Dirty Harry, the sequel?

Photo by "Throttle Life" via Flickr
Harry Thomas Jr. rides a motorcycle he purchased with stolen money
Harry Thomas Jr. rides a motorcycle he purchased with stolen money

There have been five movies starring the San Francisco homicide detective nicknamed "Dirty Harry" (portrayed by Clint Eastwood), but there will be no sequel to the political career of the District’s disgraced Councilmember, “Dirty” Harry Thomas, Jr.

Thomas has yet to be sentenced for the two felonies to which he pleaded guilty less than a week ago, but already some people are chattering about a possible comeback.

Perhaps the memory of Marion Barry’s return to the political world following his 1991-92 jail term for crack possession fuels speculation about Thomas.

Forget it.

At the time of Barry’s arrest you couldn’t swing a cat in many parts of D.C. without hitting someone who had been busted for crack. Depending on whom you asked, Barry’s legal troubles were the result of personal failings or FBI entrapment. Combined, these dynamics along with Barry’s iconic status as a civil rights movement leader and an army of devotees who he had helped to achieve middle-income status, paved the way for a comeback.

Thomas enjoys none of the history or hype on which Barry relied.

Further complicating the possibility of Thomas regaining office is the reality of his legal situation. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3, 2012. Federal guidelines put his time in prison at 37-46 months.

If Thomas spends a mere 20 months in jail beginning May 2012, he will not be released in time to qualify for the 2014 Democratic Primary in Ward Five.

The idea that he could run citywide in 2016 is preposterous and does not deserve consideration. By 2018, when the Ward Five seat will again be up for grabs, District residents and business interests that fund campaigns will surely have found less controversial candidates in which to invest.

Think about it. Who in their right mind would give a contribution to a Thomas campaign? From what I have heard his legal defense fund has struggled.

Then there is the matter of the money Thomas still owes the District. At present, $250,000 of the $300,000 he agreed to repay the city is unpaid, $50,000 of which is past due. Add to that another $53,000 for the Feds and heaven knows how much the IRS will eventually levy against him.

Very little or none of the above is likely to get paid while Thomas is locked away. His earnings potential is currently at zero.

Tell me, how does a candidate seek office when he still owes taxpayers a hefty sum?

There is also this. The U.S. Attorney has said that investigations into District government, organizations and individuals are ongoing. Thomas is by no means in the clear. His arrangement with the Feds prohibits further prosecution for offenses related to what was described in a plea agreement, but does not shield Thomas from being charged for other crimes.

For those who fear a “Dirty Harry” sequel in the District, rest easy. Over time nearly everyone can be redeemed, but that does not necessarily parlay into achieving a position requiring the public’s trust.

What District residents need to focus on now is the special election to fill the void created by Thomas’s greed and made possible, in part, by a lack of proper oversight. Hopefully, Ward Five voters will send a dogged reformer to the Council.


RELATED: In the hours following Thomas’s resignation, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton proposed an expedited special election to fill the vacancy in Ward Five.

Rushing a special election does a disservice to residents.  First, voters should have a legitimate opportunity to analyze candidates and make an informed choice. Second, an abbreviated election period works to the advantage of establishment players who can raise money and deploy the resources of old guard political machines on short notice.

Norton’s quest to truncate the period of time allotted for special elections is at best shortsighted and at worst an underhanded ploy to bolster entrenched interests.

It should be opposed.

Chuck Thies hosts the "D.C. Politics" show Thursday mornings at 11:00 am on WPFW 89.3 FM, streaming online at wpfw.org. You can follow him on Twitter, @chuckthies.

0 Comments For This Article


John Salatti, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and community leader in Bloomingdale, will ask the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to combine the Ward 5-only special election, now anticipated for some time in May, with the regular citywide April 3rd primary election to save money, increase participation and shorten the current vacancy.
"'Ward 5 goes to the polls for our Presidential Primary in April. If we hold a combined election, the District could better spend the projected hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to hold a low-voter turnout, standalone May election on vital services for Ward 5 seniors, youth, and families.” said Salatti. “Not only should we think about the cost of a separate election, but each day that passes is another day that Ward 5 does not have the vigorous, forceful representation it deserves, he added."
Since 2006, John Salatti has advocated for his community, making sure his neighborhood receives the city services it deserves and that it has a voice in the ward- and citywide deliberations on redistricting and development, notably the future of McMillan Reservoir, and on education. Most recently, he successfully persuaded the Council to adopt a Ward 5 redistricting plan he helped devise that equalizes voter strength, respects natural barriers and keeps neighborhoods intact.


You have presented a reason to not hold the election and it's abit of a pickle as the District is not prepared to hold two extra elections just after an election.

There is evidence, voting totals, that the public interest drops in voting after a general election and IMHO the ability of a well funded campaign, ie entrenched corporate bought candidates, are best served since they can get message past post election filters.

FYI no one want to hear from another politician after an election~ other then the staff, media buyers and press. -----plus bloggers.....

Barrie Daneker Ward 5

John Salatti doesn't know a damn thing about elections. He's calling on BOEE to move the election to save money is down right STUPID! The law is there for a reason, there is no time to change the law for this election and as a lawyer you think he would know better...hence I wouldn't hire him as my attorney!
As a candidate in this race it's quite ignorant of Mr. Salatti to even suggest tampering with the process, as it could give him or other candidates an unfair advantage. Again Salatti has many ideas...and many that are not well thought out in advance of him opening his mouth. As someone in Ward 5 once said, "He likes to hear the sound of his own voice"; but the voices of reason and the voices of others are often drowned out by his own voice. I won't be voting for Salatti either. And I'll be watching to see if he and others in this race violate the Hatch Act. There will be no Hatch Act violations in this race...Ward 5 has had enough scandals, we need a election that has integrity not another scandal ridden process. Attention US ATTY MACHEN we expect and will require you to prosecute all the violators, we are watching this very closely....Congress is watching!


Harry Thomas stole from children. The money he pocketed was supposed to go to programs for youth in DC. Marion for all his problems got busted for smoking crack. I'm not a big fan of Mr. Barry but smoking crack is mostly self-destructive, although supporting the drug trade has negative consequences. Stealing from children is something different, and this is from a guy who build his rep in ward 5 doing community work for kids.