He may be down, but Jack Evans is not out. The scandal-plagued former D.C. councilmember has collected enough signatures to get his name on the ballot for D.C.’s June 2 Democratic primary, he tells LL.
Evans has also collected enough donations to qualify for the District’s public campaign financing program, which requires at least 150 individual donors to give no more that $50 each and a total of $5,000 in the bank.
The deadline to qualify for the primary ballot and for public campaign financing is today, March 4. It is unclear whether Evans will be able to collect the 500 additional signatures to qualify for the June 16 special election, which he forced when he resigned from his seat in January.
Evans officially launched his campaign in late January, just 10 days after exiting the Council seat he’s held since 1991. Had he not left willingly, Evans’ 12 colleagues were prepared to forcibly expel him from the body.
Multiple investigations found that Evans repeatedly violated ethics rules by using his public office for his private benefit, though Evans has disputed those conclusions.
Shortly after Evans announced his candidacy, every councilmember signed a statement condemning his campaign as a “willful and arrogant disregard for ethics.”
But to hell with that. Evans is determined to push forward. And why is he running, you ask?
Patrick Kennedy, one of Evans’ seven primary opponents, directed that exact query to Evans during a recent Burleith Citizens Association gathering.
“His answer was some variant of ‘well, they come and go, and I’ll be here forever,’” Kennedy says. “And ‘you play the long game,’ and basically ‘I have a vote, and they’ll always come back to me because they’ll trade for my vote.’ Nothing about what his broader interest is. It’s all played as though it’s a game.”
The 66-year-old is attempting the kind of resurrection D.C. hasn’t seen since Mayor Marion Barry took back the executive’s office following a prison term for cocaine possession, or since Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray regained his Council seat following a shadow campaign scandal that dogged his single mayoral term. Whether Evans remains as popular in Ward 2 as Gray is in Ward 7 remains to be seen.
To get to this point, Evans deployed some good old-fashioned D.C. campaign tactics. He was spotted at the Dupont Farmer’s Market in early February, a hopping weekend spot teeming with potential voters, and outside Advisory Neighborhood Commission and citizen association meetings. He recently paid a visit to at least one senior living facility, according to a source who spoke with Evans in the past 24 hours, and he called up one of his opponent’s supporters to shame them for their disloyalty, Ward 2 candidate John Fanning tells LL.
Evans also enlisted a small group of close friends to canvas outside the “social Safeway” in Georgetown and help him go door to door.
“We’re all such close friends of his, and we forgive and trust him and know he won’t be doing that stuff again,” says MaryEva Candon, a friend who helped gather signatures. “And we trust he went through a bad time, a confusing time, to blur his private life with his government life.”
From Candon’s perspective, Evans is “clearly the strongest, most experienced” candidate.
“He’s a very effective councilmember with constituent services, as well as holding the Council to the bottom line of financing and budgeting,” she adds.
In between her full-time job and caring for her elderly mother, Candon says she managed to get out during the past three weekends to gather signatures for Evans. She targeted homes in the Sheridan and Kalorama neighborhoods, where she knows Evans has friends. She also stood outside the Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue NW where she ran into a familiar face: Walter Cutler, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), where she visited in 1976, she says.
“We rekindled that kinship,” she says. “And he said ‘oh yes, I know Jack. I’m happy to sign.”
Candon says she delivered her signature sheets two nights ago, and describes Evans that evening as “focused and methodical” in his push. “He’s an intense guy and serious guy,” she says. “This is the first time he’s had trouble collecting signatures.”
Fanning, the chair of ANC 2F who lost to Evans in the 2000 Democratic primary, says he heard from three of his own donors who reported receiving a call from Evans.
“I know he called a few people who are supporting me,” Fanning says. “And that he said ‘After all I’ve done for the ward, how could you do that to me?’ And they were elderly folks, right? So my sense is that he possibly scared them.”
Fanning says he bumped into Evans on Q Street NW last Saturday while the former councilmember was door-knocking with former staffers John Ralls and Schannette Grant.
“He shook my hand,” Fanning says. “They were freezing, as we all were. It was a cold day. He had several people volunteering with him, and I sense they were going to neighbors that they possibly knew.”
Evans is expected to appear at the Ward 2 forum tomorrow evening at the Foundry United Methodist Church, moderated by City Paper contributor Tom Sherwood and WAMU host Kojo Nnamdi. The forum is the first major public event where Evans will be required to speak since his resignation and could provide a glimpse into the public’s willingness to forgive the disgraced lawmaker.
Adam Eidinger, an ardent Evans critic who led a failed effort to recall Evans before his resignation, is already mentally preparing for the comeback.
“If Jack is re-elected by the people, I don’t believe it’s right to remove him again,” Eidinger says. “If the public says ‘We wanna keep him, and we don’t agree with Adam Eidinger,’ I think he should be able to get his seat back.”
But if that happens, Eidinger vows to challenge Evans as an independent in the November general election.
“I think I would actually have a real shot,” he says, noting that he recently shaved his Guy Fawkes-style facial hair and looks about 10 years younger. “I don’t want to run, and I don’t know enough about D.C. government, and I’m willing to admit that … But if he’s the nominee, fuck yeah I’d do it because I have name recognition, and I think I’d win.”