Attorney General Election Excluded From D.C. Primary Ballot

Posted February 7, 2014 at 1:42pm

The District’s April primary ballot will not include the city’s first attorney general election, in accordance with a Superior Court ruling issued Friday.

Washingtonians in 2010 approved a charter amendment to make attorney general an elected, rather than appointed, position in 2014, but the D.C. Council has since attempted to cancel, then delay, such a vote.

Superior Court Judge Laura A. Cordero on Friday afternoon denied a motion for injunction, after granting an emergency hearing for attorney general hopeful Paul Zukerberg on Thursday, just two days before the primary ballots headed to the printer.

Zukerberg, a Democrat who submitted more than 4,800 signatures to secure ballot access, sued to stop a D.C. Council bill that pushes back the race until 2018. The trial lawyer, who in 2013 ran unsuccessfully in an at-large D.C. Council seat, would have been the only candidate on the primary ballot.

Following Cordero’s opinion, the D.C. Board of Elections will begin printing primary ballots without a slot for the office.

Despite the ruling, District voters may still get to have a go at electing an attorney general in November 2014.

Under a proposal from Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the race would forgo primaries in April, instead allowing candidates to get on the ballot by indicating their party affiliation on the ballot. It would also end a ban on D.C. government lawyers running for office.

The council will consider the bill on Feb. 10.

In 43 states, voters elect their attorney general, Zukerberg pointed out Friday during an appearance on WAMU’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show.”

“It is the preferred process,” Zukerberg said. “We need an independent attorney general because we need the law to be applied fairly to all people.”

He said, if elected, he would use his power to keep juvenile offenders out of the criminal justice system and increase contract transparency and accountability.

Zukerberg also weighed in on efforts to decriminalize marijuana, a major theme in his 2013 council campaign.

He supports a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana that recently won preliminary approval from the council, but thinks moves to legalize pot would be “too much, too fast.”