David Catania issues battle cry to LGBT donors


David Catania’s address to prominent gay and lesbian donors left little doubt about his resolve to run for mayor. (Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post)

It has become fashionable, in light of recent polling, to suggest that D.C. Council member David A. Catania won’t follow through with his independent mayoral run now that he’ll be facing colleague Muriel E. Bowser as Democratic nominee rather than incumbent Vincent C. Gray. A Washington Post survey published last month, for instance, put him trailing by more than 30 points in a head-to-head matchup with Bowser.

But those doubting Catania’s resolve might think differently after his remarks Sunday to a large and influential group of national campaign donors, in which he betrayed no sign of equivocation and framed the race in stark terms.

“I’m standing before you as your next mayor,” he told a crowd of 700 gathered at the Washington Hilton for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s national champagne brunch event. “Polls that show me behind were taken after my opponent spent a million dollars and an entire year doing nothing but campaigning, where I hadn’t spent a cent and was doing the people’s business. I can assure you that after I get in this race, these polls will be different.”

The audience for this declaration were the well-heeled patrons of the premier fundraising vehicle for gay and lesbian politicians at all levels of government across the county. The appeals could translate to tens of thousands of dollars of support for Catania, the D.C. Council’s first openly gay member and an architect of the successful effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the District, as he goes into battle with Bowser and the city’s Democratic establishment.

While there isn’t likely to be much daylight between Bowser and Catania on LGBT issues, Catania aggressively made the case Sunday for the importance of electing an openly gay mayor in a city that is already one of the gay-friendliest in the nation.

“While we have … some indispensable straight allies, there simply is no substitute for us fighting our own battles,” he said. “It is the self-respecting thing to do. … I implore us not to settle for the present that we have but let us fight for the future that we cannot imagine.”

That sentiment was echoed by Victory Fund President and Chief Executive Chuck Wolfe, who said in introducing Catania, “The District of Columbia has never had a mayor from our community. It’s about time we did.”

Catania, a Republican-turned-independent, won a warm reception from the largely Democratic crowd, and the issue of his party status was mentioned only obliquely. “If we’re going to have a battle of labels, so be it,” he said. “I prefer … a battle over values. And I’ll put my values and record against anybody, anytime, any day of the week and twice on Sunday” — touting his efforts to promote same-sex marriage, an indoor smoking ban, medical marijuana and health insurance expansion.

“All of that,” he continued, “I will gladly put against an empty record. … I am a candidate for mayor. I do intend to succeed, and I know with your support I will.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · April 7