- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Board of Elections and Ethics is scheduled to issue petitions on Wednesday in the uphill bid to recall Mayor Vincent C. Gray and council Chairman Kwame R. Brown.

The petitioner, Frederick Butler, said he will hit the streets by Monday to collect signatures at Metro stops and grocery stores, and he even plans to target the mayor’s One City Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Feb. 11.

Every mayor of the District — except for the convention center’s namesake — has faced a recall drive, yet no such effort has ever come close to making the ballot.

Mr. Butler will need to gather about 45,000 signatures in 180 days from registered voters to give the recall a chance to go before voters for a “yes-no” vote. Signatures must reflect 10 percent of the electorate in five of the city’s eight wards to ensure a breadth of support across the city for a recall election.

Mr. Butler, a supporter of former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, claims to have a “core group” of 300 volunteers ready to circulate petitions at city sites.

Boldly predicting a “110 percent” likelihood of success, he targeted April 3 as a potentially fruitful day for signatures, as registered voters go to and from the polls for primary elections.

“I really don’t think it will be that difficult. It’s pretty much self-explanatory,” he said. “I think this can be a legitimate run.”

Mr. Butler attributes his blunt confidence to the climate of the city after a scandal-plagued 2011 in city hall. He downplayed the notion the city has moved on, noting the U.S. attorney is still investigating issues related to the 2008 and 2010 campaigns of Mr. Brown and Mr. Gray, respectively.

“It’s everything, it’s everything,” Mr. Butler said.

Debbie Smith-Steiner, a former ANC commission in Ward 5, said she is serving as the recall effort’s treasurer and they are “hopeful” of picking up a large contribution from a donor with deep pockets. As far as strategy, she reiterated the importance of the April 3 primary for signature gathering.

“The temperature in the city shows people are just getting tired of everything going on in the executive branch and legislative branch,” she said. “We just can’t have that now. Nobody wants that.”

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that R. Donahue Peebles, a wealthy developer who considered a run for mayor in 2010, supports recall efforts against the mayor and other city officials and that he would consider bankrolling such efforts.

News reports Tuesday indicated that a Peebles spokesman, who was not a party to the interview with The Times, said Mr. Peebles was limiting his comments to efforts against Mr. Gray.

In a subsequent conversation with Mr. Peebles on Tuesday, he agreed he was primarily focused on Mr. Gray but he restated his disappointment with the District’s political establishment and allegations that have surfaced against Mr. Brown.

Mr. Peebles again said that while he had no current plans to finance the recall effort, he did not rule it out and confirmed that he is “still weighing options.”

Mr. Butler said he would be delighted to hear from Mr. Peebles.

“We’ll take all the help we can get,” he said.

A recall effort can yield multiple, unforeseen challenges, said Dorothy Brizill, a longtime city government watchdog who runs the D.C. Watch website. Petitioners need to elicit a negative response from voters and the ousted politician can run in the special election to fill his own vacancy.

“The recall process requires you to essentially run a political campaign — that means bodies and money,” Ms. Brizill said. “‘Recall’ sounds interesting and sexy and what have you, but recall is a tough row to hoe.”

For their part, Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown voluntarily responded to Mr. Butler’s notice of intent to recall with short letters that outline their goals and accomplishments.

Mr. Gray said a recall election would be “ill-advised” and costly before outlining his goals on education, job creation, fiscal stability and public safety.

Mr. Brown pointed to comprehensive ethics legislation, job-creation efforts and ongoing school reform as milestones of his first year in office.

A spokeswoman for the BOEE said more than one recall effort can occur at once with the requisite paperwork. Both petitioners would have to meet the signature requirement “unless they combined forces in one campaign.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide