WASHINGTON – Messy and chaotic weather – including a brief tornado warning – outside the mayoral forum Wednesday afternoon fit the candidates’ demeanors inside.
The three leading candidates,Independent Carol Schwartz,Independent D.C. Councilman David Catania and Democratic D.C. Councilwoman Muriel Bowser,took to a small desk in a TV studio to address everything from scandals to city plans.
Bowser defeated Mayor Vincent Gray,mired in a scandal rooted in his election four years ago,in a bruising primary election in April. She was soon joined on the ballot by the two independents.
The first question to strike nerves was about the candidates’ personalities. Catania has been accused of being too aggressive and blunt,Bowser too passive and Schwartz too distant after losing her council seat in 2009.
“When you’re attempting to do big things,you’re not going to please people all the time,” Catania said.
Responding to the criticism about her,Bowser said,“I’m not passive. I stand up for what I think.”
The debate at NBC Washington,cosponsored by The Washington Post,was the third debate of four before the Nov. 4 election.
This year’s mayoral race has been the most competitive in recent years,with Bowser holding onto a receding lead over Catania and Schwartz far behind in a poll by Economic Growth DC released Oct. 1. Bowser was ahead of Catania with 35 percent of likely voters to his 27 percent. Schwartz trailed with 11 percent. But 27 percent remained undecided. An earlier poll found Bowser farther ahead.
One of Schwartz’s perceived weaknesses is her weak numbers in the poll. Asked if she would consider dropping out and endorsing another candidate,she said,“I’m in. And I hope people will vote for me. … I can win this.”
Catania insisted his former,high-paying job with M.C. Dean,a construction company that has contracts with the city,has not affected his decisions on the council.
Bowser maintained she did not intervene in a scandal involving one of her campaign donors,the owner of Park Southern Apartments,and an investigation into poor living conditions and missing rent money there.
Though Catania and Schwartz have appeared in several debates,Bowser has appeared in three since she defeated Gray.
President Barack Obama has endorsed Bowser.
Victory in a Democratic primary is usually tantamount to election in D.C. More than three-quarters of voters are registered as Democrats,and 6 percent are registered as Republicans. Independents and members of other parties make up 18 percent.
Reach reporter Lucas Daprile or 202-408-1490. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.