Having written a letter commentary to the Washington Post editorial board on October 21, 2010 on why the DC Attorney General should be elected, I am elated to see that day has finally arrived with five viable and diverse candidates seeking the office of Attorney General for the District of Columbia. The 5 candidates seeking the office are attorneys Lorie Masters, Karl Racine, Edward “Smitty” Smith, Lateefah Williams and Paul Zukerberg. I was finally able to see all 5 together in a forum on Tuesday, October 21 hosted by the Women’s Bar Association and moderated by Zoe Tillman, reporter for the National Law Journal/Legal Times.
At the outset, I must say there are many similarities between the candidates on some of the issues. And in all honesty, I wish I could clone them into one candidate placing their best qualities in one person. When asked what would be their number one priority for the office of Attorney General, they all gave practically the same answer. Each candidate wanted to build integrity, have honest transparency and end corruption.
Lorie Masters is a former president of the Women’s Bar Association and was a prior managing partner at her law firm. Masters like Karl Racine comes from a large corporate law firm background. Paul Zukerberg is a solo practitioner who is responsible for fighting the fight to ensure that the election for Attorney General is being held in November, 2014 and not some later date. After the DC residents voted to hold elections for the office, the DC City council sought to table the elections for a while. And Mr. Zukerberg fought the District of Columbia government in court and won. As an attorney, he shows he is able to take on the City Council and win. However, based on his background as a solo practitioner for decades, I was concerned about his ability to actually lead an office of the magnitude of the DC Attorney General office although I truly admire his true grit and guts. Lateefah Williams is the most grass roots activist among the five candidates, citing her desire to host forums in the city and advocate for the most vulnerable in the city.
In narrowing down the choices, two candidates impressed me that they would be more able to head the DC Attorney General’s office. Those two candidates are Edward “Smitty” Smith and Karl Racine. I admire that Edward Smith or “Smitty” as he says he likes to be called, came from Anacostia, one of the worst neighborhoods in the District of Columbia, earned a degree from Harvard Law School and is a true public servant by his professional background. At age 34, he has a most impressive background. Smith, like Mr. Racine, has managed teams of employees. I believe that he would understand the challenges facing juveniles in the DC juvenile justice system, reform the juvenile justice system and advocate for consumers. His public servant background will fit well with the DC Attorney General’s office.
Mr. Racine has the experience of public service like Mr. Smith, having served as a former Assistant Public Defender. He was the one candidate who gave very specifics answers to the question on who he has spoken to at the DC Attorney General’s office to get a sense of the present office. And in understanding the limits of the DC Attorney General’s budget, he seemed willing to build upon law school clinics to assist in some areas of the office. Mr. Racine says that he is the only candidate who will be best able to hit the ground running if he is elected. More importantly, he is the one who has clearly demonstrated that he has managed hundreds of lawyers and employees for 6 years with a large budget as the managing partner at his law firm, Venable. The Attorney General’s office has almost 600 employees.
While all of the 5 candidates make good lawyers, Mr. Racine has demonstrated that he could actually run an office with hundreds of lawyers and employees and more amply understand their needs. It will take more than being able to read a budget to run an office of the size of the Attorney General’s office. Emphasizing that he would ensure adequate training for the attorneys shows he understands an aspect of the morale issue at the Attorney General’s office and he is willing to give support to the lawyers. Mr. Racine’s qualifications slightly nudge out Mr. Smith. In picking one candidate for DC Attorney General, I would have to say that person would be Karl Racine. The election is November 4. Early voting has already started.