You can go to jail for a joint in the District.
The special election for at-large D.C. Council is heating up.
Elissa Silverman, a former Loose Lips reporter for the City Paper, took off the gloves and went for an early knockout. Her campaign is challenging the candidacies of two opponents, Paul Zukerberg and John Settles.
Candidates are required to file signatures from 3,000 registered voters. Silverman told me that her "data driven" campaign conducted a statistical analysis of petitions. After discovering that Zukerberg and Settles were possibly deficient, Silverman’s campaign performed a more detailed line-by-line examination of individual signatures and decided to move forward with the challenges.
Throwing opponents off the ballot is a time-honored tradition in District politics.
Silverman would not directly discuss the strategic implications of bouncing Zukerberg and Settles. She would only say that the integrity of the election must be upheld and that her opponents had the right to contest the challenge.
Zukerberg and Settles are first-time candidates who are viewed by most observers as long shots.
Whether or not Silverman gained a strategic advantage is debatable. One thing is certain: Silverman will be held responsible for booting Zukerberg from the race.
Zukerberg, a lawyer, is running on a platform that includes decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession. He has spoken eloquently about the disproportionate manner in which young black men are the primary targets of marijuana enforcement in the District and says they account for nine out of 10 arrests.
It is difficult to quantify the number of voters who support decriminalizing marijuana in the District, but it is fair to say that those voters are now without a candidate. Whether they find another candidate or lose interest in the election is also difficult to determine. It is, however, hard to imagine Silverman, a liberal, winning the support of voters for whom marijuana is an important issue.
The special election for at-large D.C. Council will be held April 23.
In addition to Silverman, Zukerberg and Settles, candidates Anita Bonds, Michael A. Brown, Matthew Frumin, Pat Mara and Perry Redd are vying for the job.
Zukerberg and Settles have 10 days to appeal Silverman's challenge.