- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If disgruntled D.C. voters want to recall the city’s mayor, Vincent C. Gray, and its chief lawmaker, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, they face an uphill but, for two main reasons, surmountable climb.

For one, voters view both elected officials in a very unfavorable light, and as for the other, the legal requirements provide a very low bar.

Consider the latter. All that is required for a successful recall petition are 45,400 legitimate signatures from registered voters, with the primary caveat that those signatures represent at least 10 percent of voters in five of the city’s eight wards, or a simple majority.

With 340,607 adults on the voter-registration rolls at last count in December, acquiring a mere 45,400 should prove to be a cakewalk - if the recall ever begins. It was scheduled to start this week but was pushed back Wednesday after its organizer missed a pivotal elections board meeting.

As to the former issue, approval ratings, Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown are quite familiar with the widespread voter angst captured in a recent Clarus Research Group poll that showed Mr. Gray with a 53 percent disapproval rating and 34 percent approval rating. Mr. Brown’s ratings were even worse: 57 percent disapproval compared with 23 percent approval.

That’s a far cry from 2010, the Anyone-but-Fenty election year, when both men won their citywide races by huge margins.

Still, there’s no reason to think the mayor will go down without a fight.

Mr. Gray could very easily grab the recall bull by its horns next week during his State of the District address, when he will shine multiple spotlights on what he has done compared to predecessor Adrian M. Fenty - what his administration has done so far and what he hopes to do in the coming months.

But the spotlights will be shining on the recall petitioners, too - and Mr. Gray is helping them.

Indeed, in characterizing the recall movement as “ill-advised,” Mr. Gray fanned flames and smashed the very cornerstone of D.C. home rule, which is far more than a treatise on any mayor’s administration but also a rule book that empowers the people who are governed.

Every D.C. mayor from Marion Barry to now has faced a recall effort. The most recent was Mr. Fenty, whose critics collected signatures but failed to turn them over to election officials.

Though history did not look favorably on any of those earlier recall efforts, the 2012 petitioners still have a clear shot if they can overcome self-defeating obstacles.

Those mounts include ensuring that people who gather signatures and sign the petitions are duly registered D.C. voters, are who they say they are, live where they say they live and have not been coerced and that the movers and shakers behind the recall movement keep their noses cleaner than those of their chief targets.

It’s easy for Minnie and Mickey Mouse - for sure true conservatives in the likeness of their creator, Walt Disney - to claim they live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW but scamper from public political discourse.

Can’t do that with a recall campaign because a recall campaign is a political campaign, and that means everyone involved has to walk the straight and narrow from today until the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics puts it final imprimatur on the arduous process.

Not an easy thing to do in Washington.

Here again, though, fewer than a mere 6,000 legitimate voter signatures from each of the eight wards would put petitioners over top in this, a presidential election year.

What remains to be seen, however, is not the final outcome but the answer to a most pressing question.

If voters do throw the “No. 1 and No. 2” native bums out of City Hall, who will pose to stand in their wake?

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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