WashPost Hypes D.C. Gay Democrats' Woe: Back Straight Party Nominee or Gay Independent

There's a gut-wrenching dilemma facing gay Democrats in the District of Columbia and the Washington Post was determined that we read about it, placing staff writer Mike DeBonis's story, "Catania perplexes gay D.C. Democrats"* on the front page of the April 16 paper.

You see, David Catania, an openly gay white man who is a registered independent, is facing off against Muriel Bowser -- a straight African-American woman -- this November in the mayoral contest in predominantly Democratic Washignton, D.C. This, has prompted some soul-searching among otherwise staunchly partisan gay Democrats, DeBonis noted, devoting 29 paragraphs to the existential crisis. Deep in the article, DeBonis noted how Catania's former party affiliation, a decade ago as a Republican, might be a deal-breaker for yellow-dog gay Democrats (emphasis mine):


For many gay voters, Catania’s sexual orientation isn’t enough to erase their doubts about a former Republican with a reputation for pulling no punches. “They’re both qualified to run the city, but other factors come into play, like temperament,” said Lateefah Williams, a former Stein Club president who is backing Bowser.

Even Catania’s backers say his appeal to gay voters will be more rooted in his legislative record and his policy pitches than in his sexual orientation.

One striking feature of Catania’s mayoral run is that, as a gay, white non-Democrat, he would be a pioneer among District mayors in each of those categories, let alone all of them together. And that has left him to navigate a sea of identity politics in which his sexual orientation may be the least of his obstacles.

Hilary Rosen, a prominent Democratic political strategist who is an enthusiastic Catania supporter, said she has no issues with his status as a former Republican. (He left the party in 2004 over its support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.)

Rosen, also active in LGBT causes, said Catania might have a bigger problem: the fact that he’s a white man running in a city where white voters remain well outnumbered by African Americans. “I actually don’t think his sexual orientation is as relevant as his race from a political perspective,” she said.

Williams — like Bowser, a black woman — said Catania isn’t the only candidate whom gay voters will be identifying with. “If we’re talking demographically, I can relate to Muriel Bowser as well as David Catania,” she said. “I’m looking at other issues.”

So if Catania loses, which, he is quite likely to given the city's partisan slant, we can blame the fact that he's a white man who is not uniformly a knee-jerk liberal with a (D) following his name.

The Post would do well to consider how such partisan, racial, and ideological bigotry is the greater obstacle to a truly competitive mayoral race, but we're not holding our breath for that sort of story.

*the online headline for the story is "David Catania’s D.C. mayoral run puts gay Democrats in a tough spot."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters