by Marcia Wiss
DC voters will be able to vote for the Attorney General of the District for the first time ever on November 4th, 2014. In 2010, the voters of the District voted for a charter amendment that mandated that the post switch from being an appointed one to an elected position, and scheduled the first election “after Jan. 1, 2014.”
The DC Council, with the current attorney general’s support, voted to delay the election until at least 2018. However, the DC Court of Appeals ruled in June that the Council lacked the power to do so.
To date, five candidates have joined the 2014 race – in alphabetical order – Lorie Masters, Karl A. Racine, Edward “Smitty” Smith, Lateefah Williams and Paul Zukerberg. Candidates have until August 9th to collect signatures from at least 3,000 DC voters to be placed on the ballot.
The race is important since the attorney general can play a checks-and-balances role with the mayor and the DC Council. In essence, the attorney general heads the law firm for the District government, called the Office of the Attorney General.
This is a large organization, with many staff, which plays an important function: It makes sure that what the government does is in accordance with the law. Seven divisions oversee the activities of each agency, the mayor and the Council. For instance, the new policies drafted by DDOT on filling sidewalk gaps had to be reviewed and okayed by this office, which was the last step needed before the mayor signed on the dotted line.
For most of the past 25 years, the appointed office was mainly held by men from Ivy League law schools and prestigious corporate law firms, such as John Payton (Harvard; Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering), John Ferren (Harvard; Hogan & Hartson), Charles Ruff (Columbia; Covington & Burling), Peter Nickles (Harvard; Covington & Burling) and Irving Nathan (Columbia; Arnold & Porter). This election opens up this position to a much more diverse group.
I’m hosting a meet and greet for one of the candidates at my Forest Hills home this Sunday, July 27th from 1:30 to 3 p.m. If you’d like to attend, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.