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Paul Zukerberg lodges final appeal in bid to restore D.C. attorney general election

Gary Thompson (L) and Paul Zukerberg stand outside the District’s U.S. Courthouse after oral arguments in December. (Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post)

Judges have not been kind to Paul Zukerberg this month. His bid to restore the office of attorney general to this year’s District ballots, asking the courts to overturn a D.C. Council decision last year to delay the first such election till 2018, has now been rejected three times in recent weeks.

Most recently, on Wednesday, a Superior Court judge dismissed his lawsuit entirely, saying the lawyer and would-be candidate had not made his case that the council delay violated the charter amendment passed by voters in 2010.

Zukerberg argued that the conflict between the underlying language of the amendment — mandating an election “after January 1, 2014″ — and the summary printed on the ballot — specifying an election actually in 2014 — rendered the charter amendment ambiguous. But Judge Laura A. Cordero ruled that there was in fact no ambiguity; under longstanding rules of statutory interpretation, she said, the underlying charter language is all that matters and thus the council’s delay is permissible.

Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, who argued the other side of the case, hailed the ruling in a statement and said his office “will continue to defend the Council’s action vigorously.”

And continue they shall: Zukerberg is still not giving up. He filed an appeal of Cordero’s ruling Thursday, two days after the D.C. Court of Appeals rejected his request for an injunction forcing elections officials to put attorney general on the April 1 primary ballot.

“We’re exactly where we want to be,” he said Thursday. “It’s a disagreement about the meaning of our D.C. home rule charter, and we hope the Court of Appeals is going to give us a definitive interpretation.”

While his bid for an emergency injunction failed, Zukerberg says he hasn’t given up hope trying to get an AG line on the primary ballot. (Should he succeed, he would be the de facto Democratic nominee; he was the only candidate to submit nominating petitions.) He said, with expedited consideration from the court, it still could happen — even though early voting begins in less than three weeks and the ballots are already being printed.

“This decision is going to be made at the Court of Appeals and not at Kinko’s,” he said. “I can’t believe, in 2014, that printing is going to deprive people of their right to vote.”

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.



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Mike DeBonis · February 27, 2014

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