Today in D.C. History: Anthony Williams Forced to Run Write-In Campaign
Mayor Anthony Williams’ campaign for re-election hit a major snag when the validity of signatures on his petition to get on the ballot was called into question. On July 15, 2002, Dorothy Brizill, Gary Imhoff, Mark Sibley, and Shaun Snyder filed a joint challenge to Williams’ petition, claiming that 9,250 of 10,102 signatures were “defective,” according to Brizill and Imhoff's email newsletter, DCWatch.
The reasons for the challenges ran the gamut from signers unregistered to vote, to signatures not matching the identity of the signer, to signers not registered in the same party as the petitioner. The validity of signatures on campaign petitions is entrusted to its circulators; three of Williams' circulators were singled out as perpetrators of fraud.
Campaign members Scott Bishop Sr., Scott Bishop Jr., and Crystal Bishop were responsible for collection of and vouching for signatures on the petition. But during an investigation by the Board of Elections and Ethics, the review found that Bishop Sr. had collected signatures on June 31 (a date which doesn’t exist), and that Bishop Jr. claimed to have obtained 540 signatures in a 24-hour period.
Whether the signatures were completely fabricated or the circulators had simply acted improperly by not actually collecting signatures personally remained unclear. Bishop Sr. and Bishop Jr. plead the Fifth during the investigation, and Crystal Bishop was hospitalized and unable to testify.
While Williams made some challenges (including the ethics of the BOEE spokesperson) he chose not to defend 214 of the 512 pages in question. Ultimately, the board rejected any signatures collected by the Bishops, leaving Williams with, at most, 1312 signatures, far below the 2,000 signatures D.C. election law requires for a candidate to be included on a ballot. As a result, Williams was forced to run as a write-in candidate.
Williams’ campaign was fined $277,000 for violations. Despite the setback, Williams won both the Democratic primary and the general election, and served a second term as the city's mayor.
But things didn’t turn out quite so well for the Bishops. According to The Washington Post, three years after the scandal, D.C. Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti filed criminal charges against all three Bishops after federal prosecutors dropped the case. Scott Bishop Jr. and Crystal Bishop pleaded guilty on four counts each of making false statements and struck a deal with the Attorney General’s office to make a stronger case against Scott Bishop Sr., who was charged with 279 misdemeanor counts.