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Monday’s Iowa caucuses are usually thought of as the first nominating contest for the presidential election, but this year, D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss hopes that some voters in state will take up another issue: D.C. statehood.

Strauss and his fellow shadow senator, Michael D. Brown, as well as Shadow Rep. Franklin Garcia, formed part of a delegation of District officials that traveled to Iowa this weekend to advocate for statehood as part of the primary elections.

While Iowa may seem like a choice out of left field, the shadow delegation will be working closely with Iowans For D.C. Statehood, a real, nonprofit organization based in Des Moines that has been actively advocating for the issue for the past year, since a resolution was passed by the Polk County Democrats to support statehood. It’s that resolution that the representatives hope to get on party platforms during the elections.

According to Strauss, the visit comes after several months of advocacy in the state. “We’ve put in a lot of groundwork,” he said, citing a series of commercials called the 51 Stars Campaign, which feature television and film actors voicing their support for D.C. statehood. “We’ve been running them for the past four months on two local stations.”

“It’s gotten a lot of attention,” said Tamyra Harrison of the 51 Stars Campaign. Harrison, director of Iowans for D.C. Statehood, said that the appeals for the issue have stood out from the normal campaign ads Iowans are used to seeing around elections.

While Harrison also acts as executive director for the Polk County Democrats, she insists that the efforts of Iowans for D.C. Statehood are separate and non-partisan. “We are trying to reach out to build a consensus with both parties,” she said Friday, while acknowledging that there may not be much support from Republicans.

Strauss first visited Iowa a year ago, to meet with the Polk County Democrats and discuss statehood advocacy, which prompted questions about his intentions while visiting a state frequented by presidential hopefuls. A year later, Strauss is making it clear that the D.C. delegation is in Iowa for only one reason.

“Iowans for D.C. Statehood have launched a sophisticated effort to get the resolution across the state,” Strauss said. “We think we’ve built a lot of support for these issues in the Hawkeye State.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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