D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman on Monday sought to knock a challenger off the November ballot, alleging that the opponent’s nominating petitions include nearly 4,000 invalid signatures.
S. Kathryn Allen, the challenger who is backed by former D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams and former D.C. Council member David Catania, needs 3,000 signatures from registered D.C. voters to qualify for a spot on the ballot.
But Silverman (I-At Large), in a challenge submitted to the D.C. Board of Elections, contended that 3,906 of the more than 6,000 signatures that Allen’s campaign filed are invalid, including 1,727 that were “not made by the person whose signature it purports to be.”
“There appears to be widespread and intentional signature fraud,” Silverman asserted in the complaint.
Silverman, who is seeking reelection to a second term, alleged that an additional 2,179 signatures are invalid because of a variety of violations, from incorrect addresses to duplicate signatures to gatherers who lacked proper credentials.
Among the gatherers accused by Silverman’s campaign of submitting invalid signatures was Kevin Parker, Allen’s campaign manager.
In a statement, Allen’s campaign said it has “verified over 4,000 signatures” — enough to qualify for the ballot — even as it acknowledged that it “fell victim to a petition circulating service that was supposed to enhance our collection efforts.”
“The Board of Elections has a review process that we respect,” the campaign said in the statement. “We have full confidence that once they complete their review, our candidate will be certified to be on the ballot.”
“We have learned a lot through the process, and now have our own questions about other candidates who have submitted petitions,” the campaign said without elaborating. “We will work through the Board of Elections’ process to have those questions resolved.”
Neither Allen nor Parker responded to requests for comment.
Allen’s campaign did not identify the service it had hired to collect signatures. Another candidate in the race for Silverman’s seat, Traci Hughes, dropped out last week after saying that the firm she hired, Strategies for Change Group, had compiled “thousands” of fraudulent signatures.
Khalil Thompson, head of Strategies for Change, said that the Allen campaign did not retain his firm’s services to collect signatures. He said it was possible that petition gatherers who worked for his company may have worked on their own for Allen’s campaign.
In Allen’s petitions, the name of Marvin Bowser, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s brother, appears twice, Silverman said. Michele Blackwell, Silverman’s chief of staff, said her own signature was “forged” twice in Allen’s petition.
“After looking at both, I confirmed neither was mine,” Blackwell said in a text.
Bryan Weaver, a Democratic organizer, said his signature was included in Allen’s petition even though he was out of town July 21, the date he purportedly signed.
“I was not in the country at the time,” said Weaver, who learned from Silverman that his name appeared in Allen’s petition. After the council member sent him a photo of the petition, Weaver said, “This is not my signature, this is not my handwriting.”
John Capozzi, a Silverman supporter, said his name also showed up “a couple of times” in Allen’s petition even though he never signed.
With Bowser (D) facing nominal competition in November for a second term, the Silverman-
Allen contest for a citywide seat had been shaping up to be the most competitive of the general election.
Silverman is facing several independent candidates, including Allen, Rustin Lewis and Dionne Reeder. Republican Ralph J. Chittams Sr., Libertarian Denise Hicks and Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman are also on the ballot.
Lewis’s campaign paid Strategies for Change $1,700 in July, according to campaign spending records. The company also has worked for the campaigns of council members Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) and Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4).
Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) is also running for reelection. She handily defeated two challengers in the June primary and reported $54,000 on hand.
Voters will be asked to choose candidates for the two at-large seats — but only one can be a Democrat.
Allen, a business executive who is a former D.C. banking commissioner, has said that she decided to challenge Silverman because the council member co-authored paid-leave legislation, which imposes a new tax on businesses.
The council enacted the bill despite fierce opposition from Bowser and members of the business community, who argued that it was costly and largely benefits commuters who work in the city.
A number of high-profile Washington business owners have donated to Allen’s campaign, including developer Douglas Jemal, mega-lobbyist William Jarvis and parking magnate Russell Lindner.