The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Post endorses Brian Schwalb for D.C. attorney general

Brian Schwalb, an attorney, is running for D.C. attorney general. (Brian Schwalb campaign)

As the District’s first elected attorney general, Karl A. Racine gave shape to the office, elevating its importance and prominence. He instituted reforms of the juvenile justice system, established an office of consumer protection, cracked down on slumlords, and joined with other attorneys general to win opioid settlements and address issues of national importance such as voting rights, environmental protection and reproductive issues.

Mr. Racine decided not to seek a third term. Maintaining and building on the excellence of the office will fall to his successor chosen in this year’s elections. Vying in the crucial Democratic primary on June 21 — now that D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (Ward 5) has suspended his campaign after he was ruled ineligible to hold the office — are three candidates: Ryan Jones, Bruce V. Spiva and Brian Schwalb. Overshadowing other issues has been the controversy over the law establishing the credentials for attorney general and whether Mr. McDuffie met them; Mr. Spiva challenged his candidacy, and a ruling by the Board of Elections, later upheld by a federal appeals court panel, found that Mr. McDuffie did not meet the criteria of being actively engaged in the practice of law for five of the 10 years preceding the election.

Mr. Spiva and Mr. Schwalb have much to offer. Mr. Spiva, who has practiced law in D.C. for nearly three decades, has an admirable record of taking on cases on voting rights, consumer protection and antitrust issues. While some have criticized him for his challenge of Mr. McDuffie’s candidacy, he should not be faulted for fighting for what he viewed as a correct reading of the law. That said, we are most impressed by Mr. Schwalb; we heartily endorse his candidacy.

Mr. Schwalb, a lifelong D.C. resident, longtime trial lawyer and partner-in-charge of the Venable law firm’s office in the District, has the experience, capabilities and judgment to manage an agency that boasts a staff of 700-plus and is confronted with myriad legal issues. He has the right priorities — fair housing, equal justice, civil rights, protecting the environment — and a passionate commitment to using the law to address inequities. He understands the need for the city to get a better handle on crime but has the sensibilities not to advocate for a return to the failed policies of indiscriminate incarceration. He vows to pay attention to issues before they become obvious problems. He acknowledges the need to reset the toxic relationship between the attorney general’s office and the mayor’s office, a less admirable legacy of Mr. Racine’s tenure. And his community work — including with nonprofits such as Conscious Capitalism, which pushes business leaders to elevate humanity, and the Abramson Scholarship Foundation, which provides financial aid and mentoring to D.C. public high school graduates attending four-year colleges — gives him a close-up view into the needs of Washingtonians, many of whom are struggling.

Voting will start early this year in D.C., with registered voters receiving a ballot by mail starting May 16. We urge voters to select Mr. Schwalb.