Metro Weekly

Vermont Governor, DGA Chair Backs Catania

Shumlin splits with party to endorse independent D.C. mayoral candidate; UPDATE: O'Malley, McAuliffe Back Bowser

Peter Shumlin - Credit: Third Way Think Tank/flickr
Peter Shumlin – Credit: Third Way Think Tank/flickr

In a surprise announcement that raised eyebrows in Democratic circles, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-Vt.), head of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), on Wednesday issued an endorsement of Republican-turned-independent David Catania in his bid to become the District’s next mayor. Catania’s campaign sent out a press release to followers and members of the press trumpeting the endorsement. 

“I am proud to endorse David Catania for Mayor of the District of Columbia,” Shumlin said in a statement. “I’ve known David Catania for over a decade through our work to lower prices and improve the safety of prescription drugs, especially for seniors. David chaired the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices where I met him when I was a state senator. I witnessed David’s courage in standing up to the pharmaceutical industry on behalf of District citizens. I’ve also seen David bring legislators from around the country together toward a common goal.”

Shumlin’s endorsement is considered unusual due to his position with the DGA, which is designed to elect and promote the policies of Democratic governors throughout the nation. While the D.C. mayoral position is not a governor’s race, some have argued it shares many duties and responsibilities in common with governors, including an ability to veto legislation passed by the legislature, in this case, the D.C. Council. The DGA has also advocated on behalf of policies promulgated by the D.C. mayor in previous years. Shumlin did make it clear, though, that he was speaking for himself and not in any official capacity on behalf of the DGA. 

Catania’s chief opponent, Democratic Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who won 44 percent of the vote in the April Democratic primary, has been trying to consolidate party support behind her candidacy in order to ensure victory. Councilmember Anita Bonds, the chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic Party and a Bowser supporter, has been urging national Democrats to lend money and resources to the Bowser campaign to ensure victory, though the DGA, so far, has stayed out of the race. 

“As a proud progressive, I know that David shares my values,” Shumlin continued. “He has fought to expand healthcare, save a safety-net hospital, secure new resources for low-income students and protect equality for all District citizens. David is a leader on the issues that we Democrats care most deeply about. I encourage you to vote for David Catania for Mayor this November.”

Joaquin McPeek, a spokesman for the Bowser campaign, pointed to a statement issued by Democratic National Committeewoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) following Bowser’s victory in which Wasserman Schultz praised Bowser and her platform, saying “Democrats are committed to uniting behind Muriel and working to ensure her general election victory in November.”

The Bowser campaign later issued a press release on Thursday touting the endorsement of Govs. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) and Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.), the governors of D.C.’s two neighboring states, who previously held leadership positions in the Democratic Party. O’Malley served as the head of the DGA from 2011 to 2013, and McAuliffe served as head of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005. The O’Malley-McAuliffe joint endorsement serves to blunt Shumlin’s backing of Catania. 

“The Washington-Maryland-Virginia relationship is of critical importance as we work together on economic development, public safety, transportation and other key issues,” the governors said in a prepared statement. “We need a strong partner as the Mayor of Washington, D.C. to keep the region moving forward. That is why we are proud to endorse Democrat Muriel Bowser for Mayor.”

“Muriel is the kind of leader D.C. needs,” the statement continued. “She has a track record of getting things done, and she shares our progressive values of equality for all, equal opportunity regardless of race and gender, and an economy that works for everyone. We know Muriel will tackle the District’s and the region’s toughest challenges by bringing people together and finding solutions.”

Bowser issued her own statement saying she was honored to have the governors’ support and looked forward to working with McAuliffe, O’Malley and O’Malley’s successor on various issues affecting the region. 

“Together, we will ensure that we provide affordable housing for working families and seniors, make our neighborhoods safer and modernize our regional transportation system,” Bowser said. “We will achieve progress together.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include the endorsement by O’Malley and McAuliffe. 

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