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D.C. Political Roundup: Shallal Presses Forward on Mayoral Bid

James Wright | 10/30/2013, 3 p.m.
Andy Shallal owns a successful restaurant chain in the Washington metropolitan area. (Courtesy of Andy Shallal)

Andy Shallal, the owner of Busboys and Poets and the Eatonville restaurant chain, has decided to run for the 2014 Democratic Party nomination for mayor.

The restaurateur announced earlier this month that he has formed an exploratory committee, a move in District politics that generally signifies that a run for office will inevitably take place.

"We are putting together the team," said Shallal, 58. "We are focusing on putting the right people in the right spots. We intend on running this campaign fully loaded and we are working on raising money."

The Democratic primary will take place on April 1, 2014.

Shallal, who lives in Northwest, is a nationally known political and cultural activist who received media attention for his strong opposition to the war in Iraq in the mid-2000s.

Shallal said he’s confident that he will have strong support for his candidacy from the District's sizeable and diverse progressive community but said he needs money to run a credible campaign. He said his campaign will be unique.

"I know that my campaign will make some people feel uncomfortable," he said. "When I discuss issues with the people, I will be very frank and very straightforward. People are tired of dumb down politics and want to elevate the discussion of issues.”

He said he will run his campaign the way his restaurant chain is managed.

"We are going to find the best people, empower them and inspire them," he said. "During the campaign, I will stay involved with operations of the business but when I win, I will step aside. I have already begun the transition of Busboys and Poets [to its next leaders] and I have been grooming others to take over."

If Shallal is elected mayor in 2014, he will be the first non-African American to get the Democratic nomination.

Shallal said that he will formally declare the second week in November.

Zukerberg Takes Attorney General Fight to Federal Court

Paul Zukerberg, a prominent District attorney, recently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in federal court to make sure that the office of the elected attorney general stays on the 2014 ballot.

The D.C. Council voted in September to postpone the election of the District's attorney general from 2014 to 2018 because some council members felt that the position's responsibilities are vague and the perceived notion that there are no credible candidates for the job. Zukerberg and many District political activists think that the council had no right to postpone the election and are seeking redress in the court system.

"It's a race against the clock," Zukerberg said in reference to needing a timely decision by the federal court in preparation for the spring primaries. "Without this preliminary injunction, the election will take place before anyone has a chance to run."

Prominent D.C. attorney Gary Thompson of the Reed Smith law firm in Northwest will work with Zukerberg.

In 2010, District voters overwhelmingly supported a measure for the city to have an elected attorney general, with the assumption that the first election to the position would take place in 2014.

On Sept. 30, Zukerberg, 55, filed a lawsuit against the D.C. Board of Elections and the D.C. Council to make sure that District voters can elect the attorney general next year. The suit moved to federal court on Oct. 9 because of Zukerberg's claims that District residents' voting rights are being violated by the D.C. Council and those claims tend to be better litigated in that venue.

The city is being defended by D.C. Assistant Attorney Generals Keith Parson and Mathew Blecher.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge James E. "Jeb" Boasberg, who has granted Zukerberg's request for an expedited schedule of briefs and arguments.

A hearing on the preliminary injunction is set for Thursday, Nov. 7 at 10 a.m. in Boasberg's courtroom. That’s one day before the signature petition process begins for the April 1, 2014 primary election.