Volunteers are collecting signatures in an effort to recall D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), after an election panel gave a green light to their campaign to try to unseat the District’s longest-serving lawmaker.
Evans, who was first elected in 1991, is facing fallout from news reports about his ties to various private legal and consulting clients and an ongoing federal investigation into those relationships. Evans was formally reprimanded by the council in March, and two challengers have filed paperwork to run against him, citing his ethics scandals.
But until Monday an effort to recall him in a special election was having trouble getting traction. Last month, the D.C. Board of Elections refused to approve the recall petition, citing technical errors in how it was filed. A dispute also arose over whether the recall campaign’s leader, marijuana legalization activist Adam Eidinger, was actually a resident of Evans’s ward.
Those issues were resolved Monday, as the elections board voted unanimously to approve a newly filed petition and dismissed complaints about Eidinger’s residency, a spokeswoman for the board said. Eidinger said Monday evening that volunteers were already collecting signatures.
The recall proponents have 180 days to collect signatures from 10 percent of Ward 2’s registered voters — roughly 5,200 names.
“Now the question is, are citizens going to hold Jack Evans accountable or not?” said Eidinger, who led a 2014 ballot initiative that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. “We have six months to collect signatures, and I have a proven track record of putting things on the ballot, but we need community support to get this done.”
Evans did not return calls seeking comment Monday night.
The Washington Post has reported that a digital sign company wrote Evans two checks totaling $50,000 and issued him 200,000 shares of stock before the council member circulated legislation that would have aided the firm. Evans said he returned the checks and stock before he introduced the legislation. He withdrew the bill when it became clear it did not have the support to pass.
The news website District Dig has reported that the sign company also offered an internship to Evans’s son. Evans said his son did not accept the internship.
In March, The Post disclosed that Evans had used his government email account to repeatedly send business proposals to potential employers, offering his connections and influence as the city’s longest-serving lawmaker and chairman of Metro.
Evans has not been charged with a crime. D.C. government officials have received federal grand jury subpoenas for records related to Evans and his legal and consulting clients.
The recall petition approved by the elections board states that Evans “behaves as if there is no legal or ethical distinction between being an elected representative and pursuing his own financial self-interest.”
In a response printed on the petition, Evans cites various accomplishments during his three decades on the council, including his support of Ward 2 schools, advocacy for the LGBT community and stewardship of the District through financial turmoil in the 1990s.
He does not directly address the ethics allegations but says the argument for his recall is “misleading.”
Two candidates have entered the regularly scheduled Ward 2 election in 2020 to challenge Evans: Patrick Kennedy, a neighborhood commissioner in Foggy Bottom who co-chaired Evans’s 2016 reelection campaign; and Jordan Grossman, a former staffer in the Obama administration and office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
If Eidinger and others gather enough signatures to force a special election before 2020, Kennedy and Grossman could enter that earlier race.