D.C.’s Democratic Mayoral Candidates, Potential Challenger Pick Up Endorsements

With little more than a month until the District’s April 1 primary election, endorsements are rolling in for the candidates vying to be the next mayor of the nation’s capital. Incumbent Vincent Gray has scored support from five big labor groups, including the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Building Trades Council. Gray’s leading challenger, Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, gained the backing of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for Democratic women in politics, as well as the influential endorsement of the Washington Post editorial board. But, the latest winner has not yet entered the mayoral race. At-large Councilmember David Catania, an independent who may challenge the primary winner in November’s general election, this week earned the approval of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the nation’s largest political action committee dedicated to helping gay candidates. Catania surprised D.C.’s political establishment in 1997, when he was elected as the city’s first openly gay elected official. He won in 1998 and 2002 as a Republican, and again in 2006 and 2010 as an independent. Catania has formed an exploratory committee for 2014 but has not yet declared his intentions. “There’s no question that having the endorsement of the Victory Fund weighs heavily in favor of my thinking for a run,” Catania told CQ Roll Call. He said he plans to make a decision by April 1. “If I do decide to run, I feel like I’ll be well-resourced both in terms of strategic thinking and in terms of financial resources,”  he added. Gray leads the crowded Democratic field, according to a NBC4/WAMU/Washington Informer/Marist poll. Though his reputation with registered Democrats appears tarnished by the federal corruption probe stemming from his 2010 campaign, with 70 percent saying he did something unethical or illegal, he has plenty of support. Among Democrats who are likely to vote, 28 percent plan to cast a ballot for Gray. Bowser is second at 20 percent, with councilmembers Jack Evans and Tommy Wells, at 13 and 12 percent respectively, the only other candidates with double-digit support. Twelve percent were undecided. Evans, who represents Ward 2, has been endorsed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the George Washington University College Democrats. The Wells campaign continues to boast support of neighborhood leaders, ranging from food truck operators and local business owners to ministers and progressive bloggers. “We have focused on earning the support of real people in diverse communities — not celebrity or establishment endorsements,” campaign manager Chebon Marshall said in an email to CQ Roll Call. Restaurateur Andy Shallal, who registered 6 percent support in the poll, has generated plenty of celebrity buzz with his campaign. Folk singer Peter Yarrow, actor Danny Glover and authors George Pelecanos and Alice Walker have all lent their star power to the Busboys and Poets owner. The United Food and Commercial Workers, a local grocer’s union, recently threw its support behind Councilmember Vincent Orange for his role in D.C.’s living-wage debate. Orange, who represents Ward 4, lags behind the field at 4 percent. Reta Jo Lewis clocked in at 3 percent in the polling. Her campaign has not reported any prominent backers, though it continues to meet with various organizations and “have been very active in responding to questionnaires,” according to campaign manager Larry Decker. Local businessman Carlos Allen registered less than 1 percent. The poll was conducted Feb. 17-23. The error margins, depending on the subset, range from 3 to 5 points. All eight Democratic candidates are scheduled to face off Wednesday night in a candidate forum hosted by WAMU 88.5. The debate will air live from 7 to 9 p.m.