Elections officials have scheduled a June 16 special election to serve out the remainder of Evans’s term, which runs through next January. It comes two weeks after the Democratic primary for the full four-year terms for council seats, which will be decided in November.
Evans filed to run in both the primary and the special election, sparking outrage from his former council colleagues.
Seven of 13 council members blasted Evans’s comeback bid on Twitter on Monday evening, calling it “unbelievable,” “outrageous” and “preposterous,” among other things. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) also questioned Evans’s decision to run again.
“It demonstrates to me that he doesn’t take ethics at all seriously,” said Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who said the council should expel Evans if he returns to office. “He has not been contrite one bit. It’s really unfortunate.”
First elected in 1991, Evans frequently touts his experience in D.C. government when the city was on the brink of bankruptcy and residents were leaving.He was a longtime champion for the redevelopment of downtown and business interests on the council and has cautioned that the government could jeopardize the city’s growing economic success by increasing taxes and spending.
His outside employment fueled his political downfall.
After working for several local law firms, Evans formed a consulting company in 2016 that drew scrutiny from federal investigators and ethics authorities. Federal authorities have issued subpoenas for records related to Evans’s business dealings and searched his Georgetown home over the summer, although he has not been charged with a crime.
Probes by Metro, where Evans had served as board chairman, and the council found Evans improperly used his public positions to advance the interests of his paying consulting clients.
He left the Metro board in June. He has maintained that his behavior was appropriate and that he provided constituent services to consulting clients that he would have offered to businesses that did not pay him.
Even as his council colleagues took a preliminary vote to expel him, and Evans prepared to resign, he privately told others that he was considering running for his seat again. He said the failure of activists to collect enough signatures to force a recall election suggested that voters in his district did not want him out of office.
At the same time, a news release from Evans’s office on the day of his resignation touted a bill he had introduced as “his last act as Councilmember.” In his final newsletter to constituents, Evans offered an apology that seemed to suggest his career in public service was over.
“I know I have made some mistakes during my service to the city and I’m leaving the Council having learned important lessons that I will carry with me into the next chapter of my life,” he wrote.
Evans, who did not return requests for comment Monday, showed up at a Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown over the weekend, marching alongside the mayor and council chairman and sitting with them to watch the festivities.
A spokeswoman for Mendelson, Lindsey Walton, said the chairman thought it was inappropriate for Evans to march with city officials in the parade Sunday and told him not to join them when it presented a proclamation.
In a brief interview Monday, Mendelson said that Evans had told him about his plans to run for his office again and that he opposes the idea: “It would not serve the council well, so soon after the council forced him to resign.”
Mendelson was initially reluctant to join calls for harsh penalties against Evans, as revelations about his conduct piled up. Over the summer, he agreed to launch an investigation. After that probe found multiple ethics violations, and a majority of the council called for Evans’s expulsion, Mendelson said Evans should go. He declined to say Monday whether he would revisit expulsion if voters return Evans to office.
When asked about Evans Monday night, Bowser said, “I won’t be getting involved in the Ward 2 race, and it’s not a political calculation that I would have made.”
If Evans succeeds, it would not be the first time a disgraced politician maintained the support of D.C. voters. The late D.C. mayor Marion Barry famously returned to office in 1995, after serving time in federal prison for possession of cocaine.
But in more recent years, District voters have voted out politicians dogged by scandal. One of those politicians, former council member Michael Brown (I-At Large), has said he’s considering running for office again despite serving time in federal prison for bribery.
Some advocates for business lamented Evans’s departure from the council and said his decision to run again would give his constituents the final say on whether he deserves to stay in office.
“Both former council member Evans and Ward 2 residents understand that he made some errors in judgment that clouded his tenure, but redemption and forgiveness have long been practical and viable political tenets in the District,” said Mark Lee, a Ward 2 resident who leads a trade association of bars and nightclubs.
In his comeback bid, Evans will face his first competition for the Ward 2 primary seat in a decade. Six challengers have entered the Democratic primary: advisory neighborhood commissioners Patrick Kennedy, John Fanning and Kishan Putta; former Capitol Hill staffer and D.C. government employee Jordan Grossman; and local activists Daniel Hernandez and Yilin Zhang. All plan to run in the special election.
Republican Katherine Venice is also running for the Ward 2 council seat.
Perry Stein contributed to this report.
More reactions from D.C. Council members to Evans running again