When District voters go to the polls on Nov 4 to elect a candidate for the newly-created position of attorney general, they will have three African Americans in the field of five on the ballot.
Lateefah Williams, Edward “Smitty” Smith, and Karl Racine want to be the District’s top legal officer. They are in a tough fight with Lorie Masters and Paul Zukerberg, who are White, to win the race.
If Williams, Smith, or Racine wins in November, they will be elected to a state-level position that few African-Americans have won. Edward Brooke, a District native, was elected in 1962 by Massachusetts voters as the first Black elected attorney general of any state. Brooke was later elected the first Black elected U.S. senator in 1966 and served two terms.
Kamala Harris and Vincent Frazer of the U.S. Virgin Islands are the only Black state-level attorney generals presently.
Williams said that she will be an effective attorney general because of her experiences working in the legislative and public policy arenas. “I have spent my career as a public advocate,” Williams, 37, said. “For me, working in the public interest has not been something to do on the side while I enrich corporations. Rather, I made a conscious choice to dedicate my career to public service and I believe that as a community-oriented public servant, I am best suited to represent all Washingtonians and protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
Williams holds a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C. and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in the District. She has worked as an attorney for the Prince George’s County state senate delegation, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 289 in Forestville, Md., and as a policy analyst for OMB Watch in the District.
Smith worked in the Obama administration in senior-level positions at the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Federal Communications Commission.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in Providence, R.I. and a law degree from Harvard University School of Law in Cambridge, Mass. A District native, he spent his earlier life in the Congress Heights neighborhood in Ward 8 and in LeDroit Park in Ward 1.
Smith practiced law with the firm of what was then known as Hogan & Hartson and in 2007; he joined the Obama presidential campaign and served as a deputy general counsel of the Obama presidential inaugural committee in early 2009. Smith said that he is the best candidate to be the District’s first attorney general.
“I am taking the skills that I developed and experiences that I gained through years of serving communities and dedicating them to you: to serve as your lawyer and to protect your interests because as attorney general, you will be my clients,” Smith, 34, said.
Smith said as attorney general, he will focus on reforming the juvenile justice system, fighting for the rights of consumers, and working to make sure that District residents enjoy the rights of American citizens.
Karl Racine is considered the “establishment candidate” or one who represents the interests of the large law firms and corporations, by political observers. Racine worked for the Clinton White House, the prestigious District of Columbia Public Defender Service, and is a former managing partner with the Venable law firm. He represented former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., recently.
Racine was named by The National Law Journal as one of “The Most Influential Minority Leaders in America.”
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and earned his law degree at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Va.
“I think that it’s very important, given that this is the first time that the public will elect an attorney general, that [the candidate] have the experience, passion, and understanding of the history of the District of Columbia,” Racine, 51, said.
Racine said he will focus on consumer protection and defining the responsibilities of the attorney general. He said he will not hesitate to hold the mayor and the D.C. Council accountable for their actions and wants to work for the people of the District. “I’ve got the fire in the belly to participate in public service,” he said.