Elections are an occasion to kick out the bums, but in 2012 the two biggest bums on the D.C. Council, Kwame Brown (D-Chair) and Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5), are not on the ballot.
Instead, Democratic, Republican and Green party members will vote in primary elections on April 3 for candidates in Wards 2, 4, 7 and 8, At-Large Council, Delegate to Congress and President of the United States.
The primary election does, however, present an opportunity to force Brown and Thomas out of office.
First, some background.
Despite the recent raid conducted by FBI and IRS agents on his home, Harry Thomas, Jr. will not resign from office. Three of his Council colleagues have asked him to do so. Reports suggest other Council members have asked him to take a leave of absence.
Thomas is having none of this. On the contrary, he actually voted last week on an ethics reform bill. Hubris is an understatement.
Kwame Brown, who presides over the body, has not asked Thomas to resign. Brown also has the authority to initiate a process whereby Thomas is removed from committees and stripped of his staff. That has not happened.
Brown, of course, has his own problems. He has yet to fulfill a promise to reimburse the city for the cost of the "Fully Loaded" SUV he demanded. As of today, taxpayers are still on the hook for Brown’s fancy wheels. Maybe he was hoping we would forget. Not a chance.
The SUV may be the least of Brown’s concerns. "Criminal activity" are the words a Board of Elections and Ethics official used to describe Brown’s 2008 campaign. The U.S. Attorney is investigating.
Meanwhile, Brown continues to preside over a Council immersed in the process of developing new laws to govern the conduct of elected officials. Brown holds sway over every piece of legislation under consideration by the Council, including matters involving contracting, economic development and other areas where a lot of money is on the table.
So what are we to do about this dilemma?
The law says there are two ways Brown and Thomas can be forced from office. One requires them to be in prison. That may or may not happen, and even if it did the process could be quite lengthy. Who wants to wait that long?
Option two is a recall.
Thanks to legislation passed by the Council earlier this year, our 2012 primary election is on April 3, which presents an opportunity unlike any before in the history of the District.
Though Brown and Thomas will not be on the ballot, it is likely that 50,000 voters will come to the polls on that day. Therein lies the opportunity.
If 45,000 voters sign a petition to recall Kwame Brown, a special election must be held to decide his fate. In order to subject Thomas to a recall election, 6,000 voters from Ward 5 must sign.
Past efforts at recall campaigns have failed miserably. Collecting tens of thousands of signatures is no small task. Door-to-door efforts are time consuming; canvassing voters on the street produces a large number of invalid signatures.
On Election Day, however, nearly everybody who comes to the polls is a bona fide voter.
A well-organized campaign with a few hundred dedicated volunteers could collect 25,000 or more signatures on April 3. While that is not enough to trigger a recall election, it is a significant step toward the goal. The additional 20,000 signatures can be collected via an old-fashioned shoe-leather campaign. The process for recalling Brown and Thomas can begin on January 2.
This is all within the capabilities of a small army of dedicated, inspired volunteers guided by seasoned leadership.
And a successful campaign would accomplishment more than to merely subject Brown and Thomas to a recall election. Current and future elected officials would be put on notice: District residents have had enough of the shenanigans and are not going to wait for possible, but not inevitable, prosecutions.
Voters can and will take matters into their own hands.
This is the message of the day, be it the Arab Spring across the Middle East or the Occupy and Tea Party movements here in America.
Chuck Thies co-hosts the "D.C. Politics" show Thursday mornings at 11:00 a.m. on WPFW 89.3 FM, streaming online at wpfw.org.
He's also on Twitter: @chuckthies