I recently sat down with Erik Metzroth, candidate for Shadow Representative for the District of Columbia, and asked him to talk about his campaign. Erik is challenging the incumbent Shadow Representative, Franklin Garcia.
The transcript of our conversation is below, for those who prefer to read or who are deaf or hard of hearing.
If you would like to skip to listen to a particular segment, you can let the time stamps at the beginning of each paragraph be your guide.
Maria Helena Carey: [00:00:03] We are here at The Yard, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, the newest shared office space in the heart of the Hill. And today we’re talking to Erik Metzroth who is running for shadow representative for the District of Columbia. I would like you to introduce yourself and tell us about your goals for this position.
Erik Metzroth: [00:00:22] Hello everybody. Thanks for having me. My name is Eric Metzroth. I’ve lived in the District for 20 years. During those 20 years, I’ve started a family. I have kids that are in elementary school now. With each passing year that goes by, I see that our license plates keep saying the same thing or almost the same thing. Originally it was “Taxation without representation.” Now if you get a license plate in the last year or so you might have gotten one that says, “End Taxation Without Representation.” But in either case, outside of those license plates, the movement for D.C. statehood, the ending of taxation without representation, all of the above, has not really budged an inch and, uh, every time I think about, it every time I see a license plate, every time I hear a story about D.C. statehood, it has frustrated me that much more that nothing comes of it, especially knowing that there is actually a dedicated budget that goes toward D.C. statehood now –which didn’t necessarily exist in the past. And so for all those reasons, I decided that, you know, instead of sitting on the sidelines because it’s something that I personally care about I’m a big fan of fairness and equity… and For us to be literally the only place in the continental United States that does not have the same rights as the rest of Americans… on top of being the place where government is most important in this country, it just… It just drove me to want to run. And just as a quick background about my political life, uh, I’ve been a member of the Republicans the Democrats and most recently the Statehood Green Party here in D.C. I was a member there for quite a number of years but once I really started to think about exactly how I could go about effecting change specifically related to statehood, I kind of decided the best path forward for me as a candidate was to divorce myself from all parties because, as I’m sure most of your listeners know, if you go on a party platform they will often often times the party will ask you to speak a number of subjects that you might not have a very strong position on personally, but because it’s the party platform you have to come out and say those things as well. Well guess what? The job I’m running for, Shadow Representative, is a one-job job. The only thing that this job has to worry about– the only thing it’s tasked with– (and you can go to the D.C. Board of Elections website to confirm this) is to lobby for D.C. statehood. And if anyone tells you anything differently that is not true. If they, you know, if somebody wants to talk about any of the hot-button issues that are going on in this country today and somehow pretend that they are something that this job can lobby on behalf of, that is not correct. So because of that, I really feel that being someone that isn’t independent is the only way that you can push forward to get D.C. statehood; to not kind of muddy the waters with other topics; to be able to talk to Republicans and Democrats alike; to actually forge or, you know, blaze a path that actually gets us somewhere on this issue which has been a problem for the last two hundred and seventeen years overall. And more specifically to this job… This job has existed since 1990 as something you can vote on on the ballot. I’m guessing 90 to 95 percent of the people listening to this recording right now have no idea either who is in this job what the person in this job does or any accomplishments that have come out of this job. And there’s nothing wrong with that because, guess what? The people that have been in this job for the last twenty eight years have all been members of the exact same party and they have not pushed the ball down the field for the same partisan reasons that nothing else gets done in this country anymore: Because nobody wants to give an inch and actually compromise. D.C. Statehood… well, we can get to it and further question so I’ll pass the mike here.
Maria: [00:04:56] Is there a clear path to statehood? That is my second question.
Erik: [00:05:01] So if anyone had listened to the primary interviews with the two Democratic candidates regarding statehood, they would tell you that this year more than ever we are on the path to D.C. statehood and, in some respects, that’s true. They have more votes in the House, and kind of in the Senate, than they ever have before. What they won’t tell you are two very important things. Number one, I think we all know you need a majority of votes in either body of Congress to actually get something pushed along. What they won’t tell you is, they refuse to talk to anybody in the Republican Party about this issue until they feel that they can really, in their words, “get the job done.” OK? So for instance, the man I’m running against, Franklin Garcia, I have found multiple interviews that he has done or speeches where he has flatly said that when the …. Because the Republicans are currently in control of either Congress the White House or both, that the issue of D.C. statehood will not move until the makeup of the Senate, House, White House, changes. So and this is the most… If you remember nothing else of this interview, the most important thing for everyone to remember is, the one man on the ballot (because I’m running as a write-in independent)… the one man on the ballot for U.S. representative –which is also known as shadow representative here– has told you this summer, multiple times, that he will not really do anything for this one-job job until things change in the White House and Congress. So he’s telling you that for a two-year job he really doesn’t have an action plan until a year three, at the earliest.
[00:07:13] Now I consider myself a fairly smart guy but I don’t think you even have to have more than, like, one cell in your brain to know that it’s pretty ridiculous for someone to ask for your vote if they’re admitting to you that this one-job job is not something they’re willing to do until… not the term you’re voting for, but the term after that. So guess what? I’m actually running as a one-term, single-term, however you want to put it, candidate meaning that if I don’t get the job done in the next two years I’m not running for re-election, and to be honest with you, win or lose, I’m not running in another election because this is a thing that can get done in the next two years if we’re open and honest about the process that we need to undertake to make it happen. If you want to vote for Franklin Garcia or whatever other Franklin Garcia-type clone who only wants to circle the wagons around his party, do that in 2021, because that’s when everybody is talking about making this happen; whether it’s the politicians, the advocacy groups, the media that support their agendas, whoever it is, they are all talking about long term plans. I’m gonna give you a quick anecdote. I went to a meeting onD.C. statehood not put on by me. It was kind of just put out to the public by an advocacy group of sorts. And the people that put it on are a wonderful institution they do a lot of good things in the community and they are a known quantity. For them to have put on this event and have me be the… literally the only person from the community of DC to show up to this event onD.C. statehood, scared me a little. But it didn’t matter at the time because there was a person that had a shared mind on us needing to solve this problem of taxation without representation being prevalent in D.C., where it’s not the case…. It hasn’t been the case for most of the country for hundreds of years. Right? We’re sitting there. For the first 15 or 20 minutes, we’re having a wonderful discussion about kind of where the movement’s been, fun places that they may or may not have… she may or may not have been to or wanted to go to. But the second I started to kind of reveal that I wasn’t necessarily in favor of this long-term plan because I think the problem with this issue is… Just as a can that gets kicked down the curb doesn’t… They don’t even have to tell you how long how far how long they’re kicking it down the curb because everybody is just resigned to the fact that even though 86 percent of D.C. voters want D.C. statehood, nobody cares that the people that are in charge of making that happen have no sense of urgency in making it happen.
[00:10:17] They just assume it’s never going to happen and that is just a terrible way to look at it. And so just to finish up that anecdote: When I told her that I… If you go to my website right now there are 10 different ways that we can, maybe not get D.C. statehood tomorrow, but we could get certain key critical factors that go along with statehood tomorrow if we worked with Republicans to make that happen. And this being a one-party town, unfortunately that’s not what a lot of people want to hear and I don’t blame them. You know, when you’re in a position of power, to some degree waiting things out is the way to play it rather than rashly acting for compromise that you don’t need to make. Well, I would be okay with that strategy if we were in year one, year two, year five of this movement. We… We passed in Congress in 1978, both houses of Congress said that we could have a voting member of the House of Representatives. Why did it fail? Because not enough states ratified that particular amendment which is why we started to see this movement towards statehood.
Maria: [00:11:32] I am wondering then if you wanted to go out and talk about your five year plan to statehood or to raise the profile of D.C.’s basic inequality?
Erik: [00:11:41] I don’t have a five year plan. If you listen to the interview with Michael Brown that was done in.. What month was that June? May? (Maria: May)
Erik: [00:11:48] Listen to his answer to that question. Now granted, he’s the Shadow Senator: I’m not running against him. But the mindset is it’s like a hive mind when it comes to this. His answer was not that he had a five-year plan. He… His answer was “Well we don’t have enough of anything.” I’m paraphrasing here.”To even try and have a five year plan we just do what we can do.” That is ridiculous. If you’re listening right now and you for whatever reason think that that kind of mentality is something you want to vote, for there is… You can turn this off right now because I’m not going to convince you otherwise. But if you are a sane person who is comparing that mentality to one where I say I’m going to get something done in the next two years, I’m not going to run again. And by the way I haven’t even mentioned this yet: I take no money from anyone. A lot of candidates will tell you “Oh, you know, we only take small donations…” I literally am self-financing this myself because you know what? I want to show that you can do this on a very small budget. We live in Washington D.C.: The very same place that all the Congresspeople that have our fate in their hands work. This job requires no money, and for everybody else to, like, tell you that, you know, it needs more money; we need more people from around the country supporting us –which is for a lot of the advocacy groups, that is what their long-term plan is: It’s to go and talk to people in states as far away as Alaska try and have random citizens in, call it Nome, Alaska or Duluth Minnesota or wherever they end up going, to talk to their own congresspeople about D.C. statehood. And the thinking, or the supposed logic behind this is, is that this grassroots push from inside House members and Senate member districts will be the real impetus that gets us to where we want to be. I have a lot of metaphors on my Instagram account that people can check out: Its @representDC_ because some random guy had @representD.C. I have 10 metaphors on there and one of them that I think perfectly illustrate the flaws in all of the logic behind this long term movement. But when it comes to this particular example of talking to people in rural Alaska, or suburban Alaska, about somehow helping us get what we can just as easily go you know one metro stop away to get for ourselves, it is similar to, I think… If you were upstairs in your home and someone you hear a home intruder break in and there in the living room, or the basement, or wherever they are below you. The metaphor that I like to use with this is, what are you gonna do? You have two choices: You can either call the friends and family of people on the D.C. police force who happen to live –you know the friends of family live out of state– and hope that those people are able to reach a police officer and have that police officer go check your house and, you know, arrest the intruder which is the mentality of this long-term plan. Or you call 911 and get someone there as fast as possible, which is what I think my plan is. Just to spell it out, it’s to go to Congress as often as possible and talk to the people that are willing to talk about some sort of compromise on this issue. It might not be D.C. statehood in 2019, but it might be an end to federal taxation. It might be some sort of other plan. Again, there’s 10 different ideas on my website. It could be something where we do a swap with a Republican district. It could be something. I’m from California originally where the most populous state in the House, which happens to be California, gives one of their congressional seats to DC. You phrase it so that it’s always… It’s not California, It’s the most populous state. And, some people might have a problem with that but it’s really a net-neutral and you’ll look online you’ll see everybody talking about how unfair it is that the Senate is seventy five percent, like, rural and Midwestern and it’s not fair. Well guess what? It’s also not fair that California, one state, controls about 15 percent of the house so… I don’t think it’s a huge problem but let’s say we couldn’t even get that one done. There’s so many other ways we could get something done in the next two years. It’s just a matter of talking to the side that is being ignored right now and seeing which of those ones they’d be willing to actually give on as like the collective group. Because the writing is on the wall after what happened with the Supreme Court nomination that, for the first time in a very long time, the Democrats are united in wanting D.C. statehood because they want to have those extra votes. And that’s great, but there’s no guarantee that that’s coming in 2020 if things don’t break down. And so I’m not saying we need to ditch their long-term plans. I’m saying, history has shown us that they don’t actually come through on what they say they will. 1993, Clinton’s first term 2009, Obama’s first term. The Democrats owned both chambers of Congress and the White House. Did they get this done? No. So, for them to tell you otherwise is a bit. You know at worst it’s misleading; at best, you know, it’s pie in the sky. So. I really hope that they can accomplish it because they know Democrats are the predominant party in Washington D.C. But for the next two years if there’s two people running and one of them is telling you they’re not can do anything the other one says they want to get you something, I think it’s pretty easy decision on who to write…In my case who to write in.
Maria: [00:17:54] I feel like at this point in time, you have shared with us what you plan to do to protect D.C. from congressional overreach and some of your plans. So I would like you to focus on what you plan to do to make this position carry more weight if you should get elected and to give us some parting thoughts.
Erik: [00:18:11] All right. So I don’t think I really addressed this at the beginning of the interview, but the number one way for this position to carry more weight regardless of if I get elected or not is for the local media in WashingtonD.C. to actually treat these two positions the one I’m running for a shadow representative/U.S. representative and the other one, shadow senator– of which there are actually two shadow senators. The media will, give or take, will write one article a year on the D.C. statehood movement per outlet, if that. A lot of them will ignore it outright. But what I have found over the last two months since I declared, affirmed my candidacy as a write-in is that, for various reasons, the media themselves are the biggest problem when it comes to getting the word out on us and it’s actually a very easily-solved problem if we as citizens call them out on what they do. The most striking example to me is, the two largest voter guides that came out in Washington D.C. over the last couple of weeks are from Washington. The Washington Post and DCist The Washington Post did not write about either… either of the shadow positions. Neither did the DCist. The DCists specifically frustrated me because I was trying to, like, get in their ear the day before that election guide came out –and wasn’t the first time. I’ve been trying to reach out to, I believe, five different reporters/editors from that publication over the last couple of months.
[00:20:02] Just to tell them, “Hey please, you know, pay some mind to these jobs. Please write an article on it. And I guess it’s up to them whether or not they want to write a specific article about this race or the shadow senator race. But for them to flat-out see those things and then the next day put out a publication that leaves these things out of their voter guide. The… Two of the seven positions that are on everyone’s ballot in DC for no reason other than, I mean I’ve seen various reasons, but the one that I got from a particular reporter at the DCist was that he’s very busy and he doesn’t have time to focus on an unpaid job like this. That’s a paraphrase. Now he’s a political reporter. I’ve reached out to eighty-five reporters or outlets and some of them overlap, but overall I counted it yesterday. Eighty-five. Of those eighty five, today is the first time I’ve had anyone dedicate any, you know, airspace, print space, to this race specifically. I was able, thanks to Hill Rag, to publish my own article right after the primary season ended and I’m very thankful for and to them for that. I had two other of those eighty-five listen to my request to it include me because I’m a write-in in their brief local write-up because they’re highly localized, you know, publications. They’re either Ward-centric or sub-Ward centric so they don’t have a huge audience, but I am very appreciative that those two publications also, you know, paid attention to my request. But that still leaves eighty-one journalists or outlets that have ignored a citywide race. Either didn’t respond to me said “nobody cares about this,” whatever. And to be honest with you, I don’t work in their ad department. I don’t work in their editorial department.
[00:22:15] They may be right but if they’re going to pretend that this isn’t kind of a vicious cycle of them not writing about it makes it unimportant and then all the way back around again, then they’re there much like some of the other things we’ve talked about today. They’re pulling the wool over your eyes. I’ll be honest with you: If you go to my website right now you’ll see my opponent in action. On the home page, there’s a link to a number of videos and text links of him doing his thing. And if you walk away from viewing even one or two of those thinking that he is competent enough to get a fifth and sixth year in this job then, by all means, vote for him. But it’s really bad and I think the media, if they had paid the slightest bit of attention to this, could have made these races in an otherwise “boring year” according to them, this could have been the second most important story: That there is somebody that has held office in DC for the last four years, who has done nothing, has taken questionable trips on D.C. taxpayers dimes, seems to think it’s A-okay to talk to people that have negligible… is like being too nice, like next-to-no-influence on the actual matter that he was elected for. Going to a D.C. State –you’ll see this video on my website– going to a congressional briefing on D.C. statehood specifically being the representative of the whole delegation there speaking for about 15 or less seconds on D.C. statehood and then spending the rest of his time asking for people who happen to live in D.C., you know, kids that have just moved here after college, to vote for him in the primaries, to talk about one of his pet issues which is immigration. Which, that’s great if you know what? Let him spend the next two years working on that issue, because that is one of the many issues that he seems to care about far more than statehood which, reminder: Is the only thing that this particular job is about. So, in sum, because I know I’ve been going on for a while: If I put the media’s feet to the fire on ignoring stories that they want to pretend are not important but they’re obviously important enough to be on everyone’s ballot. They’re obviously important enough to get 86 percent of the vote. Over half of the people that could vote because in that, in 2016 more than half of DC voted. So it’s not like a small percent of the public voted like they did in this last primary. It just blows my mind. And, you know, I’ve toyed with the idea to be honest. Win or lose but especially if I lose, of creating my own publication which would have a motto, you know, somewhere in the neighborhood of “giving a voice to the voiceless” because, you know, I might be out of left field because I’m an independent write-in candidate but I am in no way like a crazy activist. I’m in no way out of touch with reality. I if you looked at me on this earth I could not be like a more normal person in your neighborhood. You know, I used to be a mascot, so maybe that’s something weird about me. But at the end of the day, like, aren’t you sick of having people that are career politicians doing exactly what you expect out of career politicians?
[00:26:13] I am, and that’s why I’m running. I don’t want to be a politician but this is a joke that sorry. It’s a joke that you know, Eric Metzroth, the guy that actually wants to solve the problem… And you don’t have to spell that perfectly on your ballot but you do have to remember to highlight, sorry, fill in the oval next to the write-in and then write my name or else it doesn’t count for some reason. I learned that a little while ago.
[00:26:44] But again, to sum: Write in Eric Metzroth, unless for whatever reason you are one of the under 5 percent of people in DC who happens to even know that Franklin Garcia exists, and probably part of the like 1 percent of people or really less, that could tell you anything that that guy has done. And I don’t mean to be, you know, rude by calling him “That guy.” But at the end of the day, he hasn’t done anything to push the issue forward. He’s had four years to do it. He’s telling you in the next two years he’s literally not going to do it. Please don’t vote for that guy. If you, if you’re a staunch Democrat and you cannot vote against your party please just skip that one. Either way it’s beneficial to me and I know it’s a super long shot and I know we’re late in the game here, you know, with people having already voted. I mean, that’s another crazy thing about the media. You know, people are putting out their voter guides but early voting already started. Mail-in voting already started. I had somebody on my drive over here today who’s a dear friend of mine call out but just see a tweet from one of her friends about how he just voted today and then she felt bad that she hadn’t told him that she… That he should have voted for me, which, thank you for doing that! This isn’t like a pressure game, but. And then, he felt terrible that he didn’t know about it. But for me, you know, I think it’s just another way that we… You know there’s so many examples of how every… More than half of the country hates our current political system. The people in power. But nothing changes. Part of it is because of this. People walk in uninformed because, you know, they vote on a Tuesday and then on the Thursday something that would have totally swayed their vote comes out. So I’ll leave it at that.
[00:28:54] Just write in Erik Metzroth, unless you are Franklin Garcia’s relative. Then, by all means, vote for him.