A poll released by the Washington Post on Tuesday shows D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) ahead of gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) by a margin of 56 percent to 23 percent if the two run against each other for mayor in the November general election.
Catania, a 16-year veteran of the Council, entered the race for mayor earlier this month as an independent, becoming the first serious openly gay contender for D.C. mayor.
A poll conducted by the Post in January showed Catania and Mayor Vincent Gray (D) in a statistical tie if the two were to run against each other in the general election.
But Bowser’s lead of more than 30 points over Catania in the latest poll suggests that large numbers of Democratic voters, who might have voted for Catania over Gray, are inclined to line up behind Bowser if she wins the Democratic primary on April 1.
The same poll shows Bowser in a statistical tie with Gray in the primary. Bowser had 30 percent support compared to 27 percent support for Gray, with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.5 percent among likely primary voters.
“This is entirely unsurprising,” said Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, when asked about Bowser’s lead over Catania in the Post poll.
“She’s been a full-time candidate for over a year,” he said. “She spent a million dollars within the last several weeks on direct mail and other forms of advertising. Our campaign is two weeks old and we’re just getting started,” he said.
Young noted that it remains unclear who will win the Democratic primary, adding, “We are prepared to run against whomever comes out of the primary.”
According to the poll, conducted March 20-23 through both landline and cell phone calls, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) was in third place with 14 percent; Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Busboy and Poets restaurant owner and progressive activist Andy Shallal were tied for fourth place with 6 percent; and former State Department official Reta Lewis and Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), each had 3 percent. Businessman Carlos Allen had 1 percent, with 7 percent of respondents saying they had no opinion on the race.
Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who’s supporting Gray, said he interprets the poll as showing Catania would most likely lose in the November election against either Bowser or Gray.
“It shows he didn’t gain any ground against the mayor since the first poll in January despite all the negative publicity against Gray,” he said.
Rosenstein was referring to the barrage of news media reports about federal prosecutors linking Gray to an illegal “hidden” campaign conducted on Gray’s behalf by businessman Jeffrey Thompson and others who have pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Gray, who has denied any knowledge of the illegal campaign activities, has not been charged in what prosecutors say is an ongoing investigation into the matter.
“It will be very hard for Catania to beat Bowser if she wins the primary,” Rosenstein said. “If Gray wins the primary, he will get support from Democrats who backed the other candidates running in the primary.”
Catania supporters, many of whom are Democrats, have said Catania is perceived by many as a reform candidate with a reputation of shaking up city government agencies to fix longstanding problems. They say his chances of winning against the Democratic nominee are good.
Although he filed papers to run for mayor, Catania would have the option of dropping out of the mayor’s race to run for re-election to his Council seat up until the filing deadline in June for independent candidates.