Meet the candidates for DC attorney general: Ryan Jones

Karl Racine — the District’s first elected attorney general — isn’t running for reelection this year. Three Democrats are vying for the vote in D.C.’s June 21 primary: Ryan Jones, Brian Schwalb and Bruce Spiva.

Ryan Jones is a D.C. lawyer who founded his firm in 2014 and has largely litigated cases for residents and area companies.

He spoke with WTOP’s Mike Murillo about the issues in this year’s race.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.



Ryan Jones is a lawyer running for D.C. attorney general. Jones grew up in Ward 4 and founded his firm in 2014. (Courtesy YouTube/Ryan Jones)

Who is Ryan Jones?

I’m running for attorney general. I want nothing more than to give back to the city which has given me so much with my battle-tested legal skills.

2020 revealed and highlighted disparities that have existed for far too long in this country. And I believe we need new leaders with new vision in order to implement cures to old problems. I wanted to step up in order to do that.

I recognize where the fires reside in our courts and outside of them. I recognize how the law can impact lives and create the equities we so desperately need to create the brighter future D.C. deserves.

Why he’s the best person for the job

I’m from Washington, D.C. I’ve been all across the city. I’ve been an athlete in this city, playing high school basketball, college basketball. I went on to law school, graduating in two and a half years from Southern Illinois University School of Law, and went on to get my LLM in intellectual property from GW and started a law firm in 2014 in order to help friends that needed legal help.

Charles Hamilton Houston once famously said that you’re either going to be a social engineer or a parasite for your community. And I believe this run embodies me being a social engineer.

I’ve taken on cases like intellectual property, copyright filings, trademark filings, workers’ compensation, DUI, felony gun possession, defense work, employment matters of all sorts, family matters, probate matters, small claims issues regarding contracts, real property issues I’ve been before the court of appeals many times and argued successfully during the pandemic, when we were doing this over Zoom, livestreaming on YouTube for the very first time. And that puts me on the cutting edge of what the law practice is going to be.

I believe we need new leadership in order to guide the District government and the residents in this new burgeoning space.

Combating crime

We’re talking about multilayered solutions. Immediate solutions are upping gun buybacks, let’s get guns off the streets. Let’s make sure then we’re suing and holding manufacturers accountable. Let’s make sure we’re not getting these guns into our city. And that’s coordinating with other jurisdictions and using the council and the mayor’s strong arm and resources to make sure that we are keeping guns out of the city. That’s one thing.

Crime, oftentimes, is a result of the conditions of the economy, and now we’re looking at the summertime, and a potential downturn in the economy, we’re going to watch crime continue to spike. We have to give people resources; we have to find ways to remove the despair which creates the opportunity for people to join the criminal element.

Let’s try to work to put resources in people’s hands — getting kids summer jobs, things of that nature. That’s what the mayor has done. We need to have this extended year-round so people have continued positive things to do with their hands. Extending after school programs, making sure safe passage isn’t just a program in theory, but it’s actually a thing by having kids get to and from school.

We might be able to break out the school year, meaning we have school extend throughout the entirety of the year, and we have kids go on a different track, so we’re eliminating overlap for young folks who get into trouble just by the structure of how we’re educating.

And we’re looking at a society that’s changed due to the pandemic — we’re doing this interview remotely. We can find what creative ways to eliminate overlap so people aren’t entering the criminal element that way.

Traffic safety

You go across the city, see issues with bike lanes, see left turn signals with green lights for bike lanes — that’s going to lead to traffic. You have to have a general assessment of where the incidents are occurring and make sure that you’re eliminating the opportunity for accidents to happen in the first place.

We have speed cameras; we have speed bumps. Are these actually slowing down drivers? Are we licensing appropriately? Are we making sure people are on the road with licenses that they should have, given their driving record?

We have to be creative. We have to be hardworking as well, and I believe when we’re talking about making sure bike lanes are protected and safe, making sure that drivers are driving safely and they understand the purpose of remaining within the speed limit.

We have to incentivize good driving behavior as well. So, if you give a person a ticket, maybe they don’t have to pay that ticket if they don’t get another ticket for the next six months. Because we are talking about an issue of money. So let’s incentivize good driving with a program like that, regarding our tickets.

Speed cameras

I think that we need to figure out where they’re placed. We need to figure out how they are negatively impacting drivers who are in tough financial situations to begin with.

I think we overcharge. I think the greatest violators are people who aren’t required to pay, like Maryland residents and Virginia residents.

If those residents keep coming through our city, speeding, causing accidents, we need to find ways to boot and tow them when they are in our jurisdiction and they have a history of violating our laws.

High-profile (Facebook/Amazon/Trump, etc.) cases

I think they have a low impact for our D.C. residents. They’re great in a political space. However, we’re facing desperate times right now. District residents need our help. We need to focus our resources in our courts, fighting battles for housing rights, environmental justice, things that have a high impact in our borders.

Those cases have virtually come to a conclusion without a high return to the District. I would assess them, where they are, where they may be, but I want to talk about what it is that we need to do.

We need to be revitalizing our D.C. code; we need to be creating expungement clinics for the people that need second chances to get back out there so they’re not recidivating; they can go and get a good job. We need to create estate planning for our seniors, protect people’s assets, protect generational wealth, or allow it to be created. And let’s expand public advocacy so we can deter bad actors from continuing to harm our residents here in the District.

Consumer protection cases

Let’s talk about cryptocurrency: In 2021, $14 billion was taken from residents across this country. We need to build up consumer protection in these burgeoning business spaces like that.

We have data and privacy issues that are running rampant, and those are people being exploited for their personal information. We have to figure out how to slow that down.

We then have the age-old issues of how scammers are trying to use banking institutions to refinance homes and properties that end up with people losing out.

I will continue those cases.

We just talked about wage protection. We need to recognize that it’s 2022, people are working remotely; the 9-to-5 model is eviscerated for the most part. We need to make sure that people’s benefits are commensurate with the actual amount of hours at work.

Affordable housing

Affordable housing is a tricky situation. When I say that, it depends on how you define affordable housing. But there’s a nuanced approach to that I’d like to see.

I want to see, when these units are being built, they’re making out carve outs for certain affordable units. I want people to be able to enjoy equity from those units that incentivizes them to keep a job and incentivizes them to keep taking care of their property, allows them to withdraw equity, and then maybe potentially start a business or send their youngster to school. And then it builds up the community.

If we create those type of opportunities, we won’t see the despair that we’re experiencing today, with people being ejected from their properties or turning to the criminal element because times are tight.

When you’re writing code, when you’re setting up these buildings, write it such that people can enjoy the equity when they go into these spaces. Maybe it’s a rent-to-own situation. No matter what it is, that changes the conversation from saying, “You are only going to be able to enjoy this space at this level, and you won’t be able to enjoy any of the equity; you won’t have any ownership interests.” We’re going to shift the model. We can just do that with the stroke of a pen.

Did the barring of Kenyan McDuffie from the AG race cast a cloud?

This has been interesting. It’s been a topic that’s been ongoing. I reached out to Kenyan McDuffie in July 2021; I asked for his endorsement. We’ve talked; we’re friends.

I look at the state of the race, and the outlay of the District of Columbia, I would want him to get off the fence and say, “Hey, look, it didn’t work out for me, but it needs to work for somebody, needs to work for the city and we need to move beyond it. We need to go vote, we need to exercise our vote.”

I believe that I’m an excellent attorney capable of doing the job on Day One. And I would want to lean on him for his institutional knowledge of District government and what fires that he wanted to see put out from this position.

What happened, happened. We’re sprinting ahead to Election Day. And we need to have a strong attorney general on Day One come Jan. 2, 2023.

What sets him apart from the other candidates

There’s a lot. I started this race before Karl Racine decided not to run again. I’ve been in this race in order to create a change for my hometown. People will talk about my youth, but it doesn’t mean I’m inexperienced.

Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in many of the D.C. courts taking on important battles so that we can lead a new school of political leaders and take on fights in the District, and nationwide, that we need.

I have many more years to go in my legal career. The argument is, and all respect to [my opponents]; they’re headed toward retirement. They’re closer to retirement age and they have less to offer moving forward and I do.

I like both Brian (Schwalb) and Bruce (Spiva). I believe they’ve done an amazing job. But I can make the comparison to this being 1992, with Bird, Magic and Jordan on the Dream Team. They could be Bird and Magic. I’m saying I’m Jordan. I’m ready to take the baton from them and carry this office forward.


Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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