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Heard on the Hill: Rapper’s Delight

Hip-hop artist T.I. wants young people to vote, even if he can’t cast a ballot himself during this election cycle.

[IMGCAP(1)]The convicted felon (he’ll soon head to prison to serve a yearlong sentence on gun charges) was in town Monday to launch the “Respect My Vote!” campaign, an update of the 2004 “Vote or Die!” initiative aimed at people under 30 who didn’t attend college, the demographic that typically registers the lowest turnout among voters.

The Grammy Award winner, whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., joined about a dozen other hip-hop artists at the 9:30 Club for the campaign’s kickoff. While T.I. won’t be stepping into a voting booth himself, he told HOH that he wants those in “the young hip-hop community to exercise their rights.”

“You give up the right to complain if you’re not part of the solution,” he said. “We have to double, triple, quadruple the numbers this time. This is the most important election of our lifetime.”

The rapper kept quiet about his presidential preferences while meeting with reporters, but he hinted at his choice during the actual event. “You see what voting got you last time,” he said. “I’m not saying no name … but we can’t afford for history to repeat itself.”

Herds of supporters for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), certainly were on hand Monday. But the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., the president of the Hip Hop Caucus who co-created 2004’s “Vote or Die!” with Sean “Diddy” Combs, told HOH that the campaign represents “a post-partisan issue.”

“We are all complacent in this madness if we don’t get out to the polls,” said Yearwood, who sported a black Washington Nationals cap in honor of his visit.

That’s the message Washington Wizards center Etan Thomas said he was trying to spread — although he admitted to HOH that he’s “doing stuff” for the Obama campaign.

But Thomas wouldn’t divulge details about his role. “I’m not supposed to talk about it,” he said. “That’s the instructions I’ve been given.”

Model Union. That was “America’s Next Top Model” alumna Sara Albert dining on the patio at the Dubliner on Friday evening. Sporting a pink spaghetti-strap top, comfy-looking jeans and a pair of flats, the leggy blonde was there with fiance John Hallmark, a staffer for Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). The duo is set to marry Aug. 9; the fellow Georgetown graduates got engaged on the rooftop of Charlie Palmer Steak just before Christmas, HOH hears.

Discovered by casting agents at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, Albert made it to the final rounds on season six of the reality show before being eliminated. She briefly moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling, but ultimately decided to return to the District.

Rep. Everymom. By day, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is a high-powered force on Capitol Hill, where she spends her time doing important stuff such as chairing committee meetings and voting on legislation. But, on the weekends, superhero-like, she morphs into a character we’ll call “Typical Mom.”

An HOH tipster spotted the Congresswoman looking like a regular person while traveling on a Southwest Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Manchester, N.H. With three boisterous kids in tow and wearing a bedazzled University of Florida Gators shirt, Wasserman Schultz managed to get the brood seated (love those Southwest unassigned-seat free-for-alls!). The family then enjoyed their bring-along meal of McDonald’s. And in true she’s-just-like-us fashion, Wasserman Schultz quickly traded her Congressional briefing binder for more typical airplane reading material — a copy of People magazine.

Spokesman Jonathan Beeton said the family has a cottage in New Hampshire and was traveling there for some weekend R&R (does such a thing exist when you have three kids, HOH wonders?). And he wasn’t surprised to hear that Wasserman Schultz was traveling in mall-mom style. “That’s my boss,” Beeton said proudly. “When you’re traveling with three kids on Southwest, you dress the part.”

Quick-Change Artist. While some Members rapidly transition out of official-Washington mode (see previous item), others slip back into it just as quickly. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) was spotted on Monday afternoon in the basement of the Capitol wearing an ensemble suited for the golf links and toting a gym bag. Only a few moments later, he was seen in Senate-appropriate togs, snazzy necktie included.

HOH isn’t sure which phone booth Smith used to make the lightning-fast transformation.

Free Willie (But by Invite Only). Looks like all those young-buck musical acts playing the Democratic National Convention in Denver in next month (reportedly including Usher, Kanye West and John Legend) will be joined by a classic. Country music icon Willie Nelson is performing at a private concert hosted by Denver-based CH2M Hill, an engineering and construction business, a company rep confirms.

The company is throwing a “sustainability fair” in the Invesco Field parking lot on Aug. 26, and in addition to booths on various greenie themes, the Red Headed Stranger will be performing for a few thousand clients, delegates and other guests.

Nelson’s environmental advocacy (not to mention his shelf of Grammys) made him a great fit for the event, CH2M spokesman John Corsi tells HOH.

Kevorkian’s Crew. The strange Congressional campaign of Jack Kevorkian, the former Michigan medical practitioner dubbed “Dr. Death” for advocating (and overseeing) assisted suicide, is getting even stranger. News releases from the campaign bear the line “Source: Jerry Stanecki Productions.”

Stanecki, it turns out, has a colorful résumé himself: He’s a former TV newsman who now writes and produces audiotapes on self-help goals such as “how to make each day a day of happiness.” Oh, and there’s also one about Jimmy Hoffa. We kid not.

Kevorkian attorney Mayer Morganroth, who is working on the campaign, says Stanecki doesn’t have a role in the Kevorkian campaign. He’s just a friend and client of Morganroth and sends out the occasional press release for the campaign.

Kevorkian is running as an Independent for the seat held by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.).

Of course, HOH remains completely impartial in these matters, but we’re all in favor of more kookiness in our politics.

Briefly Quoted. “Bob Novak doesn’t read stories in the paper, he breaks them.”

— House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), sounding like he was rattling off a Chuck Norris fact while paying tribute to syndicated columnist Novak, who announced Monday he has a brain tumor.

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