A six-month effort to yank D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams from office died yesterday when organizers failed to submit more than 35,400 signatures from city voters that were needed to place the recall option on the November ballot.
The deadline for handing in the signatures from at least 10 percent of registered voters in the city was 5 p.m., said Bill O'Field, a spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.
O'Field said that recall organizer Barbara Lett Simmons left a message yesterday for the board's general counsel asking for more time but that city law does not allow extensions. Williams's opponents would have to start their campaign from the beginning, he said, if they wanted to pursue the recall further.
Williams (D) had vowed to "crush" the recall campaign when it was launched in January by several of his longtime critics -- including Democrats Simmons and Sandra Seegars, and Statehood Green Party activists Debbie Hanrahan and Adam Eidinger.
The mayor, who is in Boston this week attending the Democratic National Convention, had no comment yesterday but was pleased with the news, said his spokesman, Tony Bullock. "Whatever they were doing never caught fire," Bullock said of the recall organizers, noting that the mayor was reelected in late 2002 with 65 percent of the vote. "There really wasn't much to motivate people to unelect the mayor they'd just elected. There was no precipitating event. No betrayal of public trust."
Recall organizers opposed the mayor's decision to close D.C. General Hospital during his first term and to spend millions in subsidies and tax breaks on revitalizing downtown and spurring economic development across the city.
Simmons, a member of the Democratic National Committee, is reportedly attending the national convention this week along with the mayor. She could not be reached at her home yesterday evening and did not return a voice mail message left there. But she told the Associated Press earlier in the day that her group had gathered fewer than 30,000 signatures.
Seegars and Eidinger said in interviews that the effort had gone slowly. While many residents were eager to sign in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, Eidinger said, he struggled mightily to enlist support in his own neighborhood of Adams Morgan.
"I'd known for some time that we were way off the pace," Eidinger said. He said he had cut back on his efforts substantially in recent weeks, to focus on his campaign to be elected the District's shadow representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, and on the birth of his daughter. He said Simmons told him two weeks ago that the campaign had amassed 23,000 signatures.
Seegars, who is running for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. Council, said she left the petition drive last month "because it wasn't going well."
Seegars said she got the Ward 8 Democrats to endorse the recall effort, but that few, if any, members of that organization ever circulated any petitions. She said she sent blank petitions out to people who called the recall effort's hotline, but the petitions "never came back."
"It takes people to get signatures," Seegars said. "Petitions don't get signed by themselves."