Appeals Court Overturns Attorney General Election Delay
The District will have its first attorney general election in 2014... or at least right after 2014. That's the ruling from the D.C. Court of Appeals this afternoon, which upheld attorney general candidate Paul Zukerberg's lawsuit against the D.C. Board of Elections in an attempt to hold the vote this year.
Even though the D.C. Council voted to move the election to 2018 last year on the grounds that the bill establishing the election only required the first election to take place "after Jan. 1, 2014," the appeals court ruled that the language meant instead that the election should take place in 2014, not any time afterwards.
“We conclude that a far more natural reading of ‘shall be after January 1, 2014’ is that an election for the District’s Attorney General must be held in 2014," the order reads.
With the November general election five months away, the appeals court sent the case back to Superior Court, where a judge will decide whether the election can be held this year.
“If the District can establish that an election in 2014 is not practically possible, then the election must be held as soon thereafter in 2015 as is practically possible," the order reads.
The D.C. Board of Elections referred LL's question about whether it could schedule the vote this year to the Office of the Attorney General. OAG spokesman Ted Gest said the agency will have a statement on the ruling later this afternoon.
The ruling represents a win for Zukerberg, a failed D.C. Council at-large candidate and marijuana activist who got a second life in District's politics after suing over the delayed election.
Despite losing a court fight to keep the office on the April 1 primary ballot and facing reluctance from the District's Office of Campaign Finance to treat him as a candidate in an actual race, Zukerberg says he never doubted that his case would win out. Now he welcomes other candidates to enter the race.
“Whoever wins is going to want a competitive race to have legitimacy," Zukerberg says.
Zukerberg has a very slight edge on newcomers to the field—as of late March, he had nearly $5,000 in his campaign treasury, according to OCF records.
“Today I assume the donations are off the charts," Zukerberg says.
Update, 3:45 p.m.: In a statement, the Office of the Attorney General says it will ask the full appeals court to review the decision. Here's the full statement:
We are studying the Court’s Order and awaiting its opinion. We continue to believe that the Council of the District of Columbia had the authority to interpret the 2010 Charter Amendment to authorize a statute scheduling the Attorney General election to be in 2018, and we will be drafting a petition to the full en banc court of the D.C. Court of Appeals on that key point. We will also be working with the Board of Elections and the Council to develop a full explanation of the practical and legal issues associated with rushing to hold the Attorney General election in 2014, which we will present in any further Superior Court proceedings following the Court of Appeals’ final decision.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery