March 12, 2014 | by Lateefah Williams
Keeping Dem mayor trumps loyalty to Gray
Vince Gray, Vincent Gray, David Catania, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) (on left) and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

Now that Council member David Catania (I-At Large) is running for mayor, it is more important than ever for Democrats to elect a candidate who cannot only win the Democratic primary, but who can also prevail in the general election.

I like Catania on a personal level, despite his public brashness, and I understand how significant it would be to have an openly gay mayor, but I am a loyal Democrat and I make no apologies for that. I strongly believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and I believe that candidates who support those principles are the best candidates to lead. While many D.C. Council members who have held one of the two seats reserved for the non-majority party have been Democrats who have changed their party to qualify for the seat, Catania was a Republican when he was first elected to the D.C. Council. He changed his party affiliation to independent due to homophobia in the national Republican Party. Ideologically, he is not my choice for mayor.

In past columns, I have used this space to acknowledge that I am undecided in the mayor’s race. While I am not going to endorse a candidate today, I will not pretend that the shadow campaign does not factor into my final decision. Truth be told, if there were no shadow campaign, I would have already made up my mind to support Mayor Vincent Gray. He is doing a good job running the city and his support for the LGBT community, specifically transgender people, has been groundbreaking. Though Gray fell just short of receiving the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club endorsement, the overwhelming support he received over the other mayoral candidates is a testament to his wonderful LGBT initiatives.

That said, specific details about the allegations against Mayor Gray that came out on March 10 during shadow campaign financier Jeffrey Thompson’s guilty plea make it difficult for me to support Mayor Gray. I’m not going as far as others and suggesting that he drop out of the race, but, at this point, to support him, I need to know that there is no smoking gun that proves Thompson’s allegations and that the overwhelming public perception is that Gray, and not Thompson, is telling the truth. Sadly, it seems unlikely that these conditions will be met.

These questions need to be answered in less than one week. Early voting starts on March 17 and by that time, Democrats may need to start lining up behind one candidate.  I am going to stop short of saying who that candidate should be.

One saving grace is that this news is coming out now and not after the Democratic primary. Even as I have leaned toward supporting Mayor Gray, my greatest fear during this election season has always been that Gray would be implicated in the shadow campaign after the Democratic primary and Catania would use that to defeat him in November.

Democrats cannot afford to lose the mayoralty and no individual is bigger than the party. At some point, we may have to decide to put personalities and petty differences aside and, for the good of the D.C. Democratic Party, unite behind the candidate with the best chance of prevailing in the general election.

We are in a unique situation, not just because of game-changing allegations leveled against the mayor shortly before the Democratic primary, but also because, for the first time since home rule, a non-Democratic candidate has a legitimate chance to be elected mayor. A January Washington Post poll listed a potential race between Gray and Catania as a statistical dead heat before this latest bombshell. Most likely, if the poll were taken today, Catania would be in the lead.

I believe we should still hear Mayor Gray out and give him a chance to clear his name. However, while it may not be fair and it is against my legal training, the burden of proof has clearly shifted. Generally, the prosecution must prove a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the same rules don’t apply in the court of public opinion and if, in another week, Gray has not convinced a significant portion of the electorate that he is telling the truth, for the sake of the D.C. Democratic Party, it may be time to unite behind one of the other frontrunners.

Lateefah Williams’ biweekly column, ‘Life in the Intersection,’ focuses on the intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation. She is a D.C.-based political and LGBT activist. Reach her at lateefah_williams@msn.com or follow her on Twitter @lateefahwms

10 Comments
  • The Gray administration has delivered positive change and economic progress to the District….significantly more than the Fenty administration, or any in recent times. Innuendo released to the press attacking the Mayor just prior to the election process borders on PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. The citizens of the District aren't going to ignore the progress, or buy into the malicious gossip. Long time District residents know that Vince Gray has a history of integrity and a commitment to public service. We need him for four more years. District residence are worthy of progressive governance, and Vincent Gray delivers. Innuendo be damned.

  • How weird. To want to hold on to power and a one party state and block independents from office in absolutely every race no matter what. Is that part of what led to this "see no evil" problem?

  • How weird. To want to hold on to power and a one party state and block independents from office in absolutely every race no matter what. Is that part of what led to this "see no evil" problem?

  • Thanks for another thoughtful piece, Lateefah. Here’s recent news that might help voters decide…
    =======================================================
    ‘SHADOW FRAUD MAYOR’ LOSES CURRENT PAPERS ENDORSEMENT
    AS POPULAR INDEPENDENT CATANIA ENTERS RACE
    =======================================================
    WASHINGTON POST
    Path to reelection becomes more difficult for
    D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray

    By Aaron C. Davis and Mike DeBonis,
    Published: March 12

    The withdrawal of a respected newspaper’s endorsement and the launch of a new mayoral campaign posed new challenges for Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s reelection bid two days after prosecutors implicated him in a far-reaching campaign-finance scandal.

    D.C. Council member David A. Catania, an independent who has won five citywide elections, filed papers to enter the November general election. And the Current newspapers, a respected chain of neighborhood weeklies, published an editorial Wednesday explaining that the scandal has “forced us to rethink” supporting the mayor.


    =================================================
    DC POLICE UNION UNANIMOUSLY ENDORSES TOMMY WELLS
    =================================================
    DC POLICE UNION/
    FOP, MPD LABOR COMMITTEE
    March 12 2014

    Washington, D.C. – The D.C. Police Union, Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee has endorsed Council member Tommy Wells for Mayor of the District of Columbia.

    D.C. Police Union Chairman-elect Delroy Burton said, “The District is an amazing city with limitless potential. Over the past five years, some District politicians have done more to hurt the District and its residents than to help. That has to change. Tommy Wells is the candidate that can restore public trust in District government and its employees, while helping the District and all of its residents prosper. He is the only politician not accepting corporate or bundled money and has consistently demanded and voted for tougher ethics laws and rules.”

    Burton added, “Under Vincent Gray, overall crime has increased in the District, while it has fallen across the nation. That is unacceptable…
    Tommy Wells has not shied away from tackling systemic problems with the District’s public safety agencies. He has worked with the police on everything from reducing crime to cutting overtime costs to proposing greater oversight and transparency.”

    ————
    FOR VIDS, JUST GOOGLE…
    youtube wells for mayor
    youtube catania for mayor

  • Watching last night’s televised debate between the four “contenders,” was painful to say the least. Between Muriel Bowser’s whining, Jack Evan’s pomposity, Vince Gray’s righteous indignation and Tommy Wells’ neediness, it became clear very quickly that Catania is on no fool’s errand.

  • David Catania has a compelling record of accomplishments while on the Council. David obviously cares about the details of the craft of legislating to efficiently move government services on behalf of the governed. Whoever goes up against David had better bring their “A” game.

  • FWIW to anyone, I thought a good bit about voting for Bowser in the Dem primary, but then I saw this commentary by veteran DCWatch reporter, Dorothy Brizill, in WaCityPaper last week (14th)…
    ===================================
    Muriel Bowser’s Record as Councilmember
    By Dorothy Brizill
    (f/ comments section of Washington City Paper,
    ‘LooseLips’ on 14 March 2014)
    ==============================
    When Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney was preparing an article about Muriel Bowser, he asked me to give him my impression of her. I wrote him a long E-mail and told him that he could quote anything in it. In McCartney’s article, he wrote that I “was one of a half-dozen people I interviewed who have observed Bowser’s work on the council and described it as lackluster. The others spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid offending a potential mayor.” Here’s an expanded version of what I wrote him.

    Muriel Bowser has been a member of the city council since 2007, when she won a special election to succeed Adrian Fenty as the Ward 4 representative on the council. As a legislator, Muriel doesn’t have an impressive record in the introduction of legislation or the use of the council to solve important public policy issues. The ethics bill, the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Establishment and Comprehensive Ethics Reform Amendment Act of 2011, is the one exception. It is an important bill, and it is identified as her signature legislation. But the public was clamoring for ethics reform, she was running for reelection, and she touted her work on the bill as the one example of her legislative accomplishments, The bill was largely pushed through the council by Council Chairman Kwame Brown. In the wake of the “fully loaded SUV” controversy that raised questions about Brown’s own ethical lapses and poor judgment, Brown wanted to use the ethics bill to redefine himself in the eyes of DC voters as an “ethics reformer,” and he used his influence in the council to ensure passage of Bowser’s bill. Because of the messy manner in which the bill was drafted, several verbal amendments were made on the council dais, The final text of the bill wasn’t ready for several months after council passage, and no draft text was made available during that time for public comment. Neither Muriel nor her staff consulted with experts or Washington citizens who were most familiar with the ethics issues that have plagued the city government over the years. It should also be noted that, as chair of the Government Operations Committee, Muriel wasn’t able to draft a campaign finance reform bill, although other councilmembers introduced multiple bills on campaign finance in 2011 and 2012. It wasn’t until 2013, when freshman councilmember Kenyon McDuffie became chair of the council’s Government Operations Committee, that a comprehensive campaign finance bill was drafted and adopted by the council.

    Muriel doesn’t work well with her council colleagues. She is not well liked or trusted by them, and many of them consider her a lightweight. Even before councilmembers all started running against each other to be mayor, you couldn’t find another councilmember who would speak well of her.

    Muriel has not demonstrated good judgment in hiring her staff. She has one of the worst staffs on the council. They are not informed, knowledgeable, or even pleasant, and she micromanages them. She insists that her legislative/committee director, Rob Hawkins, keep his office in her suite of offices rather than in the committee office. Her staffers, including her press director, claim never to know about legislative or issue matters, and they must get Bowser’s or her chief of staff’s permission to provide any information. All calls to her committee and staffers must go through her main office receptionist.

    As a Ward 4 councilmember, she provides very poor constituent services, and there are numerous complaints by residents of the ward about not being able to get service or assistance from her office. Her director of constituent services, Brandon Todd, has been working on her campaign full time for several months.

    Regarding education, about three years ago Ward 4 residents were outraged over conditions at Roosevelt and Coolidge High Schools and the slow pace of renovation at the two schools. Coolidge, which should have been the first on the list schools in the District to be renovated, was dropped down to one of the last to be renovated. It was widely believed that funds that were earmarked for Roosevelt and Coolidge were diverted by Mayor Fenty to the renovation of Wilson and Woodson. Ward 4 residents felt that Bowser didn’t fight for school funding in her ward, and more generally that she wasn’t engaged in education issues. In an effort to silence Ward 4 residents who were criticizing her on education, Bowser tried to counter the Ward 4 Council on Education by creating her own entity, which she called the Ward 4 Education Compact; it has not been active or engaged since its creation.

    Economic development in Ward 4, especially on Georgia Avenue, has been a consistent promise by Bowser to Ward 4 residents, but for years there was been little meaningful economic development on the Avenue. Recently, Councilmember Jack Evans, campaigning against Bowser in the mayor’s race, took advantage of this lack of economic development by holding a rally on Georgia Avenue. The one exception has been the building of the Georgia Avenue Walmart. Walmart, of course, has many vocal opponents, especially in the labor movement, but one of Bowser’s early and most prominent financial backers was David Wilmot, who served as the finance chairman for Bowser’s 2011 reelection campaign. Wilmot is a paid lobbyist and consultant to Walmart. After Walmart announced its intention to open a store at the busy intersection of Georgia and Missouri Avenues, Muriel refused to hear or respond to legitimate community concerns about the store, including traffic and its potential impact on other businesses in the area.

    Most observers of District politics and the inner working of the Wilson Building have had unpleasant encounters with Bowser. People compare her personality to Adrian Fenty’s, and say that she is cool, aloof, and mean. She will roll her eyes and openly display disgust at citizens or colleagues with whom she disagrees even when she is on the council dais or at community meetings. She is still working in Fenty’s shadow; there are even rumors that Fenty will return to DC to campaign for her in the final weeks of the campaign, and he is raising funds for her in California. Many unpleasant people who worked for Fenty are now working in Bowser’s council office and campaign.

    A telling example that is often cited regarding Bowser’s personality and how she has discharged her council duties is her treatment of Betty Noel. Noel, a prominent Ward 4 resident, had served with distinction as the District’s Peoples Counsel for eighteen years, representing citizens’ interests with respect to public utilities. When her last six-year term expired, Mayor Fenty refused to reappoint her, and instead, with Bowser’s blessing, nominated Vicky Beasley, an attorney with little experience, to the Peoples Counsel position. Beasley’s nomination, however, was not approved by the council because of opposition from citizens, the Consumer Utility Board, and civic organizations. Bowser took the council’s rejection of Beasley personally, blamed Noel for it, and retaliated against Noel. When in 2011, Mayor Gray nominated Noel to fill a vacant seat on the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the District, Bowser immediately announced her opposition. Rather than champion the appointment of a Ward 4 resident to such an important and prestigious commission, Bowser worked tirelessly with PEPCO behind the scenes to defeat Noel. Through procedural maneuvers, Noel’s nomination died in the council’s Public Service and Consumer Affairs Committee on March 15, 2012, in a three to two vote, with Bowser, Alexander, and Mendelson voting against her. To date, the seat to which Noel was appointed on the three-member board has remained vacant.

    Most troubling when assessing her qualifications to be mayor of the District is the fact that she has no meaningful work or management experience. Prior to running for the council to fill Fenty’s Ward 4 seat, she was an employee at the Silver Spring downtown redevelopment corporation, where she was not in management.

    Finally, despite her public image as being “clean,” Bowser has skirted campaign laws and regulations. When she ran for reelection to her Ward 4 council seat in 2012, she initially ran the campaign out of her council office. Joy Holland, her chief of staff, held campaign strategy meetings in Bowser’s front office, and Bowser’s campaign posters and literature were stored in the committee office of Ron Austin, who was then her chief of constituent services. Over the years, she received at least $18,600 in campaign contributions from Jeffrey Thompson and his straw donors.
    ###
    =================================================
    In my limited experience with Bowser’s office, that rings true. Lots of Ward 4 peeps apparently think likewise. LGBTs don’t need another phony Fenty, nor more of Mayor Shadow (nor having to endure a future Mayor Shadow ‘perp walk’). So Wells and Catania are the best mayoral candidates running.

    I do think the cleanest whistle in the Dem primary race is Tommy Wells. Without for-profit monies or lurking Uncle Earl-wannabes, Wells’ campaign is running ‘clean-hybrid style’… on rubber bands and ethanol fumes. But that funny funding fact also recommends Wells above his Dem rivals.

  • There are times when party matters more than other times. When it comes to the partisan demands of gay Republicans to pad the anti-gay majority in the U.S House, party matters to the extent their gay Republican candidates would vote every Congress to sabotage our legislative goals by turning the agenda over to bigots and would make retaking the House from its anti-gay majority that much harder for years to come.

    Here, however, the position is mayor, and electing a non-Democrat will not sabotage our legislative goals as LGBT people by putting the agenda in the control of bigots. Nor, since Catania is an independent, would we face the spectacle we did with Patrick Mara, the spectacle of a straight, nominal gay-rights supporter who runs around supporting anti-gay bigots like Romney out of sheer party loyalty.

    At the same time, I stand by my view that merely being gay is not enough to receive gay support. The Christine Quinn Rule applies here, as it does to gay Republicans running for Congress.

    Gay DC voters have the rare luxury in this race of choosing among safely pro-gay candidates based on non-gay issues. This is what equality looks like.

  • There are times when party matters more than other times. When it comes to the partisan demands of gay Republicans to pad the anti-gay majority in the U.S House, party matters to the extent their gay Republican candidates would vote every Congress to sabotage our legislative goals by turning the agenda over to bigots and would make retaking the House from its anti-gay majority that much harder for years to come.

    Here, however, the position is mayor, and electing a non-Democrat will not sabotage our legislative goals as LGBT people by putting the agenda in the control of bigots. Nor, since Catania is an independent, would we face the spectacle we did with Patrick Mara, the spectacle of a straight, nominal gay-rights supporter who runs around supporting anti-gay bigots like Romney out of sheer party loyalty.

    At the same time, I stand by my view that merely being gay is not enough to receive gay support. The Christine Quinn Rule applies here, as it does to gay Republicans running for Congress.

    Gay DC voters have the rare luxury in this race of choosing among safely pro-gay candidates based on non-gay issues. This is what equality looks like.

  • As a Black Gay WASHINGTONIAN I’m not buying any of this with Catania. It’s not like all LGBTQ’s are friendly here in DC the racism is RAMPANT and Brian you seem to have a problem with BLACK Candidates. And all these ‘white’ journalists writing hit pieces on Bowser and Gray will only ANGER Black residents whom are still the MAJORITY in D.C! The sheer arrogance of this community will only cause Catania to LOSE and I for one will NOT VOTE FOR HIM! A city divided WON’T stand!

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