For Catania, Mellowing With Age, Incumbency

Incumbent David A. Catania became an independent after spending several years in the Republican Party.
Incumbent David A. Catania became an independent after spending several years in the Republican Party. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
By Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 29, 2006

Looking back over his nine years as an at-large member of the D.C. Council, David A. Catania has a small apology.

He thinks he should have cut Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) a break once in a while. The two men were elected to D.C. government in the late 1990s with similar reform agendas, but the mayor ended up a target of Catania's ire on a wide range of issues, from tax policy to baseball.

"In retrospect, in too many instances I was harder on him than I should have been," said Catania in an interview last week.

But, he added, "In other instances, I was spot on."

Catania's self-assured, combative style has been his hallmark since 1997, when he ran as a Republican at 29 and won an at-large seat in a special election that had 7 percent voter turnout.

He has easily won reelection twice in an overwhelmingly Democratic city with an assist from the D.C. Home Rule Act, which specifies that two citywide seats on the legislative body must be held by members of the non-majority party.

As a celebrated local Republican, Catania once visited President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., and a photo from the trip used to be on display in Catania's John A. Wilson Building office. Catania, who is gay, brought his partner, Brian Kearney, and the photo showed the couple with first lady Laura Bush and the president, who had his arm around Kearney.

The photo was removed in February 2004, when Bush announced his support for a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. Catania later rejected the party and said he voted for Democrat John Kerry.

Catania is now an independent and appears on the ballot alongside Democratic incumbent Phil Mendelson, Republican nominee Marcus Skelton, Statehood Green nominee Ann C. Wilcox and Antonio "Tony" Dominguez, also an independent. Voters get to pick two from the list.

Catania's politics defy easy labeling. He is a true believer in cutting taxes and advocates investing more dollars in government programs to benefit the poor. He has pushed for an elected attorney general and has been a critic of police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. He espouses free-market principles but has authored legislation to lower prescription drug prices.

"I really enjoy being an independent. I really enjoy being this party-of-one thing," Catania said. "It just suits me."

Political analysts predict that Catania faces no threat of defeat, but the incumbent has spent many mornings handing out literature at Metro stations and evenings at political fundraisers. As of Oct. 10, he had raised $365,233 for the council race.

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