D.C. attorney and longtime LGBT rights advocate Lateefah Williams announced her candidacy on Thursday for the city’s newly created position of elected attorney general, saying she has determined that her experience as a public policy attorney meets the legal requirements for the position.
Earlier this week Williams said she was considering running for attorney general but wanted to clarify what she said was a vaguely worded provision in the D.C. law creating the new position about the definition of the “practice” of law required for candidates running for the position.
“Although I sought clarification on the qualifications as an overabundance of caution, I am certain that I am beyond qualified to hold the position of Attorney General based on both the statutory criteria and my vast experience,” Williams said in a statement on Thursday.
The statute in question says a candidate running for the office must have “practiced” law for at least five years during a 10-year period prior to running for the position in order to qualify for the post. Williams says she considers her work as legislative director of at least two non-profit organizations as a form of law practice that meets the legal criteria for the position.
If elected, Williams would become the second known LGBT person to serve as the city’s attorney general either through an election or through appointment by the city’s mayor. Robert Spagnoletti, who’s gay, was appointed attorney general in 2004. D.C. voters in 2010 approved a change in the city’s charter to replace the longstanding system of an appointed attorney general to one elected by city residents.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has tentatively scheduled a special election for the attorney general position in November at the same time the city’s election for mayor, City Council members and other offices will be held.
Three other candidates are running for the attorney general position, and others are expected to enter the race before the deadline for filing ballot petitions in August. The three are Paul Zuckerberg, Edward “Smitty” Smith and Karl A. Racine. Each has been associated with law firms representing individual and corporate clients. Another candidate, Mark Tuohey, dropped out of the race on Wednesday.
Williams, 37, has a law degree from Georgetown University School of Law, is a member of the D.C. Bar and has practiced law in various capacities for more than 10 years.
Over most of the past five years Williams has served as political and legislative director for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents Metro workers; and as a nonprofit speech rights policy analyst for the advocacy group OMB Watch. Prior to that she worked as a law firm associate for several years handling insurance cases, plaintiff related tort law and family law matters, according to a biography she released to the Blade.
She is a past president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization.
Williams currently serves as Legislative Committee Chair for the D.C. Federation of Democratic Women, Recording Secretary for the Ward 5 Democrats and as a board member of the Wanda Alston Foundation, which provides housing and other services for homeless LGBTQ youth.
“I have spent my career as a public advocate,” Williams said in her statement released on Thursday. “For me, working in the public interest has not been something to do on the side while I enrich large corporations. Rather, I made a conscious choice to dedicate my career to public service and I believe that as a community-oriented public servant, I am best suited to represent all Washingtonians and protect our most vulnerable residents.”