WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — D.C. Councilmember David Catania is the latest local official to signal his intention to run for mayor.

Catania filed paperwork Wednesday to form an exploratory committee for a mayoral bid. That means he can start raising money.

Catania is an independent, which means he would face the Democratic primary winner in the general election. Mayor Vincent Gray is seeking re-election, and four councilmembers are running against him in the April 1 primary.

A bid by Catania would set up an unusually competitive general election in the nation’s capital, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 11-to-1. The Democratic mayoral nominee has easily won every general election since District of Columbia self-rule began 40 years ago.

Former councilmember Sharon Ambrose is chairing the committee and says Catania is “very likely” to run.

Ambrose says Catania understands how an influx of young parents has changed the city and that education is the key issue in the election. Catania chairs the council’s education committee and has pushed legislation aimed at reducing inequities for poor students.

Catania, 45, took office as an at-large councilmember in 1997 and has been elected citywide five times. A former Republican, he became an independent in 2004 to protest the party’s stance on social issues, including then-president George W. Bush’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is legal in the district thanks to a bill sponsored by Catania, who is one of two openly gay councilmembers.

If elected, Catania would become the first white mayor in the history of district self-rule. Two other councilmembers running for mayor are white.

Catania chairs the council’s education committee and has pushed legislation aimed at reducing inequities for poor students. He criticized Gray’s leadership on education, saying the city is moving too slowly to address critical shortcomings in its public and charter schools. The mayor controls the school system, a change pushed through by Gray’s predecessor, Adrian Fenty.

“I’m somewhat uninspired by the people who are in the race,” Catania said. “I think that I have a demonstrated track record of hard work and producing solutions, and these skills I believe will serve us well as we tackle the biggest challenge that we confront, which is producing a world-class public education system.”

Catania is known as an aggressive, sharp-tongued legislator. He has also criticized Gray over the crimes committed by several close associates during the mayor’s 2010 campaign. Four people who worked on that campaign have pleaded guilty to felonies, and the federal investigation is ongoing. The mayor insists he did nothing wrong, and he has not been accused of a crime.

The exploratory committee allows Catania to start raising money. Former councilmember Sharon Ambrose, who is chairing the committee, said Catania would have no difficulty raising enough funds to compete.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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