News & Politics

Candidates Work the Revolving Door in District’s Attorney General Race

One local lawyer is abandoning his bid to make room for another.

Now you see him; now you don’t.

A month after he filed papers to join the race to become DC’s first elected attorney general and head up an office with more than 700 employees, Mark H. Tuohey has abandoned his bid.

Tuohey, a well-known white-collar defense attorney, said he was stepping aside because Karl Racine, also a prominent DC lawyer, had indicated he would seek the post.

“Karl has all the qualifications,” Tuohey told Washingtonian. “I want to support someone of his caliber.”

Racine, 51, a corporate defense attorney did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment, though he has told associates he intends to run.

Tuohey said he had approached Racine a year ago to encourage him to pursue the job, but Racine declined. When Tuohey spoke to him recently, however, Racine said he would enter the race.

If Racine does file papers to run, he will join Paul Zukerberg and Edward “Smitty” Smith, both local attorneys.

Despite a 2010 ballot referendum calling for a vote in 2014, the DC council postponed the election, keeping the attorney general an appointed post. Zukerberg single-handedly challenged the council’s action through the courts, until an appeals panel agreed that the vote must take place this year.

Zukerberg, 56, is a defense lawyer and activist who helped start the movement to decriminalize marijuana possession in DC. In 2013, he ran for an at-large council seat in and came in fifth, with 2 percent of the vote.

Smith, 34, is a DC native who graduated from Harvard Law School and joined the 2008 Obama presidential campaign before working as a lawyer in federal agencies.

Karl Racine would come to the office with the most experience. He was managing partner of the Venable law firm’s DC office for many years, before stepping back to focus on white-collar cases. Born in Haiti, Racine got his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his law degree from the University of Virginia.

Racine worked as a DC public defender, but he has had little connection with local politics.

It’s becoming late in the game for anyone who wants to enter the attorney general race. The deadline for collecting 3,000 valid signatures on nominating petitions is August 6 for the November general election.