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Known for his prosecutorial style and his quick temper, Mr. Catania previously oversaw the D.C. Council’s health committee and was a staunch advocate for keeping open United Medical Center, the only hospital east of the Anacostia River. His support fueled a high-profile spat with the city’s then-chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi.

But after appointment last year to oversee the D.C. Council Committee on Education, Mr. Catania has made education reform one of his top priorities.

“It is the difference between whether or not we will at long last end the income inequality and divisions in this city,” he said.