Rule would allow federal workers in Washington, DC, to run for political office

Federal workers in Washington, D.C., would be allowed to run for political office under a new rule proposed by the government's Human Resources Management Office on Thursday.

The rule follows legislation approved in December by Congress that amended the Hatch Act, which prevents civil servants from engaging in partisan political behavior.

The legislation gave the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) the authority to allow D.C. federal employees to run for office as independents.

“We count it as one more step in the long journey — now 200 years’ journey — for equal treatment for D.C. residents,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who had pushed for the change, said in an interview with The Hill.

“We had a very large demographic of federal employees who I'm sure have the same interest in local government as anyone else, but could not do what they might have done if they lived in Maryland or Virginia and run for local political office,” she said.

Under the rule, federal employees who live in the District of Columbia could run for local political office and accept political contributions, but they could not run for office as a representative of a political party. The employees also would not be able to engage in political activities while on duty.

OPM determined that “special or unusual circumstances exist so that it is in the domestic interest of federal employees residing in the District of Columbia to participate in these political activities.”

The office since the 1940s has granted exceptions for certain towns and municipalities with a large number of federal employees.

Federal workers in 75 towns and municipalities are currently able to participate in local elections, including residents of Washington suburbs like Bethesda, Md., Rockville, Md., and Alexandria, Va.

OPM will accept comments for the rule 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register on Friday.