are also limitations to her legacy. Some critics argue that she has not been as effective as she could have been in addressing issues such as gentrification, affordable housing and income inequality in D.C.,” Nadia Brown wrote to The Hoya. “Additionally, her age and length of service have been questioned by some.”

However, Nadia Brown added that Michael Brown may be at a disadvantage in this election, given Norton’s widespread popularity and name recognition as a longstanding woman in D.C. politics.

It is important to note that the District of Columbia has a rich history of women in leadership positions. Therefore, it is significant to have a female DC delegate, like Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who can represent the interests of women and the District of Columbia,” Nadia Brown wrote.

“Furthermore, Brown is unlikely to be successful in his bid to unseat Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton,” she added.

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