In reshaped D.C. attorney general’s race, candidates vie to stand out

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When Eric Jones sees neighbors who still have signs in their yards supporting Kenyan R. McDuffie for the District’s next attorney general — even though the former candidate was disqualified from running weeks ago — he stops to talk.

“We’re having these same conversations: What do you do now?” Jones said. “Because folks really don’t know.”

Jones, who advocates for the interests of landlords and property owners as a vice president of the Apartment and Office Building Association, thought McDuffie would be the best choice to replace outgoing Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D).

But that was before McDuffie, a Ward 5 council member who had been the top fundraiser in the attorney general’s race, was deemed ineligible to run by the D.C. Board of Elections after another candidate filed a challenge against him.

Yet McDuffie’s presence has loomed over the contest despite his absence, and with just weeks to go until the June 21 Democratic primary, his supporters have struggled to discern which of the remaining candidates — Brian Schwalb, Ryan Jones or Bruce V. Spiva — should be their second choice.

Some voters say the three men’s platforms and policies are so similar that it’s hard to decide among them; others, such as Christopher Macchiaroli, say they are simply refusing to vote after McDuffie’s exit.

“I am not going to be forced to consider candidates who I ultimately did not support,” said Macchiaroli, a law firm partner and former D.C. prosecutor. “I backed one horse and I’m staying with that horse.”

Longtime Brookland activist Verna Clayborne said some of McDuffie’s supporters may be waiting for him to endorse; in mid-May, when he endorsed Faith Gibson Hubbard as his successor in Ward 5, McDuffie did not rule out backing a candidate in another race.

D.C. elections: Where the Democratic attorney general candidates stand

In an interview Wednesday, McDuffie said each of the remaining attorney general candidates asked for his endorsement in the past few weeks, although he hasn’t decided whether he’ll endorse in the race or whom to back. Jones says he’s sought out McDuffie’s endorsement for more than a year and tried to do so again recently; spokespeople for Schwalb and Spiva said they have also had recent conversations with McDuffie, seeking both his support and to tap into his knowledge of the community.

“A lot of people who wanted to vote for me, their emotions are ranging from being upset, to disappointed, to really unsure about how to move forward,” McDuffie said. “People should certainly vote in this election, and they should vote for the candidate who uses the law as a tool to open the doors of justice and opportunity for residents, particularly those with unmet needs.”

But some of McDuffie’s ardent backers, including Clayborne, are sure of one thing: They are…

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