Three candidates are facing off to clinch the nomination to replace Washington, D.C.’s first-ever elected attorney general after a bumpy start left the front-runner off the ballot.

The three candidates — Brian Schwalb, Bruce Spiva, and Ryan Jones, all Democrats, — will face off in a contentious primary in June that will determine the next attorney general, as there are no Republicans running for the office. Incumbent Karl Racine announced in October 2021 that he would not run for reelection, leaving open a coveted seat that acts as the enforcer of district laws. The former front-runner, Kenyan McDuffie, was deemed ineligible by the D.C. Council due to years of inactivity as a lawyer, launching a three-way race among candidates who don’t hold the same recognition as the city councilman.

Brian Schwalb. Courtesy Schwalb campaign

Brian Schwalb

With the front-runner out of the way, Brian Schwalb has risen as the apparent heir, earning the endorsement of incumbent Racine and former Washington Attorney General Irvin Nathan, who was appointed to the post in 2011.

As a first-time candidate and Justice Department alumnus, Schwalb has sought to distinguish himself with a grassroots campaign of small-dollar donations. He has prioritized addressing the rise in crime through empowering police and addressing disparities that cause violence.

“We have to address current crime. And then we have to get to the root causes of how we prevent crime from happening to begin with,” Schwalb told the Washington Examiner. “We have to think about how we're using our police in a way that's part of the solution. I think we have to couple police with other resources to better their mental health professionals or domestic violence professionals and substance abuse professionals.”

Schwalb vowed to reset the relationship between the mayor’s and the attorney general’s offices while maintaining independence from the city government.

“There will be occasions when an independent attorney general and an office of a mayor see things differently,” he said. “I think it's really incumbent that the next [attorney general] and the next mayor, whoever they are, have a reset of the relationship: one that is looking to solve problems, not looking to gain credit — not looking to politicize issues.”

The lifelong Washingtonian’s campaign priorities include wage theft, affordable housing, social equity, and gun control.

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Bruce Spiva. Courtesy Bruce Spiva campaign

Bruce Spiva

Bruce Spiva, who has spent 30 years working in law, was elevated to the spotlight in the attorney general race after he successfully spearheaded McDuffie’s exit.

Although his doggedness prompted criticism from some who argued it was a political move, Spiva emphasized the action was not personal and doesn’t want the incident to overshadow the election.

“I hope that his supporters and other voters will judge us who are remaining in the race based on our merits, and I think if they do that, they'll find that I'm the one who's best prepared to advance the public interest,” he told the Washington Examiner. “I certainly have no joy in the fact that Councilmember McDuffie was knocked off the ballot. … I hope we're all able to come together and work for the good of the city.”

Spiva's office would focus on prosecuting and detaining suspects amid a rise in carjackings and juvenile crime while also providing preventive measures, such as counseling, mental health services, and social support.

“A lot of that stems from the trauma that many of our children, particularly many of our children east of the river, have been going through and the economic circumstances they are in,” he said. “These are children that we ultimately want to get them back on the right track … to being productive citizens who don't repeat offend.”

Other campaign priorities for Spiva include affordable housing, wage theft, voting rights, and district statehood.

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Ryan Jones. Courtesy Ryan Jones campaign

Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones, a career attorney, said his bid is motivated by the disparate impacts of socioeconomic developments.

The COVID-19 pandemic had an unexpected effect on the district, exacerbating existing inequalities, according to Jones. Although the pandemic wreaked havoc on several families, others improved their standing over the past several years, creating disparities that must be addressed, he said.

“We're in a time of great despair, and people are trying to figure out how to make ends meet,” Jones told the Washington Examiner. “That [crime] that is spiking in D.C. is a direct result of businesses closing doors, opportunities being limited, while others are enjoying some of the greatest prosperity we’ve seen in recent times.”

Part of his solution to stem crime would be targeting guns through a buyback program to remove the weapons from the streets. His crime reduction strategy would also include prosecution of gun offenders and prohibiting manufacturers from sending gun parts into the district that allow residents to assemble their own weapons.

“It's a multifaceted approach, and as attorney general, I just want to make sure whatever policy or procedure or initiative that gets debated, it's done with a level of legality,” Jones said.


The city government has faced several problems in recent months, with many candidates making tackling rising crime rates in the area a focal point of their campaigns before the Democratic primary in June. Reducing crime is consistently ranked as a top priority for Washington voters ahead of the midterm elections.

The office will also be tasked with soothing its relationship with the mayor’s office, as a growing hostility between the two elected officials has grown more apparent in recent years. Incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, is running for a third term in November.