D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) plans to file papers this week to become a candidate for mayor in the November general election, according to Ben Young, an official with Catania’s mayoral exploratory committee.
Catania, a 16-year veteran on the Council, would become the city’s first serious openly gay contender for D.C. mayor based, among other things, on a Washington Post poll in January showing him to be in a statistical tie with Mayor Vincent Gray if the two were to run against each other.
Young declined to comment on the timing of Catania’s expected announcement, which would come just days after U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen alleged in court documents that Gray knew about an illegal “shadow campaign” that Machen said helped Gray win his race for mayor in 2010. Gray has denied the allegations.
Some had speculated that Catania would wait to see who wins the Democratic nomination in the hotly contested April 1 primary before deciding whether to enter the race as an independent. Gray is being challenged by seven candidates, including four incumbent Council members.
The most recent poll, which was conducted before this week’s allegations by the U.S. Attorney, showed Gray in the lead, with Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) as his closest rival. The poll conducted by NBC4, WAMU Radio, the Washington Informer and Marist College Institute for Public Opinion showed Gray ahead of Bowser by 28 percent to 20 percent.
Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) had 13 percent, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) had 12 percent, businessman Andy Shallal had 6 percent, and Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) had 4 percent. Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 3 percent and civic activist Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent.
Veteran gay activist Bob Summersgill, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said the campaign finance allegations hanging over Gray’s head and the division among Democrats between the four Council candidates could help Catania in the November election.
“Yesterday’s news on the shadow campaign I think is not going to deter Gray’s supporters, so I still think he’s going to get the 25 to 30 percent of the vote that he needs” to win the primary, Summersgill said.
“But I don’t think the Democrats are going to line up behind him after the primary because of the scandal,” he said. “So I think that people are much more likely to look at David Catania.”
Summersgill and others watching the election believe current supporters of Wells, Evans and Bowser – including LGBT supporters of those candidates – could break from their party by voting for Catania rather than Democrat Gray.
No non-Democrat has won election as mayor in D.C. since the city received its home rule government from Congress and the first modern era mayoral election was held in 1974.
Others, however, say Gray could falter between now and the April 1 primary and another candidate, such as Bowser, could emerge as the Democratic nominee. If that were the case the D.C. electorate’s longstanding inclination to elect a Democratic mayor could once again prevail, according to some political observers.
Catania told the Blade in January when he formed his mayoral exploratory committee that he believes his long record of accomplishments as a Council member has benefited residents in all parts of the city and would make him a strong candidate.
“I think it underestimates the independence of our voters to suggest that they will vote for someone simply by virtue of their sexual orientation, or their gender or their color or geography,” he said. “I think we are entering an era where people no longer feel that they have to or are inclined to support a person who may be demographically similar to them.”