Muriel Bowser wins endorsement from former D.C. mayor Anthony Williams

The campaign of Muriel E. Bowser, the Democratic nominee for D.C. mayor, said Thursday she will participate in a July 4 parade with former mayor Anthony A. Williams — unveiling an endorsement that could carry weight in the tony Northwest neighborhood they plan to march through and beyond.

In a statement, Bowser called the former two-term chief executive “one of our city’s most respected and admired leaders” and said that his endorsement — to be formally delivered after the Palisades Citizens’ Association parade Friday — is “an honor.”

“I look forward to leading the city with the same drive and effectiveness that Anthony Williams did as mayor,” she said.

The parade, down MacArthur Boulevard is perennially led by legions of city politicians and political groups eager to court the attention of voters not only from the Palisades and affluent Ward 3 but from across the city. Also expected to march are independent challengers David A. Catania and Carol Schwartz.

Catania — like Bowser, a member of the D.C. Council — has sought to make inroads in the Palisades and other Northwest communities, in particular by questioning Bowser’s focus on education reform and her record on other key issues, including affordable housing.

Williams’s endorsement stands to be influential, particularly among Democratic voters who might question Bowser’s qualifications in the face of Catania’s attacks.

“We’re solidly a Democratic neighborhood, but having Mr. Williams’s judgment [on Bowser’s behalf] could ease some minds,” said Steve Waller, the civic association’s president. “He’s still respected here.”

Williams, now chief executive of the Federal City Council, a business-oriented civic organization, said in a statement that Bowser is “the right person to continue the momentum of good government — and turn up the heat for more.”

“Right now, our city needs a mayor not only with the leadership, management and focus that I sought to bring to the table, but someone equally equipped to address the divides in the District between the old and the new, and the served and underserved,” he continued. “She is the best candidate for the job, and I’m confident she will be a great mayor.”

Williams, who endorsed losing candidates in the 2006 and 2010 mayoral elections, did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment.

His statement made a sidelong attack on Catania’s education activism, saying it would be “a terrible mistake to press the pause button on education reform now.” The Federal City Council has been a quiet but persistent supporter of education reform efforts launched under former D.C. Public Schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and continued under the current chancellor, Kaya Henderson.

Bowser (D-Ward 4) has said she would keep Henderson in place if elected, as has Schwartz, a former Republican member of the D.C. Council who is making her fifth run for mayor.

Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, declined to comment on Williams’s endorsement or comments.

Last month, Catania (I-At Large) touted the endorsement of Paul and Barbara Savage, civic activists in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Ward 7, who led a draft campaign that prompted Williams’s first mayoral run in 1998. The Savages cited his “his laserlike focus” on public education and health issues.

Others close to Williams have joined Catania’s camp: Douglas J. Patton, a deputy mayor under Williams, is a key Catania fundraiser. Marie Drissel, Williams’s director of boards and commissions, and John L. Richardson, a Williams appointee to the city’s sport commission, are among Catania’s donors.

Besides the Palisades parade, which begins at 11 a.m., the candidates are also set to participate in an earlier event down Barracks Row in Capitol Hill.

Although the politicians put a lot of stock in their community parade appearances, that may not be true for the voters in the crowd.

Said Waller, who hasn’t made up his mind in the mayoral race: “I think people are hoping to have more of a celebration tomorrow rather than sharpen any political insights for November.”

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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