In the end, a city where Democrats hold a three-to-one voter registration advantage chose the Democratic nominee for mayor, with Muriel Bowser being elected the next mayor of DC by a generous margin. Bowser, 42, won with 54 percent of more nearly 149,000 votes cast, well ahead of independent David Catania, who mounted what many considered the strongest non-Democratic campaigns in recent memory.
“I’m humbled and grateful to stand here to be the next mayor of my hometown,” Bowser said, taking the stage after a 19-month campaign during which she frequently cited her family’s deep roots in the nation’s capital. “Hard-fought elections force us to dig deep. They make us be accountable to you.”
Bowser was elected to the DC Council in 2007 to take over the Ward 4 after her mentor, Adrian Fenty, was elected mayor. Seven years later, Fenty was nowhere in sight at the Howard Theatre, but the trademark green signs and apparel Fenty introduced in his campaigns filled the dance floor. A deejay’s soundtrack flipped from Top 40 hits to go-go classics like Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” when it became apparent Bowser would soon be declared the winner.
Catania’s concession speech played on a video screen above the stage, although it was muted about halfway through when the deejay cued up Matthew McConaughey’s chant from the opening scenes of the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street.
“My last request to you is to take that spirit of not giving up and use it to support our new mayor,” Catania said, according to DCist. Bowser’s own acknowledgment of Catania elicited chants of the 1969 Steam classic “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good Bye” from the Howard Theatre crowd.
The election brings an end to Catania’s run as one of the Council’s four at-large members. He was elected in 1998 as a Republican, but abandoned the GOP in 2004. In running for mayor, he sought to become DC’s first white, openly gay, and non-Democratic executive.
Former Council member Carol Schwartz, another Republican-turned-independent who entered the race in June, finished with about seven percent of the vote.
Bowser clinched the Democratic nomination April 1 when she knocked off incumbent Mayor Vince Gray in a sparsely attended primary. Padded by 25,000 early votes, general election turnout was surprisingly high for a non-presidential year, with factors like unseasonably warm weather and a successful ballot initiative to legalize marijuana encouraging people to come to the polls.
“We believe in a level playing field for women, for African-Americans, for Latinos,” Bowser said in a ten-minute victory speech. “The outcome of this election is an affirmation that the status quo is not good enough for DC. We are Washington, DC and we expect more.”
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.