When voters went to the polls for Tuesday’s D.C. primary, many reported seeing petition circulators for a citizen-led initiative that would ban corporate contributions to candidates for public office. There were enough volunteers for the effort, in fact, that the D.C. Public Trust announced Wednesday that it had gathered the 10,000 signatures it wanted toward the end goal of 23,000 to get the initiative on the November ballot.
What no one saw was petition circulators for an effort to recall Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown. That no volunteers for the recall appeared on Primary Day surprised many, especially considering the fact that they have to gather twice the number of signatures to get a recall on the ballot — and they have to do so by August.
What gives? The Washington Times is reporting that the recall effort has been called off by the man who was organizing it:
Fred Butler, a Ward 2 resident and supporter of former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, said Wednesday that he thinks ongoing federal probes into the pair’s campaign activities will eject the city’s top politicians from office anyway. Therefore, he said, “We have decided that it would be a poor use of our supporters’ money to fund the recall.”
Butler told the Times that he’ll review the status of a federal investigation into Gray in June and then reconsider whether to proceed with the recall or not.
Given the enormity of the task in front of him, this is an odd decision. Hinging any bets on a federal investigation is a gamble — Gray’s campaign staff could take the fall, while Gray himself could sneak by untouched, after all. Additionally, the collection of signatures for petitions could parallel any federal investigation. The sponsors of the anti-corporate cash initiative are moving ahead even though two D.C. council members recently proposed legislation that would do exactly what the initiative seeks to do.
Recalling a citywide elected official in D.C. is extremely hard. To date, every mayor spare Walter Washington has been subjected to such an effort, but none have gathered the necessary signatures to make it to the ballot. This may be yet another one.