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D.C. Council And Attorney General Candidate Spar Over Timing Of Election

D.C. voters opted for an elected attorney general, but the D.C. Council wants to delay the first election.
Larry Miller: http://www.flickr.com/photos/drmillerlg/1246397248/
D.C. voters opted for an elected attorney general, but the D.C. Council wants to delay the first election.

A federal judge is expected to rule this week on a lawsuit to keep the election for D.C. attorney general on next year's ballot.

In 2010 D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment mandating an elected attorney general — the election was supposed to take place next year but in October the D.C. Council narrowly passed a bill delaying it because some lawmakers felt the city wasn't ready and no candidate had stepped forward to run.

That's now changed. Paul Zukerberg, a defense attorney and former Council candidate, has sued the city to keep the race on the 2014 ballot and later announced he would seek the seat.

Last week, a federal judge listened to oral arguments from both sides. Most of the hearing focused on the unique technicalities surrounding the case and whether the judge could do anything while the council's bill is still under congressional review.

Zukerberg's pro bono attorney Gary Thompson argued that if the judge waits until late December for the review period to pass it will be too late for Zukerberg or any candidate to gather enough signatures to make the ballot. Signatures are due by January 2.

After the hearing Thompson said that if his case survives the technicalities he believes the judge will find the D.C. Council acted illegally by disregarding the charter amendment passed by voters.

"When we get to the merits, it's a slam dunk for Mr. Zukerberg. There's no straight-faced argument the AG's office can make that they have a legal right to ignore the charter and kill the election," he said.

Lawyers for the city declined to comment after the hearing.

Currently the attorney general is appointed by the mayor. It was the Council that voted to create the independent, elected AG by making it a charter referendum. Now, Thompson says, Council members are trying to block it.

"The council is trying to defeat this election for a number of reasons, but basically they are scared. They are scared of this moment when there is going to be an attorney general. They are trying to kick the can down the road. Well, it's wrong," he said.

The judge is expected to rule by the end of the week.

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