By Joshua Marks
Declaring that she is ready “to go to work,” D.C. Councilwoman Muriel Bowser claimed victory late Tuesday night as she became the second female to be elected mayor of Washington.
In the election to replace Mayor Vincent Gray, Bowser, 42, a Democrat, easily defeated her main challenger, former Republican David Catania, 46, an at-large city councilmember who ran as an independent, with 56 percent of the vote to his 35 percent, as of press time Tuesday. Carol Schwartz, 70, another former Republican turned independent, running for mayor for a fifth time and the only Jewish candidate in the race, trailed a distant third with 7 percent of the vote.
Earlier on Tuesday, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Executive Director Ronald Halber called Bowser strong on issues of concern to the Jewish community but predicted a higher than normal Jewish voter turnout because Catania made the general election race competitive and “people in general are fed up with elected officials.”
Catania supporter Scott Goodstein, 40, spent election night at his candidate’s election party. “I believe that win or lose, David Catania was the only one who ran an honest campaign and would make a great mayor,” Goodstein said. “He was the only one who really stood up to corruption in this city. He’s been a great naysayer on the city council.”
But voters disagreed.
According to Brandeis University’s American Jewish Population Project, there are an estimated 34,320 Jewish adults in D.C. The city had an estimated population of 646,449 in 2013.
Bowser became an automatic favorite in this heavily Democratic city – 76 percent of D.C.’s 456,633 registered voters are Democrats – when she unseated scandal-plagued Gray, who was seeking a second term, in the Democratic primary last April.
Bowser released a 41-page platform in September before the first mayoral debate. Her education reform ideas include increasing collaboration between charter schools and traditional public schools and raising $50 million in private funding for the school system. On economics and employment, Bowser pledges to elevate the role of the city’s Small Business Administration to help small businesses grow. She also is proposing reforming the city’s capital-gains tax rate (it has been criticized as anti-tech innovation) and forming an Office of Public Private Partnerships to help finance big infrastructure projects.
Other Bowser proposals include providing $100 million a year to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund; closing the city’s homeless shelter at D.C. General Hospital; hiring a new fire chief to fix emergency medical response issues; reassessing the city’s streetcar program; and hiring a “chief innovation officer” to make local government more efficient.
Corruption, schools, income inequality, affordable housing, the homeless and transportation were some of the issues that came up in the debates. Additionally, D.C. voters approved Ballot Initiative 71 to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The measure also makes it legal to use or sell drug paraphernalia related to marijuana.
The Bowser campaign enjoyed a significant financial advantage up until the polls opened on Election Day. Her campaign built a million-dollar war chest for the final month of the race, nearly double what Catania raised.
In other city elections of note, Democrat Karl Racine won D.C.’s first attorney general race (the AG was previously a mayoral appointee); as expected, fellow Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton was re-elected as the city’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives; and Democrat Phil Mendelson won re-election as City Council chair. In Ward 1, Democrat Brianne Nadeau was elected to the D.C. Council.