Feb 14, 2024 - Politics
Town Talker

Scoop: Charles Allen picks leader for anti-recall campaign

Side-by-side images of Charles Allen and Tommy Wells

Charles Allen, left, and his predecessor and mentor Tommy Wells. Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images and Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Ward 6 council member Charles Allen is enlisting his predecessor and longtime Capitol Hill resident Tommy Wells to fight back an effort to recall him from office.

Why it matters: Allen is taking the effort seriously, calling on his allies for support against the rare recall campaign that's raised at least $56,000 since January.

What I'm hearing: Wells said he will officially form and lead a committee to fundraise and organize support for Allen starting on Thursday.

  • "This is a home rule issue. Charles was only elected a year and a half ago," Wells told me at the Hill politico spot Hawk 'n' Dove on Tuesday night. "We see this as only outside folks who want to use D.C. as a proxy for their own agenda."
  • He believes Allen has broad support across Ward 6 neighborhoods — H Street NE, Southwest, the Hill — after three consecutive election victories.

Catch up fast: A council member has never been recalled from office. The campaign was organized by Capitol Hill residents who are upset with Allen's record on criminal justice.

  • It is led by Jennifer Squires, with volunteer muscle from Democratic insiders who have until now paid more attention to national politics than local affairs. They include powerhouse fundraiser Tonya Fulkerson, field organizer Moses Mercado, and comms executive Rich Masters.
  • The campaign has collected checks from Republican staffers and lobbyists as well, drawing attacks from Allen's supporters.

The latest: Allen convened a Zoom meeting with supporters last Thursday. "I want you to know, I'm taking it seriously," Allen told the crowd, according to Wells. "And I'm going to need everyone on this call's help."

The two go way back. Wells and Allen are from the same hometown in Alabama.

  • Wells was the Ward 6 council member from 2007 to 2015. Instead of seeking another term, he unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2014 and endorsed Allen, his chief of staff at the time, to take his seat. Wells was director of the Department of Energy and Environment under Mayor Muriel Bowser, and briefly served as an adviser until a staff shakeup last fall.

What's ahead: The Board of Elections issued petitions on Tuesday for the recall. Organizers have 180 days to collect what they hope will be over 8,000 signatures to force a recall election.

  • You can read the organizers' case against Allen and the council member's response here on the petition sheet.
  • The recallers plan to kick into high gear in the spring with volunteer and paid signature gatherers. "We're going to have house parties, knocking door to door, folks at Eastern Market," Masters tells me.
  • On Thursday evening, supporters of the recall plan to meet and pick up "Recall Charles Allen" yard signs.
An image showing a "Recall Charles Allen" yard sign
The recall signs. Courtesy of the Committee to Recall Charles Allen

What they're saying: "They've made a bargain with the devil by bringing in people they either have to apologize for or find a way they need to disassociate themselves from," Wells said about the Republican donors to the recall campaign.

  • He cited, "MAGA people … lobbyists, and people who do not want to believe in democracy for D.C."

The other side: "It's completely, utterly, laughable to say MAGA people are involved in this," Masters says. "When the facts aren't on your side, you start slinging mud."

💭 Fun fact: The police union that detests Allen had endorsed Wells for mayor in 2014. Town Talker is a weekly column on local money and power. Send your tips to [email protected]


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