Manuel, a garment worker and longtime activist in the Black and labor movements, has been campaigning, along with campaign volunteers, throughout working-class neighborhoods in the city.
Manuel and a team of supporters began the day at a Health Fair held on the grounds of the now closed D.C. General Hospital. Shut down last year, it was the last public hospital in the city, and had been widely used by working people.
The city refused to keep the facility open despite numerous picket lines, meetings, and rallies by the hospital workers and others. The current mayor, Democrat Anthony Williams, is widely hated by workers for his role in leading the campaign to close D.C. General. He was also scheduled to be campaigning at the Health Fair but many workers there doubted he would appear.
"My campaign presents a program around which working people in this city and around the world can unite, and, through the fights we conduct today, begin to construct a revolutionary party that can lead working people to power and replace the rule of the wealthy with a government of workers and farmers," Manuel explained as he talked with individuals and groups of workers and youth. Many were glad to learn that someone who had fought to keep the hospital open was running for mayor. Many signed his petition to be placed on the November ballot.
From there the candidate and his supporters campaigned at a rally for reparations held on the Mall here, which attracted several thousand participants. They were able to talk to many youth and others who traveled from cities across the United States to demand reparations from the U.S. government for centuries of slavery and racism. Participants purchased some $175 worth of books and pamphlets published by Pathfinder Press.
"To end racism," Manuel told one group to youth, "we need to take power from the capitalist minority and form a government of workers and farmers. Such a revolutionary struggle will open up the fight to once and for all put an end to racism and all forms of discrimination. It will act in our interests and join a worldwide fight for socialism." Many residents of the city who attended the rally signed the socialist petition.
Mayor ruled off ballot
Mayor Williams has been ruled off the ballot for the September primaries due to widespread fraud and forgeries contained in the 10,102 signatures he submitted. A D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the decision August 7. The mayor was fined a record $277,700, for the 5,533 violations of election law, almost all of which were forged signatures. However, $27,700 of the fine was suspended after Williams agreed to train petition circulators more carefully. Williams is now running a write-in campaign for the Democratic Party nomination.
In a related development, the D.C. Board of Elections ruled that the Marijuana Policy Project had failed to gather enough valid signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that would decriminalize the medical use of marijuana. The board ruled that while the group had filed the required 17,455 valid signatures, it fell 122 signatures short in one of the wards in the city. The group is appealing this ruling.
Manuel said the Socialist Workers campaign opposes this undemocratic move to prevent working people from expressing their opinion on this issue. Four years ago, a similar initiative succeeded in getting on the ballot. But the U.S. Congress intervened and delayed the ballots from being counted, and blocked the measure from becoming law.
In an August 11 Washington Post column, American University professor of constitutional law Jamin Raskin decried these petitioning requirements.
"Massive signature requirements impose a pointless burden on outsider candidates that becomes an all-consuming drain on their campaigns," he wrote. He pointed out that since 1940, not a single statewide nominee of a third party has met the signature requirements for getting on the ballot in Maryland. Anyone who wants to run for governor as a Democrat or Republican is required to submit one signature, their own. Any other party must submit more than 27,000 valid signatures.
‘Private preserve of two parties’
The ballot restrictions "paralleled a national trend to knock left-wing parties off the ballot. By the 1960s, the official ballot was treated like the private preserve of the two major parties," he wrote. "This perverse approach lives on across America because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Jenness v. Fortson. In that case, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of Georgia challenged the state’s draconian ballot policy, in which major parties had automatic ballot status but minor parties had to collect signatures equal to 5 percent of eligible voters in the previous election.
"The SWP’s candidate for governor, Linda Jenness, had to collect an eye-popping 88,175 signatures and its two House candidates had to collect more than 10,000 signatures each," Raskin noted. "The court upheld Georgia’s rules, declaring that the job of collecting tens of thousands of signatures to get on the ballot is not ‘inherently more burdensome’ than trying ‘to win the votes of a majority in a party primary.’
"But this is comparing apples to oranges," he said. "The SWP is a party and should receive the same treatment as the Democratic and Republican parties. The proper comparison was thus not between how hard it was for any SWP candidate to get on the ballot (very hard) and how hard it was for a specific Democrat or Republican to emerge from a competitive primary battle (very hard). The proper comparison would have been between the chances that some Democratic or Republican nominee will be placed on the general election ballot (100 percent) with the chances that any SWP candidate will be placed there (zero to none). There have been no minor-party candidates for Congress on the ballot in Georgia since the 1940s."
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