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President George W. Bush considers D.C.’s openly gay Republican at-large councilmember a “maverick.”
That’s quite apropos.
But the designation doesn’t refer to David A. Catania’s habit of bucking Mayor Anthony A. Williams on city-governance issues. Or to the rabid tax-cutter’s fight to preserve the city’s lone public hospital. Or to the local Republican’s advocacy of gay marriage.
LL will return to that point in a moment.
Catania has earned his distinction because he has raised a lot of money over the past few years for Bush. And in the prez’s Lone Star jargon, “maverick” is high praise.
Now Catania regrets every penny.
According to the Bush campaign, “mavericks” are under-40-year-old supporters who have raised more than $50,000 for the president’s re-election efforts. Thirty-something Catania estimates his fundraising prowess at between $70,000 and $80,000. In fact, the local Republican’s activism and coffer-filling on behalf of the president earned him an exclusive invitation to the Bush family ranch in Crawford, Texas, this past summer.
A photograph in Catania’s John A. Wilson Building office shows Catania standing next to First Lady Laura Bush as her husband throws his arm around Catania’s partner, Brian Kearney.
The two couples look quite comfortable together. “At the ranch, the president went out of his way to thank me for bringing Brian,” says Catania.
Good thing Catania didn’t ask Bush for his blessing to get hitched.
On Tuesday, the president turned D.C.’s popularly elected GOPer into even more of a maverick. Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples, a clear sop to right-wingers in his party who’ve been squawking about this issue for months. Their rationale is that government sanctioning of same-sex marriages might weaken society as we know it.
Yes, just think of the wreckage in the District alone! Such vibrant neighborhoods as Logan Circle and Capitol Hill have suffered greatly from the infusion of gay couples equipped with drywall, joint compound, and fierce nesting instincts!
Bush’s announcement reverberated in the Dupont Circle home that Catania and Kearney moved into last year. Catania considered the White House statement “revolting.” “My fundraising days for President Bush are over,” he says. “The degree of disappointment I have in him is so profound.”
The at-large councilmember removed the Bush photo from his office Wednesday morning.
Yet LL has to believe that the party maverick must have expected this announcement for quite some time. Catania says his fundraising for Bush occurred before gay marriage moved to the forefront of the national discourse. The party’s “troglodytes,” as Catania refers to GOP right-wingers, decided to bag their states-rights credo when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in that state in a decision last November.
At that time, Bush vowed to “do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.”
LL encourages readers to look up the current divorce rate and then look up the definition of “sanctity.” Actually, LL will save you the time. Fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce. “Sanctity,” in this sense, is defined as “the fact of being sacred or inviolable,” according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition.
“What is outrageous is the level of hypocrisy that the administration, and the president, is engaged in. He promised to be a uniter, not a divider,” says Catania. “He promised to be a compassionate conservative. There is nothing conservative about amending the Constitution—nor is there anything compassionate about writing discrimination into the Constitution.”
Now, LL understands that the GOP—like the Democratic Party—is a big tent, with lots of room for dissent. “My participation in the party should not be seen as condoning or excusing the party’s intolerance and poor record in respect to gays and lesbians,” Catania explained to LL Tuesday.
At some point, though, dissent spills into ideological incompatibility. Take a look:
David A. Catania: Throw massive taxpayer infusion at public hospital to benefit east-of-the-river residents
Republican Orthodoxy: Privatize and let the poor suffer
David A. Catania: Break up pharmaceutical oligopolies to reduce prescription drug costs
Republican Orthodoxy: Beef up pharmaceutical oligopolies and send top lawmakers to lobby for the industry
David A. Catania: Create elected district attorney in D.C. and give citizens more voting rights
Republican Orthodoxy: Condone taxation without representation
David A. Catania: Advocate smaller government, lower taxes, and personal responsibility
Republican Orthodoxy: Create $521 billion deficit
David A. Catania: Give it to me!
Republican Orthodoxy: No!
Catania says he hopes to fight the troglodytes in the party and try to recapture the party of Abraham Lincoln from Ralph Reed and the social conservatives. To that end, Catania plans to be one of two D.C. delegates to the party’s platform convention and vows to fight the party “bigots.” “I’m not delusional. I don’t have any expectations of succeeding. None,” he admits. “The reason I remain in the Republican party is to attempt to have our voice at table when our lives are being discussed.”
Catania points to his impact on the local Republican party. He points out that five of the D.C. delegates to the national convention are openly gay. Of course, the local delegation hardly reflects the national party.
LL only has to point to fellow D.C. delegate Carol Schwartz, who has more gay friends than Madonna.
Catania says he will remain in the party for now. “If this were a decision that affected only me, it would be much easier, and I would think about bolting the party,” says Catania. “This is a smack right between the eyes…. This is not a fight I asked for, and I didn’t pick [it], but I’m not going to run away from it.”
Yet Catania says if the election were held today, he would not cast his vote for Bush. “Absolutely not. I don’t know how he can repair the damage that he has done,” says Catania.
“I will never vote for a person who attempts to write discrimination into the Constitution,” he says.
•Right now, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham’s contemplating a run for the at-large seat occupied by colleague Harold Brazil. In this time of exploration, Graham says he’s reflecting on several factors that will help determine whether he decides to take on the council’s most buffoonish legislator.
Foremost in Graham’s mind is: Will any of my colleagues abandon the collegial niceties and back me up on this?
Not one of his fellow councilmembers showed up for his Feb. 12 exploratory announcement, even though it took place right outside their offices, on the steps of the Wilson Building. Yet among the residents of Ward 3 who showed their support was Dale Leibach. He’s the husband of Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson.
A PR heavyweight, Leibach has worked for many prominent Democrats, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), and served in the communications office for President Jimmy Carter. Mr. Kathy Patterson made his last appearance in local politics in fall 2002, when he sported a yellow tie—a Schwartz campaign color—at Schwartz’s mayoral campaign kickoff and handed out “Democrats for Carol” fliers at events around town.
Did the appearances signal support for Schwartz in the entire Patterson-Leibach household? “I’m a Democratic elected official, and [Williams is] a Democratic elected official. I support the Democratic nominee,” Patterson said at the time.
Leibach says he reads the Washington Post Metro section and makes his mind up on his own. “Kathy told me that Jim had approached her and that he was thinking about running,” Leibach says. “I said, ‘Tell him I will put my entire organization behind him if he decides to run.’ My organization is primarily me and my computer.”
•Ralph Nader has spent the last few weeks putting Democratic Party apparatchiks in a conniption. While he’s been taking calls from party head Terry McAuliffe and others discouraging an independent run for president, Nader has also found time to focus on an issue of importance to D.C. voters.
In a Feb. 9 letter, Nader asked Mayor Williams why he can’t shop in a grocery store in Ward 8.
“Since first hand knowledge of what is going on is not possible, and since the Washington Post seems not to be interested in this void, despite being urged to cover the story, I once again ask that you inform Ward 8 residents and other interested groups where this quest for a food outlet is at the present time,” wrote Nader.
“I have been in towns with one third of the population of Ward 8 which have three supermarkets,” Nader added. “You probably shop for groceries at a nearby supermarket.”
•Last week, the D.C. Department of Health informed city officials of the upcoming Maternal and Child Health Citywide Coordinating Conference.
“The conference will continue to concentrate on three population specific cluster areas impacted by the Administration—mothers and infants, children and youth, and women and men,” wrote Director James A. Buford.
That seems to cover everyone. —Elissa Silverman
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