September 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Shame on D.C. media outlets for election coverage
coverage, gay news, Washington Blade

Instead of debating why people don’t vote, the media should spend more time informing people about the candidates.

Media outlets in the District should hang their heads in shame because of the lack of coverage of the race for the newly created position of an independent attorney general. It has always been my understanding that these outlets are required to provide a certain amount of time for public service information to the residents of the areas in which they exist. It is embarrassing that in the District of Columbia not one TV station is giving time to hold a debate allowing the public to hear from the five candidates running for this newly independent position. Recently reporters from the local affiliates of NBC and CBS have told me their stations won’t host a debate and a reporter from ABC’s News Channel 8 said it is unlikely it would.

There was coverage of the D.C. Council’s misguided effort to delay this election and then the legal fight that culminated in this office actually being on the ballot Nov. 4. But now that the election will take place in less than seven weeks and early voting will begin in about four, they are shirking their responsibility to the voters by not giving any coverage to this election. There are five candidates running and each has a different background. They are: Lorie Masters, Karl Racine, Edward “Smitty” Smith, Lateefah Williams and Paul Zuckerberg.

Most voters in the District don’t even know what the newly independent office of attorney general will be responsible for. Some believe the office will handle criminal cases when those will still remain the purview of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The new independent AG will be the people’s lawyer in civil cases and involved in determining if the Council, the mayor and agencies are carrying out our laws. It seems clear the office will have a much-reduced staff from what currently exists in the AG’s office but the person we elect will still be managing what is estimated to be the equivalent of a 100-person law firm.

Another key element of the office is that it will provide the person elected a platform to speak out on any issue they choose. They will have the opportunity to make headlines and draw attention to issues they deem important to residents of the District. Unlike the members of the D.C. Council they won’t have to compete for attention with 12 others. In the right hands this office could be an important and powerful position with the potential to be a springboard to running for mayor in the future.

Knowing all this it is unconscionable that the media in this town, except for a few like Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post, won’t give attention to this election. I have met only three of the candidates. One with a very impressive background is Karl Racine. He was the first African American to be a managing partner at a top-100 law firm. His experience includes managing more than 600 lawyers and a budget of $350 million. He has served in the D.C. Public Defender Service and as Associate White House Counsel for President Clinton. Another candidate, Lateefah Williams, who happens to be openly lesbian and a fellow Blade columnist, is also an impressive individual with a very different background having spent much of her legal career in the role of community activist. It is important that voters hear them and the other candidates and listen as they debate why they would be the best to serve in this new and extremely important position.

A recent Washington Post poll shows that nearly 60 percent of the voters are undecided in this race and it’s clearly because they don’t know the candidates. Many in the media like to write about why there are such small turnouts for our elections. They lament these low turnouts and try to assign some kind of blame. Instead of debating why people don’t vote, the media should spend more time informing people about the candidates that are running and offer time for them to debate the issues and share their views with the voters.

4 Comments
  • “Instead of debating why people don’t vote, the media should spend more time informing people about the candidates.”– this is a great caption for you to have for this article, but it would be if your article actually INFORMED people about the candidates! You neglected to mention 3 of the candidates entirely.

    • Actually I did mention all five candidates- if there are more I apologize to the ones I didn’t mention and if you know their names please write them in a comment so everyone will know who wasn’t mentioned. In response to another person’s comment I only wrote about the two out of the three I have met that I thought were superior candidates. I have not met two of the five though they may be just as qualified. One needs to remember that my column is opinion and I would like the media to hold a debate so that everyone can make up their own mind on who they think is best. I am not sure yet whether I will endorse someone in this contest but if I do I know some will respect my opinion and others won’t and I can respect them for disagreeing.

  • Why don’t you fill the void and educate the general public. Show your ability to influence the future politics of our city. We need to know who these candidates are!!!!!

  • Aside from grousing about media coverage which is like howling at the moon, Mr. Rosenstein provides a concise, useful summary of the AG’s role. He finally puts forth relevant candidate qualifications rather than defaulting to the party sentimentality and personal attacks he regales us with in his mayoral commentary in support of Murial Bowser due to her thin record of accomplishments during her years on council. He was respectful to Lateefah Williams (“impressive individual with a very different background”) while at the same time promoting the seemingly superior qualifications of Karl Racine (“His experience includes managing more than 600 lawyers and a budget of $350 million. He has served in the D.C. Public Defender Service and as Associate White House Counsel for President Clinton.”) Although as Ms. Matthews mentions above, it was a bit strange that he notes meeting three AG candidates but only names and discusses two. Did you run out of space Peter. or was the third person not worth the ink?

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