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The list of groups that Phil Pannell has quit in a huff continues to expand: The longtime activist announced in an e-mail sent early this morning that he “in good conscience can no longer participate” with DC Vote, the city’s most prominent voting-rights advocacy group.
The e-mail was addressed to DC Vote’s executive director, Ilir Zherka and copied to several media and political types. It was prompted by the decision of Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, who is DC Vote’s outreach director, to drop out of a shadow senator race he had entered a mere three days before.
Pannell alleges in his letter that two-term incumbent Paul Strauss had used his “clout” to force Kinlow out of the race. “I personally witnessed Paul Strauss at the Obama fundraiser at Union Station last Thursday and at the Board of Elections the next day state to people that Eugene’s candidacy would be problematic for DC VOTE,” Pannell wrote. “Strauss, in my opinion, clearly stated that he had the clout to get him out of the race, which apparently he did. His hubris was nauseating.”
And, in trademark Pannell rhetoric, he also wrote that Kinlow’s withdrawal made him feel “what it must have been like for African American slaves to witness the beating of slave when they stood by helplessly. I will not sit by and let a Black man be trashed this way and consequently have entered the race for Shadow Senator.”
UPDATE, 4:55 P.M.: Strauss calls to deny Pannell’s insinuation that he intervened with Kinlow’s employer, DC Vote, to get him out of the race. “I never called anyone at DC Vote,” he says. “Any implication that I interfered in his employment situation is false.”
Strauss says he’s mystified and hurt by Pannell’s comments. “No one’s ever referred to me in language like that before.”
Full letter after jump.
I was extremely excited when Eugene Kinlow picked up his petitions to run for Shadow Senator because it presented an opportunity for a native Washingtonian and an resident of Ward 8 to heighten the struggle for DC voting rights. I was demoralized and devastated when he announced at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club meeting that he had withdrawn his candidacy. I personally witnessed Paul Strauss at the Obama fundraiser at Union Station last Thursday and at the Board of Elections the next day state to people that Eugene’s candidacy would be problematic for DC VOTE. Strauss, in my opinion, clearly stated that he had the clout to get him out of the race, which apparently he did. His hubris was nauseating.
Ilir, I am a liberal Democrat and neither glib nor facile with the term racism. However, when I saw Eugene gentlemanly withdraw from the race, I felt what it must have been like for African American slaves to witness the beating of slave when they stood by helplessly. I will not sit by and let a Black man be trashed this way and consequently have entered the race for Shadow Senator. No one east of the Anacostia River has ever been elected to the Shadow delegation and it is time that the geopolitical divide be crossed. Eugene would have been the perfect candidate to speak to the people in my community and get them more engaged. To be perfectly honest, DC VOTE is blessed to have him for all that he has done to get so many Black folks concerned and involved in an issue that most of them feel does not affect their daily lives. The withdrawal of his candidacy is not only unfortunate it is a disaster. Given the turn of events, I feel an obligation to turn up the political thermostat on DC voting rights in my campaign and employ ever tactic at my disposal to bring the issue to local and national attention.
Therefore, I in good conscience can no longer participate in DC VOTE activities. As always, I wish you the best in your endeavors as we work for the same end by different means. Please feel comfortable to forward this e-mail to whomever you choose.