Evans resigned the Ward 2 seat on Jan. 17 to forestall an extraordinary vote by his council colleagues to expel him over ethics violations. Multiple investigations concluded that he used his power as a lawmaker and board chairman for the Metro transit system to benefit companies that paid money to a private consulting firm he owns.
Evans has also been the subject of a federal criminal probe but has not been charged. He has denied wrongdoing, although he apologized in general terms for what he said was poor judgment in how he handled his personal business arrangements.
He declined to comment Tuesday.
Some of the former council member’s supporters continue to stand by him, and the District has always been advantageous terrain for political comebacks. At least two D.C. mayors have climbed from the depths of what looked like career-smashing scandals to win a second — or third, or fourth — chance from voters.
What is different about Evans, observers agree, is the breakneck speed to which he is trying to reset the traditional cycle of disgrace, contrition and redemption. The (barely) former council member is now a candidate to succeed himself in the special election promulgated by his decision to step down.
This is beyond arrogant. Mr. Evans is treating the ad hoc committee’s unanimous expulsion vote as a minor inconvenience rather than the condemnation that it was and is.— Mary M. Cheh (@marycheh) January 28, 2020
His contempt for the people of DC and for the Council is on full display. https://t.co/qyQUGqfv8A
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Bette Mohr, a retired federal worker who paused to register her disapproval at the junction of the wine aisles and the gourmet cheese cooler in the Georgetown Safeway, just west of Dumbarton Oaks Park. “It is tremendous chutzpah to do that.”
Mohr, a 74-year-old Georgetown resident, said she had voted for Evans in the past but could not see herself doing so again. But she acknowledged the entertainment value of her former council member’s rapid-fire comeback gambit.
“You have to chuckle,” she said.
“I definitely chuckled,” added her friend and yoga classmate Kate Perrin, 68, who lives in neighboring Ward 3.
“It’s absurd, really,” Mohr said.
Beyond the whitewashed garden walls, beneath the waxy magnolia leaves that shade this wealthy neighborhood’s brick sidewalks even in January, a new sound was audible Tuesday when residents paused to consider Evans’s case. It was a persistent clucking.
“He’s certainly lacking in self-awareness if he thinks he’s going to stand a chance,” Doug Anderson, a 47-year-old Ward 2 resident, told a reporter outside the Fresh Baguette bakery. “It just seems like a pretty shameless move, and one that smacks of desperation.”
Robert Olson, 80, is a professor who has voted for Evans since moving to this ward 26 years ago. “I have no idea what got into him,” Olson said. “Jack, you did something wrong. We all know you did something wrong. Thank you, but we’re not interested anymore.”
A moderate Democrat who for years served as the city government’s unofficial concierge for business interests, Evans was the District’s longest-serving elected official before his resignation this month.
In 2016, he formed a consulting firm that was ultimately paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by companies that stood to benefit from his actions as a council member and Metro board chairman. Internal probes by Metro and the council determined he used his offices to advance the interests of some of those clients.
Federal authorities have also issued subpoenas for documents related to his consulting work. In June, the FBI searched his home.
Evans left the Metro board in June. His resignation from the council this month came after his colleagues cast a preliminary vote to expel him. Evans has maintained that he was merely providing constituent services to his consulting clients that he also would have offered to businesses that did not pay him.
Six challengers have entered the race for Evans’s seat. Most of them have condemned his reentry in the election, as did his former council colleagues.
But the veteran politician’s appeal to some voters is tenacious. As she waited for a ride on Wisconsin Avenue NW, Anita Mimbimi, 74, said Evans had won her loyalty with his kindness to her and others at the senior center where she lives. She recalled with gusto his costumed performance as Santa Claus during a Christmas event some years ago.
“Yes! I would vote for him again,” Mimbimi said. “I don’t think he’s done no more than anybody has done. There’s no clean hands anywhere you look today.”
Evans also retains at least some allegiance from voters worried about a potential anti-business tilt of an increasingly left-leaning council. Don Baum, a 30-year resident of Dupont Circle who runs a sign company in Maryland, said he was still inclined to back Evans because of the former lawmaker’s support for the business community and excellent constituent services.
“I think D.C. is one of the least business-friendly cities, whether it’s the tax rates or paid family leave act or raising the minimum wage,” said Baum, 66. “He was pretty good, and until he’s charged with a federal crime, which he hasn’t been, he’s not guilty of anything.”
D.C. voters have historically been open-minded toward wayward politicians. Marion Barry returned to office, as both council member and mayor, after a stint in federal prison on a drug charge. Former mayor Vincent C. Gray was voted out of office in 2014 amid a federal campaign-
finance probe that ensnared some of his associates; two years later, Gray, who was never charged, won a seat on the council representing Ward 7.
Evans’s bid for redemption, while more abrupt than those of Barry or Gray, is not without precedent.
In California, state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D) resigned in February 2018 before the legislative body could expel him over sexual misconduct allegations. He ran in the special primary election to fill the seat, held four months later. Mendoza finished in third place out of 11 candidates, coming about 2,000 votes short of advancing to the general-election contest between the two top finishers.
Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio) was expelled from the House in 2002 after his conviction on corruption charges and unsuccessfully ran for reelection that year while incarcerated. He lost to Tim Ryan, a Democrat still in Congress.
Virginia Del. Joseph D. Morrissey (D) resigned his office in 2014 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a relationship with a 17-year-old receptionist at his law office. (They were married in 2016.) Running as an independent, he won the special election to fill his vacancy while serving a six-month jail sentence. He left the position to run for state Senate but dropped out of that race. Then he made a successful run for state Senate last year.
Will a similar maneuver work in the District? Thomas Beights, 41, said it feels too soon for Evans to return to office.
“Maybe if a year and an investigation had gone by, and he’d been cleared, I might be okay with it,” said Beights, who was walking down Wisconsin Avenue on Tuesday morning. At present, however, he can summarize his view of Evans’s move with two words: