Ward 5 D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie, a candidate for District attorney general, said he will fight a ruling by the D.C. Board of Elections on April 18 which concluded that he cannot continue his campaign for the June 21 Democratic Party nomination because he lacks the credentials for the position based on the law.
“Let me be clear, today’s ruling was an attack on our democracy and on working people in D.C.,” McDuffie said in a statement. “Unelected bureaucrats, prompted by a frivolous challenge from a corporate lawyer, who is funding his campaign with the millions he made defending powerful interests like Facebook and Amazon, telling a lifelong District resident who has spent his entire life fighting for working families that he’s ‘not qualified’ is exactly what it looks like. We’re taking this ruling to the courts where we expect to win on appeal. Just this morning, several of the original authors of the statute discredited this challenge as being well outside the intent of the language they helped to write.”
The McDuffie campaign plans to take the matter to the D.C. Court of Appeals, according to a news release.
One of McDuffie’s opponents, Bruce Spiva, challenged his qualifications before the board. District law requires the attorney general to be “actively engaged” in the practice of law five of the 10 years before assuming the position.
Spiva vs. McDuffie
The statute defines active engagement as being a practicing attorney in the District, a judge, a professor of law in the city or employed by the District or federal government. An attorney for the McDuffie campaign argued before the board that the council member practiced engagement by serving on the District’s legislative body and maintaining his law license with the District of Columbia Bar.
Additionally, McDuffie has worked as a prosecutor for the state’s attorney in Prince George’s County and in the U.S. Department of Justice as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division, the board learned from the campaign’s attorney. Nevertheless, the board ruled against McDuffie, which pleased the Spiva campaign.
“We have been clear from the start: Council member McDuffie does not have the experience to run for or serve as attorney general,” said Alaina Haworth, Spiva’s campaign manager, in a statement. “The people of D.C. deserve an attorney general who is ready from Day One to take the responsibilities of the office. That’s why the council enacted and District voters approved these specific minimum qualifications McDuffie failed to meet.”
Reactions to McDuffie’s Dilemma
In a tweet, Zach Israel, a Ward 4 advisory neighborhood commissioner, agreed with the board’s decision.
“Major kudos to @BSpiva for having the courage to successfully file a challenge against a candidate who simply was not qualified to run for D.C. attorney general under D.C. law,” Israel said. “This is now a three-person race and you should cast your ballot for Bruce.”
Without McDuffie, the race consists of Spiva, Brian Schwalb and Ryan Jones.
However, Troy Donte Prestwood, president of the Ward 8 Democrats, tweeted his concern about McDuffie’s status.
“A very surprising ruling by the D.C. Board of Elections,” Prestwood said. “The law is vague on AG qualifications. Therefore, District voters should decide who they want to be the next AG, not the elections board.”
Ari Theresa, a Ward 8-based attorney, agreed with Prestwood on Twitter on the vagueness of the statute.
“The statue is so vague, I am unsure how they can be successful,” Theresa said. “Agencies get broad deference interpreting their own regs.”
Ward 8 political activist Stuart Anderson said he leaned toward McDuffie in the race but now he has to look at the other candidates.
“I honestly don’t know the other candidates,” Anderson said. “I will say based on what I have seen, I would likely support Ryan Jones because he is the candidate that I can best relate to at this point.”