Dems join heavily funded effort to oust fellow Dem in crime-ridden city

MSN  20th Feb 2024

Democratic operatives have joined an effort to recall a progressive Washington, D.C. councilmember over his criminal justice reform policies, raising tens of thousands of dollars since the campaign launched in December.

Capitol Hill resident Jennifer Squires began the effort to oust Councilmember Charles Allen amid an escalating crime surge in the nation's capital. By February, the campaign had already raised over $56,000 and garnered support from Democratic political fundraisers and congressional staffers, including former President Obama superdelegate and Democrat lobbyist Moses Mercado, according to campaign filings.

"Crime has become a real issue in the District with lasting consequences," Squires said in a statement in January. "As a mother whose children used to walk to school daily across Capitol Hill, it’s really frightening."

"A growing group of us watched as our Councilman, someone I voted for, systematically did the exact opposite things he should be doing to keep us safe," she said.

In response to the recall effort, Allen pointed to his efforts to recruit more police officers with a $25,000 dollar signing bonus for new hires and helping pass anti-gun laws, such as increasing penalties for dangerous automatic weapons.

"This recall effort is misleading and misinformed," Allen said in a statement to WUSA9. "I've worked to hold criminals accountable with strong laws and bring a whole of government approach to reducing crime long-term."

Democrats supporting the recall effort include former House aide and TikTok lobbyist Michael Hacker, fundraiser Tonya Fulkerson and the chief of staff for Rep. Dan Kildee, Mitchell Rivard, Bloomberg reported. Around 100 people attended the first volunteer event on Thursday and at least a dozen hands raised after recall organizers asked who had been carjacked, the campaign wrote on X.

"I did national politics, not local politics," Mercado said during the event, The Washington Post reported. "But I realized — I had a conversation with my wife about what if something happens, God forbid, somebody carjacks her?"

Allen supporters have criticized the effort, including former councilmember and longtime D.C. resident Tommy Wells, who filed for an anti-recall committee and fundraising effort in support of Allen on Thursday, Axios reported. Wells argued that Allen has widespread support after three consecutive election victories and criticized the recall effort for also attracting significant Republican support.

"The voters of Ward 6 overwhelmingly reelected, Charles Allen, one year ago," Wells told Fox News in an emailed statement. "The people who launched this recall are upset about actions that Allen took long before his reelection, and now they are diverting his time and energy from doing his job, including fighting crime. They should be working with him and his team instead of devoting time and money to overturning the will of the voters."

"The recall effort is playing into the hands of right wing Republicans, who claim that Democrats are mismanaging US cities, and that DC in particular does not deserve home rule," Wells said. "These are the same Republicans who prevent sensible gun controls that would go far in reducing violent crime in a city awash in guns."

But Squires, a fellow longtime Washington resident, said the neighborhood has worsened under Allen's watch. She defended Republican support for the recall campaign and said they were welcome during a Thursday event, according to The Washington Post.

It's "not about politics," Squires said Thursday, reiterating that the campaign is focused on tackling the city's crime crisis.

"This is basically a campaign about ideas and trying to convince this man he’s got the wrong ideas," Squires said about Allen's criminal justice reform policies. "I don’t care if you’re Republican, I don’t care who you are — especially if you live in Ward 6. That’s his constituency."

As crime has dipped in some major cities across the country, the nation's capital has faced skyrocketing crime, ending 2023 with 274 murders — the most in over two decades, according to Metropolitan Police Department data. Robberies and thefts spiked 67% and 23%, respectively, while motor vehicle thefts almost doubled.

The recall campaign condemned Allen, who served as the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee's chair from 2017 to 2022, for shepherding a criminal code reform last year that would have lowered penalties for certain offenses like burglaries and carjackings had Congress and President Biden not blocked the legislation. The councilmember was also criticized for his proposal that slashed millions from the police budget in 2020 and was accused of supporting progressive legislation enabling criminals.

Allen's actions "to open the jail doors for violent offenders while slashing the police department budget is having real consequences," Squires told Fox News in her statement. "We are now seeing the results of his failed leadership and misguided policies."

But Wells said Allen strengthened the community's parks, retail shops and libraries, The Washington Post reported.

"They’ve moved to a fabulous place, and they’re upset and angry, and that’s understandable," Wells said about residents fed up over crime. "Their focus is on Charles. But they also have to remember: Why did they move there to begin with? This is a great place that Charles helped create."

On Tuesday, the Washington, D.C. Board of Elections issued an official petition for the recall, The Washington Post reported. Recall organizers have 180 days to collect around 6,000 signatures in order to move forward with a recall election.