Two weeks ago, I wrote here in the pages of the Washington Blade the reasons that I support independent candidate for mayor, David Catania. The title of the column questioned whether it was more important to have loyalty to a political party or to continue the progress we are seeing in our city.
I felt like it was an important question to answer given the unique nature of the primary we just endured and the choices before us in the general election. After a careful examination of the records of the two candidates, I feel that David Catania offers far more substance and a solid record of accomplishment compared to Muriel Bowser.
A supporter of Bowser’s wrote a response to that column and his main premise is that Democrats should support the Democratic nominee unless she has done something to disqualify herself. I suppose some will ascribe to that train of thought, though such an approach would deprive voters of a campaign that addresses the issues most important to our city. Perhaps that is the strategy of the Bowser campaign, but I hope not.
Turnout in the Democratic primary was a record low since home rule came to the District of Columbia. Bowser’s plurality in that primary represents a small fraction of eligible voters in D.C. and fewer actual votes than any other nominee in at least 20 years, even as our population has grown.
The primary campaign was also woefully short on addressing issues because of the juggernaut of U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen’s investigation of the 2010 campaign. His inability to bring finality to his investigation before the primary, along with reckless accusations made through the media, significantly influenced the outcome of the primary. Simply put, the general election is much needed in order to have an election in which voters can make a choice between candidates without the cloud that hung over the primary and surely was a contributing factor to the record low turnout.
Now that our choices have narrowed to David Catania and Muriel Bowser, there is no longer a reason to divert attention from the issues. So far, however, I have yet to hear any rational arguments from the Bowser campaign or its supporters on why she is more qualified and has a more compelling vision for the future of our city. To suggest that Bowser deserves to win the general election because she has done nothing to disqualify herself as the Democratic nominee is an incredibly low bar.
Most disappointing in the column last week was a not-so-veiled charge that I employed bias based on race and sexual orientation in my decision not to support Bowser, “Would Muriel Bowser be deemed qualified enough if she were a white gay man like David Catania or Lane Hudson? I wonder” and “gay Democrats need a more compelling reason to vote for a non-Democrat than the fact that said candidate is also gay.”
Given that I supported a straight black man in the primary, Mayor Vince Gray, it is a preposterous suggestion. Also, in my column I did not even mention that Catania is gay. Suggesting that his sexuality is why I, or other gay Democrats, support him ignores the rationale I laid out and insinuates that gay voters are too shallow or dumb to consider the complex issues of a campaign and arrive at an informed opinion.
For all those who have been ashamed of the history of local politics in D.C. for so many reasons and have longed to have a campaign that we can be proud of, this is our chance. But it is up to us as the voting public to demand better. It should also be made clear by Muriel Bowser’s campaign that such negative and divisive rhetoric has no place in public discourse.
Failure to do so would risk advancing harmful divisions in our community. D.C. can do better and committing to avoiding this type of rhetoric is very much needed to set the proper tone for the coming campaign. It would also show that Muriel Bowser has the wherewithal to show leadership on this issue and is committed to an inclusive campaign.