Jim Hudson was present at the creation. By that, I mean he was an active participant in the first mayoral election for Washington, D.C., in 1974.
Hudson was a close and trusted adviser to Mayor Walter Washington, who was appointed mayor by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. The District was granted limited sovereignty after Congress passed the Home Rule Act in 1973. A provision of the law specified that elections were to be held for mayor and the 13-member District Council.
Washington faced Clifford Alexander in the very first race for mayor. Washington beat Alexander. But what Hudson stressed to me in a recent conversation was that no mayor has ever been elected in D.C. without being a Progressive.
Washington and Alexander proudly wore the Progressive mantle. Every mayor since would embrace that moniker. Marion Barry, Sharon Pratt Dixon, Tony Williams, Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray. Hudson is a sage observer of the D.C. political scene. He has been a major fundraiser and strategist for most D.C. candidates. He is an ardent supporter of Muriel Bowser, and he is a good and loyal friend of mine. (Don’t hold that against him.)
Hudson’s main point is, above all, this is a Progressive city. All you have to do is look at the staggering numbers Progressive presidential candidates have racked up every four years since 1964. The current president outdoes all of them with 92 percent and 91 percent in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
Hudson believes that Bowser is in that Progressive tradition and thus will win easily. In fact, he estimates she will win by 25 points. Bowser will never win any contest for charisma. Yet in Hudson’s view by inclination, ideology and philosophy, Bowser is in tune and in sync with the D.C. electorate.
His not too subtle inference is that David Catania is not. Nowhere is that more apparent in my view than Catania’s selection of his campaign chair, Sharon Ambrose.
Ambrose is a former Council member from Ward 6. No one would ever accuse her of being a Progressive. Before being elected to the District Council, she served as chief staff member to non-Progressive councilmembers, Betty Ann Kane and John Ray.
Kane was the only member of the council to vote against a moratorium on condo conversion and Ray eagerly sought to do away with rent control. By picking Ambrose to lead his campaign, Catania is sending a clear signal of his political leanings and posture.
Watch for Bowser to tie Catania to anti-Progressive stands. His opposition to paid sick leave comes immediately to mind. Bowser will seek to portray Catania as alien to the political tradition of this Progressive town. It is probably her strongest card to play. What Bowser lacks in personal appeal, she hopes will be more than compensated for by claiming that she “is one of us.”
To Progressive African-Americans and Progressive whites and Hispanics, Bowser wants you to know and believe she fits, while Catania definitely and deliberately does not.
*Mark Plotkin has been writing about the mayor’s race for the Georgetowner and will be doing so until the election in November. He is a political analyst and contributor to BBC on American politics.*