As chairman of the D.C. Council’s education committee, At-Large Councilmember David Catania has seen his agenda bump against mayoral control of the school system. So why not become mayor himself? Standing outside Anacostia’s Cedar Tree Academy charter school this morning, Catania announced his plans to consider doing just that by launching a mayoral exploratory committee.
“I’ve decided to explore whether I can do more for the citizens of this city as mayor on the subject of education than I can as the chairman of the committee on education,” Catania said.
As an independent, Catania can stay out of the race through the Democratic primary in April. That gives Catania months to decide whether he’s willing to give up his at-large Council seat, also on the ballot next year, to run against the Democratic candidate. On the other hand, his lack of party status likely places him at a disadvantage: Democrats have held the mayoralty since the beginning of District home rule in 1973.
Catania says he’s considering running for mayor because of what he sees as a “lack of urgency” from Mayor Vince Gray on education. “I’m equally uninspired by the current mayor and by the field of candidates that seek to replace him,” Catania said.
Despite the long odds facing a white independent appealing to District voters who, in the majority, are neither, Catania touts his streak of city-wide wins in at-large races. Still, Catania conceded that potential mayoral rival Jack Evans, elected to the Council in 1991, has been around longer than he has. “Jack arrived with Christopher Columbus on the Santa María,” Catania said. “He’s been running for office since the conquistadors arrived.”
As for Catania’s temper—-he once said “fuck you” to Marion Barry during a Council retreat—-he said he won’t back down from what he describes as his passion for issues. Still, Catania says he’s in control of his attitude. “I’m my own worst critic,” Catania said. “I know when I need to be better. I know when I need to be more measured.”
Catania, whose exploratory committee is chaired by ex-Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, says he hasn’t set a timeline yet on when would have to make up his mind about the race. Catania also says he hasn’t decided yet whether, as mayor, he would retain D.C. Public School chancellor Kaya Henderson. (He might not have the option—-the New York Times reports that Henderson is a candidate to run New York’s school system under Bill de Blasio.)
Catania stayed focused on schools throughout his remarks, declining to expand on policy goals beyond education. “I want to focus on this exploratory effort on what we can do to help our schools succeed,” Catania said.
Photo by Will Sommer