On Tuesday, voters in Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Georgetown will cast their ballots in the primary election for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat. One of the frontrunners is former Councilmember Jack Evans – who resigned earlier this year amid a cascade of corruption allegations. Through his self-dealing and unethical actions, Evans has betrayed the electorate and disgraced the city he pledged to serve – and D.C. voters should soundly reject his candidacy.
Evans’ tenure on the Council has been a three-decade joyride of graft and corruption. After years of accusations of influence-peddling, it was revealed that Evans was using his office to steer clients to ritzy D.C. law firms where he held side jobs. As chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors, he was accused of accepting bribes from businesses the board worked with. And his repeated failures to note outside income on financial disclosure forms, though dismissed by his lawyers as “clerical errors,” are clear efforts to hide his corruption.
Scrutiny of all of these scandals came to a head in January, when the Council voted to expel Evans from the governing body. But before the vote could take place, Evans resigned rather than be removed from office. In a sign of his total lack of remorse for his actions, he quickly filed to run in the November election for the seat he had just vacated – a glaring exemplification of the self-centered approach to politics that has defined his tenure in office.
Condemnation of Evans’ ethical lapses has crossed party and state lines. By the time he resigned from the Council, he had lost the confidence of Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan, Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and every single member of the D.C. Council. It is clear that he no longer deserves the confidence of the Ward 2 electorate either.
Even after his resignation, Evans continues to face sanctions for his corruption. In early May, D.C.’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability fined Evans $35,000 for code of conduct violations – the largest penalty that the board has ever charged. Councilmember Charles Allen has also announced his intention to keep investigating Evans’ misdeeds and to hold another vote to expel him if he is returned to his post.
Evans cannot possibly govern effectively while he continues to face investigations over his misconduct. And even if he were not under investigation, he would be a subpar representative of Ward 2 – his track record of corruption has made that abundantly clear. At worst, Evans would continue to enrich himself at the electorate’s expense instead of work to make D.C. better. At best, he would be a lame duck besieged by constant investigation into his corrupt acts. Either way, the people of Ward 2 would be ill-served by an Evans primary victory.
Fortunately for Ward 2, there are seven alternatives to Evans in Tuesday’s primary, representing many different areas of experience. For example, Jordan Grossman has been endorsed by several unions and brings a background in health care to his campaign. Yilin Zhang has helped run a veterans’ health organization. Patrick Kennedy – a GW alumnus – ran Evans’ 2016 campaign before turning against his embattled boss. Any of these candidates, whose policy platforms are very similar, would be preferable to another four years of corruption from Evans.
Because the District is home to such a heavily Democratic electorate, whoever wins the party’s primary becomes a shoo-in for the general election – meaning that the June 2 vote is the last chance Ward 2 voters have to meaningfully decide on Evans’ candidacy. If returned to the D.C. Council, Jack Evans would continue to enrich himself at his constituents’ expense – and for that reason, the voters of Ward 2 should cast their ballots against Evans and finally put to rest his corrupt tenure of public service.
Andrew Sugrue, a rising junior majoring in political communication, is the contributing opinions editor.