District of Columbia

D.C. residents picking new mayor in competitive race

David Catania

David Catania

WASHINGTON — An unusually long and competitive general-election campaign for District of Columbia mayor is drawing to a close Tuesday, with voters deciding whether to continue Democrats‘ perfect record when seeking the city’s highest office.

David Catania

David Catania

Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser is considered the favorite to win, but the general election is not the formality that it has been in most mayoral races since District residents were granted home rule in 1974. Bowser faces two well-known independents who have had ample time to make their case to voters following an unusually early April 1 Democratic primary, in which she defeated scandal-plagued Mayor Vincent Gray.

Still, with Democrats accounting for 76 percent of registered voters in the nation’s capital, a victory by Bowser’s top challenger, D.C. Councilmember David Catania, would be a historic upset.

Catania is seeking to become the District’s first white and openly gay mayor, in addition to being the first non-Democrat to win the office. The longtime independent was a Republican until 2004, when he left the party over President George W. Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Bowser, 42, ran a cautious campaign, positioning herself as a consensus-building, big-tent Democrat who can appeal equally to the wealthy residents of upper northwest Washington and to the less affluent, overwhelmingly black communities east of the Anacostia River.

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Catania, 46, argued that his record was more progressive than Bowser’s, citing his efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, cut the District’s rate of uninsured residents and reduce its HIV infection rate. Despite his 17 years on the D.C. Council, he called himself an outsider who would shake up the District’s status quo.

Bowser outraised and outspent Catania, bringing in $3.5 million for her campaign. Catania raised $1.1 million.

Independent Carol Schwartz, 70, was seeking the mayor’s office for the fifth time. A surprise entrant to the race in June, she came closest to winning in 1994, when she lost to Marion Barry by 14 percentage points. This time, polls showed her running third behind Bowser and Catania.

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