- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In his campaign kickoff speech on Saturday, Vincent C. Gray offered an apology for the “great pain” caused by his 2010 mayoral run, which remains under federal investigation because of “shadow campaign” activities.

Whether the apology was meant to appease his own conscious, to satisfy a legal stipulation or to establish a buffer zone for himself in the crowded Democratic primary field is essentially irrelevant.

The politician to watch this election season is not on the April 1 ballot, and the voters to watch won’t be casting ballots on April 1.

Who’s the politician?

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, who is considering a run for mayor, holds a policymaking hand of true-blue progressive cards.

Unlike them, however, Mr. Catania is an independent, which means he is a wild card, a playmaker who is beholden to neither the right nor the left.

He has played that card successfully since 1997, when he won his first citywide seat as a Republican, and again in 2004, when he shunted the party because of its stand on traditional marriage, and he’s won both re-elections since.

Mr. Catania, one of two openly gay D.C. lawmakers, is the darling of the gay community and the sweetheart of the city’s independents.

That will bode demonstrably well for him, as independents won’t get to have their say for mayor until fall.

Interestingly enough, some of the Democrats on the April ballot aren’t even trying to woo the indie bloc of voters, but they certainly should.

In August 2010, when Mr. Gray first sought the mayor’s seat, independents were 16.45 percent of registered voters and numbered 73,178.

What a difference three years have made.

The percentage of no-party registrants barely creeped upward by August 2013, according to the most recent stats on the city’s website dcboee.org, from 16.45 percent to 16.98. But 5,500 more registered voters labeled themselves as independent.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a Democrat seeking re-election, seemed nonplussed about the growing influence of the indie voting bloc.

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