Updated Apr 28, 2022 - News

Kenyan McDuffie booted from D.C. attorney general race

Kenyan McDuffie
Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Council member Kenyan McDuffie lost an appeal on Thursday to save his campaign for D.C. attorney general after a panel of judges unanimously sided with elections officials who ruled McDuffie was ineligible for the job because he is not an actively engaged attorney.

Why it matters: The decision eliminates the frontrunner in the race. McDuffie had outraised his opponents and had the benefit of name recognition in a field of D.C. lawyers new to politics.

  • The contest for the attorney general's office — a 600-person law department that has sued Big Tech and the Trump administration — is now a wide-open race between the three remaining candidates: Brian Schwalb, who has worked at Venable, Bruce Spiva, a former partner at Perkins Coie, and Ryan Jones, who founded his own firm.
  • Spiva had launched the challenge to McDuffie's eligibility.

Driving the news: The judges rejected McDuffie's argument that a lawyer who authors laws as a council member counts as being “actively engaged” as an attorney.

  • Hours later, McDuffie's campaign announced it is requesting a rehearing of the case by the full Court of Appeals. The D.C. Board of Elections is scheduled to finalize the ballot today for the June 21 Democratic primary.

What they're saying: "Allowing an individual to serve as Attorney General simply because they are an attorney and work in a non-lawyer capacity for the District, as a school nurse or IT expert, for instance, hardly seems to serve the aims of adding an experiential requirement to the minimum qualifications for the office," the judges said.

💬 Cuneyt's thought bubble: This is a big political miscalculation for McDuffie. As Ward 5 council member since 2012, he has authored sweeping criminal justice reform and has been seen as a top name for higher office, including mayor.

  • But not buttoning up his eligibility before launching into a campaign that raised over $1 million has cost him: McDuffie gave up running for re-election in the ward.
  • Observers have previously mused he could run in the general election for a council seat if he gave up his Democratic registration to become an independent.
  • Some have even wondered — it would be audacious — if he would seek the AG's seat as a write-in, then dare the Board of Elections and courts to deny him from taking office.

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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