A conversation I have had repeatedly since the Democratic mayoral primary goes something like this:
Voter: “Can David Catania really win?”
Me: “That depends on how many votes he gets.”
Voter: “But a Democrat has always won.”
Me: “It starts with you. Do you want to stand by and cast your vote for a flawed Democratic nominee or would you rather be a part of changing minds so that people feel empowered to cast their votes for the most experienced and qualified candidate for mayor?”
Voter: “You may be right. Muriel Bowser isn’t really ready for the job.”
It doesn’t take an accomplished historian to know that the District has never elected a white mayor, a non-Democratic one or an openly gay one. A David Catania victory would defy history in multiple ways.
But most people will not be looking to make history with their vote. Instead, they will want to cast their vote with the hope that our city will be led by someone who can continue the progress we have seen on many fronts under Mayors Williams, Fenty and Gray. Under these three mayors, we have seen unprecedented revitalization, progress in education, increased professionalization of our government, expansion of healthcare and many other improvements.
The choice in this election is about trust. Who can you trust to do what they say? On the campaign trail, Catania often says, “trust is certainty based on past behavior.” This is why the records of these two candidates are very important.
Between the two major candidates in the race for mayor the difference in their experience and qualifications could not be starker. David Catania used his time as chair of the Health Committee to pass smoke-free D.C., slashed the rate of the uninsured, focused like a laser on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and much more.
As chair of the Education Committee, he has visited more than 140 schools to speak directly with students, teachers, parents and administrators. He has worked to extend college scholarships, end social promotion, secure additional funding for at-risk students, and focus on middle school improvement, among other things.
Contrast this solid record of accomplishment with the record of Muriel Bowser. She points to a very weak ethics bill and free bus rides for school students as the fruit of her seven years on the Council. In a recent interview, she indicated her belief that providing constituent services prepared her to be mayor and her Facebook page is full of posts that begin with, “As mayor, Muriel will…,” instead of enumerating what Muriel has actually done.
As chair of the Committee on Economic Development, she has no accomplishment to tout. When I ask someone to tell me about a time she has shown leadership on an issue, I hear crickets.
Take into consideration the issue of affordable housing. Catania recently intervened to save a building in Chinatown that a developer was seeking to convert from 302 affordable housing units to high-end real estate. While this was happening, Bowser was refusing to hold a hearing about the mishandling of well over $1 million by managers of Park Southern, a building of 360-unit affordable housing units. The managers are prominent supporters of Bowser’s mayoral campaign.
D.C. stands on the brink. We have suffered through so many politicians and their supporters who have been incredibly selfish. More than a few are in jail. The choice that we have to make in this election is important.
For me, making that decision rests on which candidate I can trust the most, judging on the certainty I can expect from their past actions. On this measure, there is far more trust I can place in David Catania. He is the only candidate for mayor that has the experience to step into the position and continue the progress our city deserves.
Lane Hudson is a D.C.-based writer and activist.