At-large D.C. Council candidate S. Kathryn Allen was tossed off the November ballot late Monday night.
In a major blow to some business leaders—including former Mayor Tony Williams and Mayor Muriel Bowser—the Board of Elections ruled that Allen’s candidate petition signatures failed to meet the 3,000-name threshold because of fakes and errors in the filing of those petitions. The successful challenge was brought by incumbent At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who is seeking re-election.
In a decision released moments before a midnight deadline Monday, the board noted, “Ms. Allen collected two thousand, four hundred and twenty-six (2,426) valid signatures, which is below the requisite 3,000 signatures for ballot access. It is hereby: ORDEREDthat candidate S. Kathryn Allen is denied ballot access for the At-Large Member of the District of Columbia Council.”
The board also directed the elections legal counsel to turn over any evidence of petition fraud to D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.
Williams and David Catania, a former councilmember who helped recruit Allen, have openly complained that Silverman was the major backer of expensive paid family leave legislation that imposes a tax on city businesses. The two men co-chaired Allen’s campaign. Mayor Bowser has remained in the background, but also had wanted to support a strong challenger to Silverman, who is a leader of the progressive wing of the Council.
It’s unclear whether Bowser and the business leaders will switch to back another candidate, businesswoman and restaurant owner Dionne Reeder. Reeder was an early entrant into the race and her campaign chair is Alfreda Davis, a former chief of staff to Williams when he was mayor. Reeder, from Ward 8, also is backed by Cora Masters Barry. Sources say Reeder’s campaign had expected Williams’ endorsement but that he and Catania decided on Allen, an insurance broker and former banking commissioner under Williams.
Allen was making her first run for office. She has three days to decide whether to appeal the elections board ruling in court.
The decision Monday capped weeks of intrigue over Allen’s petitions.
Silverman had filed a detailed complaint alleging Allen should be disqualified. At a hearing last week, the elections board threw out most of Allen’s petitions, leaving her just about 100 signatures above the threshold. But the board, in making its final decision, also threw out additional petitions after hearing sworn testimony that people identified as signature collectors had not in fact collected those signatures. One of those alleged signature gatherers, Leonard Howard Jr., testified last week that he had not collected the 330 signatures under his name, and that was enough to disqualify Allen.
“The evidence of forgery is overwhelming and conclusive,” Silverman’s attorney Joseph Gonzalez told The Washington Post during the battle.
Just after midnight, Silverman’s campaign posted the board’s ruling. “The Board’s decision clearly communicated that fraud is not permissible,” said Silverman. “D.C. residents need to be able to trust our elections process. The idea behind the nominating petitions is for a candidate to demonstrate some grassroots support among voters, and that should not be faked.” Earlier, during a day of agonized waiting, Silverman tweeted a link to the song “Waiting,” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Allen’s campaign made a statement as well. “We regret to announce that we were unable to prevail in our effort to get S. Kathryn Allen on the ballot for Councilmember at-large,” it read. “We entered this campaign with good intentions and good faith. It is extremely unfortunate that our decision to contract with a petition circulator cast a shadow on an otherwise optimistic and unified campaign.”
The decision to disqualify Allen is a particular embarrassment for former Mayor Williams. In 2002, Williams was running for re-election when NBC4 reported that his petition signatures were rife with fraud and fakes. Williams ended up paying a $277,000 fine and running as a write-in to win a second term.
In recent weeks, neither Williams nor Catania have spoken on the record about Allen’s flawed campaign roll-out.
Voters in November can vote for two at-large candidates. In addition to Silverman and Reeder, there are 5 other at-large candidates, including incumbent Democrat Anita Bonds, Statehood Party member David Schwartzman, Libertarian Denise Hicks, independent Rustin Lewis, and Republican Ralph Chittams Sr.