For a while now, it’s been very good to be Karl Racine. The attorney general hopeful has made enough money in his legal career to put $450,000 into his bid, and he’s landed endorsements from the Washington Post, the Current newspapers, and even Bill Clinton. At a candidate forum Saturday, a cheerful Racine rained compliments on ostensible opponent Lateefah Williams.
Racine has a reason to be happy—and not to fear Williams. The Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll finds Racine leading the pack in his little-watched race, with 22 percent of likely voters backing him. But the most popular candidate in the race is indecision, with 38 percent of respondents still not sure who they’ll vote for.
If Racine is having trouble catching the eye of nearly a third of the electorate, though, his rivals are doing worse. Three of Racine’s rivals trail him by 9 points or more: Lorie Masters has 12 percent, Paul Zukerberg has 11 percent, and Edward “Smitty” Smith has 13 percent. An underfunded Williams, meanwhile, received just 4 percent of the vote.
Racine’s success so far in the race may come as a surprise given his position as the favorite of a District political establishment that never wanted this race to happen in 2014. Racine has been endorsed by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who voted to move the election to 2018 but saw his plan thwarted by a lawsuit from Zukerberg. Racine only entered the race after the exit of Mark Tuohey, a high-powered attorney who helped negotiate the deal that brought the Nationals to town. Perhaps bowing to Racine’s superior appeal as a candidate, Tuohey endorsed him in July.
Racine’s establishment bona fides aren’t holding him back. While other candidates poll better than he does in certain wards of the District, he does reasonably well everywhere and dominates politically active Ward 5, where he receives nearly as much support as every other candidate combined. Racine’s background has earned him attacks from the other candidates on charges that his firm ripped off the District on legal work or that he’ll be beholden to his former firm’s clients. Racine blamed the slams on one thing at a forum last week: jealousy.
“There’s somebody here who’s breaking out of the pack,” Racine said.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery