By DENIS DISON
Anyone paying even scant attention to local politics in D.C. knows we haven’t always gotten the elected leaders we deserve. Scandal, mismanagement, lax oversight – the Wilson Building has just as often been an embarrassment as a place where Washingtonians could go for leadership and good government. That could change on Nov. 4 if David Catania wins election as our next mayor.
I first met David when he shocked Washington’s establishment in 1997 by winning a special election and becoming the first-ever openly gay member of the City Council. After six years in D.C., I confess I had little hope that someone like him could overcome the years of machine politics that had kept our city mired in deeply disappointing government. It was a head-snapping moment.
David continued turning heads as he delved into the hard work of oversight that we should expect of all Council members. He asked tough questions of highly placed bureaucrats, fought for change to improve city services and turned around the District’s HIV/AIDS programs. More recently, David has helped to make our city among the most progressive in the nation on issues such as marriage equality and marijuana reform.
Like a growing plurality of Americans, David is an independent who thinks deeply about issues and charts his own course, ignoring pre-programmed solutions etched in out-of-touch party platforms. He cares about results for regular Washingtonians, not special interests or party bosses who seek only to enrich themselves.
David has been criticized for having a temper and taking his job too seriously. (Yes, this is what passes for criticism in local D.C. politics.) So let me be clear; I’d take 10 David Catanias scratching each other’s eyes out during Council meetings if it meant 10 times the results he’s gotten during his 17 years there. I mean, who actually thinks our city’s leaders need to be gentler and kinder to one another while doing so little to serve the people who pay their salaries? We could use a lot more well-placed passion and a lot less passive-aggression during Council meetings.
That David would become the first openly gay mayor of the capital of the United States has received little attention during this race, and perhaps rightly so. D.C. ain’t Arkansas, after all. But nobody who cares about moving the ball forward for LGBT people should discount the effect David’s election could have on the world leaders who so regularly pass through our city. And knowing David, he won’t let many opportunities pass to remind them of the fair-mindedness that elevated him to the position.
LGBT voters in Washington have a rare opportunity to elect as mayor a true leader of our movement, a demonstrated champion of progressive values, an extremely effective legislator and someone who will fight every single day for people in every ward and every corner of this city. David Catania represents the government we deserve, and that’s why he’s got my vote.
Denis Dison is senior vice president of programs at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute.