Jan 3, 2024 - News
Town Talker

Scoop: Council member Charles Allen faces recall effort

Charles Allen is photographed speaking before a podium

Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen was sworn in for a third term last year. Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Capitol Hill resident concerned over violence in the District is leading a recall effort against Council member Charles Allen.

Why it matters: Allen has handily won office three times, but his championing of criminal justice reforms has also garnered some passionate foes, including the police union.

The big picture: A recall election has never been held for a council member, but the effort could test where voters stand on progressive policies after D.C. closed 2023 with a 26-year high in homicides.

  • As the former chair of the Judiciary Committee, Allen shepherded the D.C. Council's criminal code reform that Congress and President Biden blocked last year.
  • It was lambasted for lowering penalties on carjackings, even though the package also increased punishments for other crimes and updated antiquated laws. The House GOP last year called Allen to a hearing on crime.

What's happening: Jennifer Squires, a former federal government worker who had previously voted for Allen, formed a recall committee last month because she believes the reform bill was "going in the wrong direction."

  • She plans to begin fundraising soon.

What they're saying: Having lived on the Hill with her family since 2000, Squires called the recent crime rate "shocking." She cited incidents near Tyler Elementary School, where four people were killed in one day last March, according to D.C. police data.

  • "I don't think Mr. Allen gets it," the 55-year-old tells Axios.

The other side: Allen points out that he won re-election unopposed in 2022 with over 90% of the vote.

  • "I never take the support of my neighbors for granted, but I also know I share their values and provide leadership they're proud of," he says in a statement to Axios.
  • "On the Council and in the community," Allen adds, he "always puts constituent services and finding ways to build community first."

How it works: Organizers first need to collect (in Squires' estimation) about 7,500 signatures. That would likely exceed the requirement to collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in Ward 6, which includes the Hill, part of H Street NE, and Buzzard Point.

  • If successful, the Board of Elections would organize a special election, where voters would decide whether to keep the council member in office.

Be smart: The recallers are not able to fundraise using public monies, aka the popular "Fair Elections" program that matches small donations for political candidates with taxpayer dollars. And if the election does occur, Allen also would not be able to tap public funds.

The intrigue: The police union is not involved in the effort, which according to Squires began among a group of friends.

  • "We haven't made a commitment" to fundraise for the recall, said Gregg Pemberton, who chairs the police union. "But it's certainly something our executive board will consider if the effort progresses."

💭 It's 2024. Town Talker is a weekly column on local money and power. Send your New Year's political resolutions to [email protected]

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