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After sitting through this morning’s D.C. Vote-sponsored forum on the five similar-sounding attorney general candidates, LL can make a not-so-bold prediction. Whoever wins in November, the District’s first elected attorney general will care about political corruption. And budget autonomy. And juvenile justice.
Nostradamus-like, LL can make one more call months in advance: things are going to get interesting once the attorney general is no longer a mayoral appointment. Offered the chance, each candidate jumped to say how independent their office will be from the District government’s other hubs of political power.
“I want to work with the mayor, I want to work with the Council,” ” candidate Lorie Masters said. “I think that’s important, but I’m not going to work for the mayor or for the Council.”
Attorney general hopeful Lateefah Williams pointed out that, if elected, the mayor’s agenda wouldn’t necessarily be her own. Ditto Paul Zukerberg—-the guy behind the legal fight that kept the election in 2014 in the first place—-who announced that he wasn’t impressed with decades of the District’s top lawyers.
“I have not seen someone in my 30 years in that office that I could honestly tell you that, ‘Gee, I really loved that person, I really loved what that person did,'” Zukerberg said.
Deep-pocketed candidate Karl Racine sounded the most like a continuation of attorney general Irv Nathan, saying he backed Nathan’s interpretation that the 2013 referendum that supposedly granted the District budget autonomy from Congress isn’t valid.
Racine, a former defense attorney for sticky-fingered ex-councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., didn’t do much to disprove the notion that he’s the establishment pick for attorney general. After saying that he’s “always fought for the underdog” in his legal career, Racine cited another go-to attorney for ethically troubled councilmembers, Fred Cooke Jr., as one of his models for the attorney general’s office.
34-year-old Edward “Smitty” Smith looked to former attorney general Robert Spagnoletti as evidence that voters don’t need to worry about his relative lack of experience, pointing out to moderator and University of the District of Columbia law school dean Shelley Broderick that Spagnoletti was only a few years older than him when he took over what became the attorney general’s office.
“That job put a lot of miles on him, though,” Broderick replied.
Flickr photo by user Thisisbossi used under a Creative Commons license