If my grandmother Sophie Rosenthal were alive and observing the D.C. mayoral campaign, she would say in vintage Yiddish that David Catania is trying to portray his opponent Muriel Bowser as “treif.” “Treif” simply translated is unclean.
The former Republican turned Independent Catania wants voters, especially Democrats, to make Bowser guilty by association. First, he assailed her connection with Phinis Jones and the Park Southern Apartment controversy. Jones is a Ward 8 businessman and political operative, who is under federal investigation. Catania claims that Bowser should have chaired an oversight hearing on the entire matter. She refused. A not too subtle inference is that Jones’s role as a donor and supporter stopped Bowser from performing her Council responsibilities.
Now, Bowser’s former campaign consultant and strategist Tom Lindenfeld is reported to be under federal investigation for his alleged role concerning illegal campaign funding in the 2007 Philadelphia mayor’s race. In this episode, Bowser has acted differently and swiftly. She said, “I have the highest expectations of transparency from my campaign team: Tom no longer has a role on the campaign.”
Catania knows he will have trouble bringing diehard Democrats to cast a vote for a former Republican. If he can paint Bowser in any way as “ethically challenged” or “treif,” maybe that will move them to overlook or ignore Catania’s past Republican affiliation.
What I hope both candidates would do is something that is not being done, or in my memory has never been done in a D.C. mayoral campaign: present a strategy to empower D.C. Show me how D.C. attains budget autonomy, legislative autonomy, congressional representation and, ultimately, statehood.
When is the last time you remember a candidate for mayor drop a name or two? Telling us they have met with somebody in the White House or someone in the Senate or House. I asked Bowser if she would go see Democratic senators on the Governmental Affairs and Homeland Security Committee and seek their sponsorship of the D.C. Statehood Bill. At the Ward 3 Democrats meeting, she said she would go see the “senators she knew.” She did not name the ones she knew. She should also be seeing the ones she does not know.
Catania talks about going to the New Hampshire State legislature and getting supportive resolutions. That’s irrelevant and misguided. Why doesn’t he try to convert congressional Republicans to our side? That’s where the action is.
Both major candidates don’t even know the legislative players who perpetuate our colonial and un-American status. Why aren’t they forming friendships, informing and lobbying for D.C.? The campaign is a perfect place to start.
Mark Plotkin is a political analyst and contributor to the BBC on American politics.