With an hour left to vote for the District’s first elected attorney general, the man who made the race happen looked ready to accept that he wasn’t going to win it. Outspent and out-organized by his opponents, who poured hundreds of thousands of their own dollars into the race, Paul Zukerberg admitted that he just didn’t “have that kind of coin.”
“It could be a very short night,” Zukerberg predicted.
As it turned out, Zukerberg was right again. By the time early voting returns came in, high-profile defense attorney Karl Racine took a double-digit lead that he never gave up. Zukerberg’s zany candidacy, buoyed by his support for marijuana decriminalization, only earned him a tie for third place with candidate Lorie Masters.
The District’s first AG campaign started unlike any other race—brought into being by a ballot referendum, then nearly delayed out of existence by the D.C. Council that put the referendum before voters in the first place, then brought back again by Zukerberg’s legal fight. For a second, it looked like the rules of District politics and politics in general would take a break for the New Jersey–raised lawyer with a big mouth. But conventional wisdom reasserted itself Tuesday night, with the guy with the cash and the establishment endorsements blowing out his competition.
Even before votes came in, Racine’s campaign looked confident. Backed by a Washington Post endorsement and a cash advantage, they started organizing a slate of media interviews for the next day. That’s not the kind of thing you do when you think you’ve poured $450,000 of your own money into a race and could still lose.
“Thank you, D.C.,” Racine said on Twitter last night. “40 years after Home Rule we voted for our first elected Attorney General.”
Now Racine has to face a much less certain world at the Wilson Building, where he’ll work with (and bump up against) a new mayor and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who’s been on a roll lately. Mendelson, who endorsed Racine, looked on his candidate’s win Tuesday night like he was eying a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. Racine, Mendelson said, will be a “refreshing challenge.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery