D.C. Elects First Attorney General

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C.N. Staff Writer

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Democrat Karl Racine is the first elected Attorney General of D.C. The seat, which has traditionally been appointed by the mayor, had its on place on the ballot, thanks to a 2010 ballot initiative where District voters decided they wanted to vote this position in. Racine won with over 43 percent of the vote.

The race, which had five candidates, was not as popular as the race for mayor and there seemed to be little enthusiasm around it. However, the position will play a very key role in District politics and policy. The incoming AG will be the District’s key litigator and will oversee more than 300 attorneys at the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) which will represent the City in state and federal court.
The candidates — Lorie Masters, Edward “Smitty” Smith, Lateefah Williams and Paul Zukerberg, all Democrats — ran impressive campaigns that saw them door-knocking, holding meet-and-greets and participating in candidate forums where they laid out their visions for the office.

In a field of five, Racine was able to distinguish himself among the others as the candidate with the “best” experience. He is a top lawyer at Venable Law Firm and is a managing partner of the firm, a high distinction for an African-American lawyer. To some, his experience was his best quality and for others that experience has been used against him for fear of client interest. Still Racine was able to get ahead in early polling for the race and stay ahead.

The race for AG began with a battle in court by Zuckerberg shortly after residents voted to place it on this year’s ballot. After the ballot initiative passed in 2010 the District Council voted to delay the race be on the official 2014 ballot, but Zuckerberg sued the city and won. He argued that the Council did not have the right to delay something the District’s voters overwhelmingly supported. He has touted this accomplishment at several forums and debates across the city, stating “no other candidate fought to get it on the ballot, but I did.” Zuckerberg has also been a vocal proponent of legalizing marijuana, which was also on the ballot on Tuesday, as Initiative 71. Zuckerberg has said the current law has lingering inequalities that disproportionately affect minority populations. The initiative passed overwhelmingly with District residents voting over 60 percent to legalize small amounts of marijuana.

Smith, 34, was the runner up and touted his experience working in the Obama administration as one of his strongest suits for the job. A native Washingtonian he also told voters that he was the best to connect with everyday residents to fight for their rights.

Racine, 51, lead in fundraising, which included nearly a half-million dollars of his own money and secured the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton and several other big legal community donations.

Now, more than ever, D.C. residents will want to pay attention to the practices and policies of the AG, particularly what happens with youth. This office is tasked with prosecuting youth and deciding on child support cases. In 2011, there were 3,464 arrests of youth in the District and more than 42 percent of these were for non-violent misdemeanors. It is the Office of the Attorney General that has the discretion to pursue these arrests as full-scale prosecutions. Moreover, the Office of the Attorney General has the discretion to set policies for prosecuting these youth, determine charges, and make recommendations for the youth’s housing status pending trial.
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At-Large Races
There were two seats up for the At-Large councilmember seats and Council Chairman seat, held by Phil Mendelson. Democratic candidate Anita Bonds and Independent mayoral candidate David Catania’s seat was up. Mendelson won his reelection by a landslide beating out lesser known candidates.

In the At-Large race there were fifteen (15) candidates vying for the two seats. More notable candidates were incumbent Anita Bonds who ran a reelection campaign against former challenger Elissa Silverman and newcomers Courtney Snowden, Khalid Pitts, and Robert White. Snowden and White received Washington Post endorsements. Snowden is a native Washingtonian who works in the private sector at a government relations firm. Bonds won her reelection bid with more than 24 percent of the total votes cast for At-Large candidates.

White is a lawyer and former staffer for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. He is also a native Washingtonian who ran on his connectability with residents throughout the city having worked for Norton as a legislative counsel. Pitts is an owner of a restaurant who ran on the keen understanding of entrepreneurship and his past experience working on the Obama campaign.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie won his election and so did Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh.

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