Loose Lips

Report: Defense Lawyers Swap Places in Attorney General Race

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Karl Racine

Even after earning its spot on the ballot, the District's first attorney general race is having trouble hanging on to candidates. Attorney general candidate Mark Tuohey tells Washingtonian that he's ditching the race in favor of Karl Racine, another high-profile defense attorney.

Tuohey's exit would certainly explain why he wasn't at last week's Palisades Parade, usually a popular stop for citywide candidates. Neither Racine or Tuohey have responded to LL's calls and emails today, but Washingtonian's Harry Jaffe reports that Tuohey only entered the race on June 17 because he thought Racine wouldn't run.

Now that Racine apparently is running (he's still not listed as a candidate on the Office of Campaign Finance's website), Tuohey felt he could drop out and endorse Racine, whom he tells Washingtonian "has all the qualifications."

Tuohey won't be the first candidate to drop out of the race. After picking up nominating petitions last month, attorney Janai C. Reed dropped out almost immediately, telling LL that the race "was just a bit much."

Racine, a 51-year-old partner at Venable LLP and a former associate White House counsel in the Clinton administration, was born in Haiti and grew up in the District. He's donated $14,525 to District mayoral and D.C. Council campaigns since 2002, including the dueling 2010 mayoral efforts of both Adrian Fenty and Vince Gray, Councilmember David Grosso's 2012 at-large campaign, November at-large hopeful Khalid Pitts' bid, and two of Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser's Ward 4 campaigns.

Racine has a less valuable connection to District politics: his work on the defense team of former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. Along with Wilson Building power attorney Fred Cooke Jr., Racine was one of Thomas' most outspoken defenders in the face of charges that he used his "Team Thomas" nonprofit to steal money meant for children. After investigators raided Thomas' house in 2011, Racine claimed that "we sincerely believe that there will be no finding of any criminal violations."

Racine's prediction proved inaccurate the next year, when Thomas plead guilty. One of LL's predecessors marveled at Racine's moxie during Thomas' sentencing hearing:

The most audacious moment in today's hearing came courtesy of Thomas attorney Karl Racine, who somehow managed a straight face while trying to spin Thomas' guilty plea into an example of his committment to teaching the city's youth about integrity and responsibility.

"By the way," Racine said, Thomas was "still providing" lessons for children on how to "take responsibility when you have done wrong."

Umm, no.

Then again, maybe Racine is done with being an attorney in private practice—and an occasional defender of crooked councilmembers. In a 2010 interview with the Post, Racine listed staying with a large law firm as his potential "biggest regret."

"I do question the notion of being focused primarily on commercialism, instead of doing good works for people," Racine said.

Presuming that Tuohey is right and Racine is entering the race, Racine will face off against Paul Zukerberg and Edward "Smitty" Smith. Zukerberg's claim to fame in the race is that, without his lawsuit against the D.C. Board of Elections, it wouldn't be on this year's November ballot.

Smith, meanwhile, is running heavy on his position as a native Washingtonian. A release today touting his campaign kickoff this Saturday sounded more like the product of a wrestling match promoter than a political campaign, declaring Smith "DC's own."

Flickr photo by user Thisisbossi used under a Creative Commons license

  • Fred A.

    No way I'm voting for the crook who defended Harry Thomas Jr.

  • tony

    This race is between Zukerberg and one of DC'S OWN--"SMITTY".

  • Bruce T

    a HTJ crony in the OAG.... just what this city DOESN'T need

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    Karl Racine looks good for 51 years old. However, blacks tend to look much young than whites at the same age. However, I am not voting for either of these people.

  • Ward 5 Resident

    Zukerberg is the best choice. He fought to have the D.C. residents vote for an elected Attorney General. He deserves my vote.

  • Gilland McGuire

    Whom ever seated as Washington DC. First elective ATTORNEY GENERAL BY THE PEOPLE: Has lot of work to Reform the Landlord/Tenant Court.

  • Et voilà

    Well, I don't like the way this will turn out, not one bit.

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