D.C. civil rights attorney Johnny Barnes speaks in support of Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who is running for attorney general of the city, during an April 26 rally outside D.C. Board of Elections headquarters to denounce the board's decision to boot McDuffie from the ballot. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
D.C. civil rights attorney Johnny Barnes speaks in support of Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who is running for attorney general of the city, during an April 26 rally outside D.C. Board of Elections headquarters to denounce the board's decision to boot McDuffie from the ballot. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Allies of Kenyan McDuffie’s campaign for D.C. attorney general are waiting for a ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals to keep his candidacy alive and will go an extra step and ask the D.C. Council to change the law on an emergency basis to benefit the candidate.

Nearly 30 people rallied Thursday outside of the D.C. Board of Elections headquarters to denounce its decision to boot McDuffie, who represents Ward 5 on the council, from the June 21 Democratic primary. The board ruled on April 18 that McDuffie didn’t meet the statutory requirements to run for and serve as attorney general because he didn’t practice law in District for 5-10 years before he declared his candidacy.

“There is injustice going on in our city,” said Ron Moten, a Ward 8 entrepreneur and anti-gang violence activist. “Whether you support McDuffie or not, everybody deserves a chance to win. Taking McDuffie off of the ballot is like going back to the days of Jim Crow when Black people had to guess how many beans were in a jar just to vote.”

District civil rights attorney Johnny Barnes said the board misinterpreted the statute and McDuffie meets the qualifications for attorney general.

“The law didn’t mean to prohibit a councilmember who has served since 2012 and has actively created laws and served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” Barnes said. “He was a District government lawyer who just happen to be on the D.C. Council. He qualifies. However, people who weren’t elected by [anyone] decided they were going to legislate and leave Kenyan out of the race.

“They don’t want Kenyan to be attorney general because he is for us,” he said”

On Thursday, McDuffie’s campaign filed an application for expedited review of the elections board’s decision with the D.C. Court of Appeals. The application noted a decision by the court should be made by Thursday so the board can proceed with the printing and mailing of the primary ballots. If the Thursday deadline cannot be met, the application requests the court to issue a temporary stay of the board’s decision and, if necessary, hold off the primary until the matter becomes resolved.

Barnes speculated instead of a hearing before the court, the judges may rule on the McDuffie appeal “purely on papers.”

“That means they will make a ruling by examining the legal documents submitted by the parties, not based on the attorneys arguing before the court,” Barnes said.

Moten said if the court rules against McDuffie, supporters should be ready to pressure the council to hold a one-day session to pass a bill allowing him to remain on the ballot.

“The council passes emergency legislation all the time,” he said. “They can do it in this case. We urge everyone to contact the council and ask for that if this is the case.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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