Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D)
Elected: 1990, 10th term.
Born: June 13, 1937, Washington, D.C. .
Home: Washington, D.C..
Education: Antioch Col., B.A. 1960, Yale, M.A. 1963, LL.B. 1964.
Family: Divorced; 2 children.
Professional Career: Asst. legal dir., ACLU, 1965–70; New York City Human Rights Comm., 1970–77; Equal Empl. Oppor. Comm., 1977–81; Sr. fellow, The Urban Inst., 1981–82; Prof., Georgetown U. Law Ctr., 1982–present.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was first elected delegate from the District of Columbia in 1990, grew up in Washington. The daughter of a District government employee and a school teacher, she graduated from then-segregated Dunbar High School and went on to get a law degree from Yale University. She worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the Carter administration. Afterward, she taught law at Georgetown University. When the delegate seat came open in 1990, she ran for it, and drew criticism because her husband hadn’t filed their income taxes for several years. But in the primary, she edged past Council member Betty Anne Kane, 39%-33%. Norton has been re-elected easily since.
|Eleanor Holmes Norton (D)||228,376||(92%)||($380,922)|
|Maude Hills (SG)||16,693||(7%)|
|Eleanor Holmes Norton (D)||38,999||(98%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2006 (100%), 2004 (91%), 2002 (93%), 2000 (90%), 1998 (90%), 1996 (90%), 1994 (89%), 1992 (85%), 1990 (62%)
In the House, she had the difficult and sometimes vexing task of responding to the fiscal collapse of the District government just as Republicans took over Congress in 1995. But she was seen as hardworking, competent, intellectually honest, able to get along with opponents as well as fellow partisans, and willing to take personal and political risks. She established good relations with Republicans active on District matters. She led the drive to give the D.C. delegate and the four territorial delegates to the House—all of whom were then Democrats—votes on most legislation in the House. In 1995, she worked with Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia and Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich to create the fiscal control board to oversee District finances in the aftermath of the disastrous reign of drug-using Mayor Marion Barry. In 1997, she and Davis came up with the legislation that rescued District finances and removed control over most of the government from Barry. The measure also included tax breaks for downtown and some other neighborhoods. The District subsequently recovered financially and moved past Barry’s divisive politics, a process that culminated with the election of Mayor Anthony Williams, the re-establishment of brisk capital investment in the city, and the end of middle-class flight from D.C. neighborhoods.
In spite of lacking a full vote in the House, Norton successfully pushed several local projects, including the Southeast Federal Center Public-Private Development Act that provided a coordinated approach to developing the area around the Washington Navy Yard. She supported the transfer of 200 acres of federal land to the District that passed in 2006 and the decision to place the Coast Guard headquarters on the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. She protested vigorously when the House voted to repeal the District’s ban on handguns. In June 2007, Norton won a House vote to remove the ban on using local tax dollars for an anti-AIDS campaign to provide clean needles to drug addicts.
However, one of Norton’s top goals—full voting rights for D.C. in the House of Representatives—was doomed as long as Republicans remained in control of Congress. The ruling party was loathe to grant a vote to a jurisdiction as heavily and wholeheartedly Democratic as Washington. Her luck began to change when Democrats gained control of both chambers of Congress in 2006, and of the White House in 2008. In April 2007, the House passed, 241-177, the D.C. House Voting Rights Act introduced by Norton and Davis, who represented the Northern Virginia suburbs outside of D.C. The legislation established the city as a congressional district with full voting rights in the House. It also included a plan to create an additional district for fast-growing and Republican Utah. But when the bill came up for a vote in the Senate that year, it fell three votes short of the 60 necessary to prevent a filibuster. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that the measure violated the Constitution, and Norton led a mock tea party on the banks of the Potomac to protest. The next year, after further Democratic successes at the polls and Obama’s victory, the Senate in February 2009 passed the bill, 61-37. It created voting privileges for the D.C. delegate while adding a concession for Republicans by adding a House seat to heavily Republican Utah. But the Senate also added a provision overturning D.C.'s restrictions on guns, which proved unacceptable to gun control advocates in the House and the bill bogged down in a stalemate over the provision.