David Catania slams Muriel Bowser with puppets

David Catania slams Muriel Bowser with puppets

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, September 24

Updated 1:40 p.m. with comment from Bowser campaign

Mayoral candidate David A. Catania’s latest Web video is a campaign ad that might have warmed Jim Henson’s heart.


The minute-long clip posted on YouTube and e-mailed to Catania supporters Wednesday uses hand puppets to lampoon Democratic rival Muriel Bowser. To be precise, a mustachioed green tape recorder wearing a top hat says he’s “out here on the street today to find out why people might support Muriel Bowser.”

Among the reasons: “Avoiding the tough issues is probably the best way to solve them”; “Muriel isn’t afraid to speak out, even when she doesn’t quite understand an issue”; and “I love business as usual in city hall, it’s that simple.”

The tagline: “Don’t be a puppet. Vote independent this November.”

Catania campaign manager Ben Young said he did not personally make the puppets for the ad. The ad was conceived and executed by the campaign’s digital media consultant, Arun Chaudhary of Revolution Messaging.

Regardless of why people might be supporting Bowser, a recent NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll showed that a solid plurality do.

Said Joaquin McPeek, a spokesman for Bowser, “The only thing more comical than his puppets is his internal polling.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.


Update from DISB: New Consumer Financial Resources Guide


DISB Consumer Financial Resources Guide

We are pleased to share with you the “DISB Consumer Financial Resources Guide” from the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

The “DISB Consumer Financial Resources Guide” highlights financial services and insurance programs and resources available from our department and through the Government of the District of Columbia. The guide answers many frequently asked questions that our department receives from the public on a daily basis.

The guide covers a range of topics from individual and business insurance, investments, access to capital, financial fraud, personal finance and more. We produced it to help connect residents with the financial and insurance resources available to them.

We hope you find the “DISB Consumer Financial Resources Guide” useful. To download a copy, follow disb.communications.

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New DISB Online Public Access to Insurance Filings

Update from the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB)

New poll gives Bowser double-digit lead but reveals that vulnerabilities remain

D.C. Politics

New poll gives Bowser double-digit lead but reveals that vulnerabilities remain

D.C. mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz. (The Washington Post)

By Mike DeBonis and Scott Clement, Washington Post, September 17 at 7:33 PM

Democratic nominee Muriel E. Bowser has emerged from a contentious summer on the campaign trail with a hefty advantage in the race for D.C. mayor, holding a double-digit lead over two independent rivals, according to a new NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll.

Bowser has the support of 43 percent of likely voters, with fellow D.C. Council member David A. Catania following with 26 percent and former lawmaker Carol Schwartz with 16 percent.

The poll follows weeks of speculation about whether this year’s contest is on track to become the most competitive general election for mayor in the District’s 40-year electoral history. And it does not entirely answer the question: Although Bowser’s lead gives her a comfortable edge in the three-way contest, the poll revealed several weaknesses for her — and opportunities for her opponents.

The survey includes evidence of some voter doubt about Bowser’s readiness to assume the mayoralty and her vision for the city. But likely voters rate her more personable and a more effective leader than her opponents, and she leads on two issues poll respondents say they are most concerned about — the economy and education.

The dominance of Democratic voters, who make up the vast majority of the D.C. electorate, continues to weigh in Bowser’s favor. Her rivals have tried to chip away at the advantage, with Catania circulating “Democrats for David” yard signs, but Bowser has retained the loyalties of about half of Democratic voters — including nearly half of those who supported incumbent Vincent C. Gray in the primary — while independents are evenly split among the three candidates.

View Graphic

Muriel Bowser leads D.C. mayor’s race, poll finds.

Willis Thomas Jr., a 49-year-old fire department captain and Democrat who lives in Brightwood, said his vote is Bowser’s to lose. “I don’t just vote for Democrats; I have to hear from every side,” he said. “But . . . the chance of me voting Democratic is high unless they mess things up based on what they do in their campaign.”

Thomas said he was impressed by the background of Bowser, the only candidate born and raised in the District. “I think she cares about what’s going on, about the people in the city,” he said. “She kind of had a middle-class background. I think she understands a lot of that. Can she do the things that need to be done to fix the problems? Who knows?”

Opportunity for opponents

The poll casts doubt on the prospect that a surge in independent or Republican voters could help Catania or Schwartz overtake Bowser in a city in which three in four voters are registered Democrats. Non-Democrats account for only 23 percent of likely voters identified in the survey.

Yet the poll found room for either Catania or Schwartz to steal a significant share of Democratic support from Bowser. About one in four Democratic likely voters currently support Catania, and two in three Democrats say they would “somewhat seriously” consider voting for a non-Democrat.

Bowser, who represents Ward 4 on the council, earns the support of less than two-thirds of the primary voters who backed her five months ago when she defeated Gray. Since a Washington Post poll in March asked voters about a Bowser-Catania matchup, she has weaker support across the city, especially among registered Democrats, white voters, younger voters and women.

Voters think that Catania, an at-large council member since 1997, has about as much experience and as compelling a vision for the city as Bowser. But Catania has not capitalized on Bowser’s weaknesses.

Since the Post’s March poll, which took place a month after he entered the race, Catania’s share of the electorate has barely budged. He has no advantage among independents, and crucially, he has not staked a claim on the issue of education — which he has made the cornerstone of his campaign. He trails Bowser, 40 percent to 30 percent, among likely voters who say education is the most important issue in the race. Fourteen percent of those voters favor Schwartz, who has also highlighted her education platform.

View Graphic

A look at the key candidates’ views on some of the most pressing issues facing Washington.

Additionally, Catania’s reputation for a confrontational style appeared to register in the poll, with just 19 percent of likely voters saying that Catania has the best temperament to be mayor. In contrast, 40 percent say Bowser has the best temperament, and 23 percent choose Schwartz.

John Whall, a 53-year-old health management executive who lives in the U Street area, said he has ruled out a vote for Catania based on personality concerns. “I have personal experience and anecdotal experience, and he’s not someone I want running the government in any shape or form,” he said. “Ultimately, your job is to make the process work. He gets an idea in his head or a notion in his head, and that’s it.”

Whall said he has some doubts about Bowser’s readiness, but he said, “She’ll hopefully muddle along and figure it out. I think she’s young, and I think she’s smart, and I think she’s been in the city.”

Renewed campaign efforts

The NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll was conducted Sept. 14 to 16 among a random sample of 1,249 D.C. adults reached on conventional and cellular phones. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points among the sample of 572 likely voters.

The survey was taken at a critical period in the long-percolating mayoral race. With fewer than 50 days until Election Day, the campaigns have started new efforts to make their pitches to voters.

Last week, Schwartz formally kicked off her campaign with a Freedom Plaza rally in which she made the case that she is best equipped to serve as a “bridge” between old and new residents. On Monday, Catania unveiled a lengthy platform, renewing his case that he has the most detailed and ambitious vision for the city. And on Wednesday morning, Bowser debuted radio ads on key African American-oriented stations, using her superior campaign bankroll to shore up support among her base of Democratic voters.

On Thursday evening, the three candidates will meet at American University for their first formal debate — one of four that Bowser has committed to — broadening the race beyond media interviews, voter mail and living room meet-and-greets to give voters a more intimate, side-by-side comparison.

Both Catania and Schwartz have an opportunity in the number of likely voters who don’t know them — 35 percent for him and 36 percent for her. Bowser, in contrast, is unknown by only 28 percent of likely voters.

Concerns that Schwartz could serve as a spoiler for Catania — aired after her surprise entry into the race in June — appear to be unfounded. The 16 percent of likely voters who support her are nearly evenly divided between Catania and Bowser when asked their second-choice candidate in the race.

Instead, the former four-term council member is drawing voters attracted to her unusual, even quirky, profile. “She is a social liberal but a fiscal conservative,” said Carrie Thomas, a 41-year-old financial manager living on Capitol Hill. “That’s me. . . . People can call it a wasted vote if they want, but I disagree. If only four people vote for her, that’s fine.”

Overall, Bowser earns the support of a majority of African American likely voters in the poll, as well as voters making less than $75,000 a year and those who did not complete college. Catania performs the strongest among white voters, with 41 percent of white likely voters supporting him. He and Bowser earn equal support among the more affluent and college-educated. Schwartz narrowly tops Catania among African American voters, only 11 percent of whom support his candidacy in the poll.

Rachel Weiner and Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.

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D.C. attorney general candidates say hello as first campaign starts taking shape

D.C. attorney general candidates say hello as first campaign starts taking shape

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, September 8 at 7:56 PM

The first campaign for District attorney general eased into motion Monday morning, with the five candidates taking turns introducing themselves to an influential crowd of lawyers, activists and media.

The event, sponsored by D.C. Vote, was in the Capitol Hill offices of a corporate law firm, Jones Day. But the five Democrats running — Lorie Masters, Karl Racine, Edward “Smitty” Smith, Lateefah Williams and Paul Zukerberg — each sought to highlight their commitment to serving residents through consumer protection litigation and by rooting out corruption in government.

Until now, District voters have been served by attorneys general appointed by the city’s mayors. A charter amendment approved by voters in 2010 converted the office to an elected position, and the D.C. Court of Appeals earlier this year turned back an attempt by the D.C. Council to delay the first election, which will be Nov. 4.

The attorney general’s duties include providing legal advice to city officials and defending the city in litigation. But much about the posture of the elected office will be determined by the first person to hold it. For more than two hours, each candidate took questions from Shelley Broderick, dean of the University of the District of Columbia’s law school, as well as audience members.

Masters, 59, said her background as a high-stakes litigator for insurance beneficiaries put her in good stead to represent the public interest. “Whether I’m representing individuals or companies, I’ve really been fighting for a consumer-oriented result in those cases,” she said, before highlighting her advocacy for D.C. voting rights and autonomy.

If elected, Masters said, she will focus on government transparency issues and greater “self-determination” for the city.

Racine, 51, spent much of his time describing his professional qualifications, including a stint as deputy White House counsel and as managing partner of the Venable firm.

He said he would focus on enforcing lightly enforced laws governing city contracting and affordable housing, and that matters of ethics and accountability would be a high priority. “They want D.C. politicians to be four times better than politicians from other states,” he said of city residents, referring to the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. “Can you imagine what would happen if our governor and our first lady . . . were convicted on more than two dozen criminal charges?”

Zukerberg, 56, a solo practitioner who waged the court battle that overturned the council’s delay, said he would help young people being ill-served by the criminal justice system. A proponent of marijuana decriminalization, Zukerberg said he would pursue a “restorative justice agenda” that would allow nonviolent criminals to have their records more easily expunged or sealed.

Zukerberg was also critical of previous attorneys general. “I have not seen someone in my 30 years in that office where I can tell you, ‘Gee, I love that person, and I love what that person did,” he said. “They are not representing the public interest.”

Williams, 37, said she would take a more community-based approach and focus on “vulnerable constituencies” — a tack inspired by her career in political and policy jobs rather than in law practice.

“My experience is diversified,” she said, referring to work for the union representing Metro workers and a long record of activism on gay and lesbian issues. “But my bread and butter has been in the community.”

Smith, 34, described going from a childhood in “one of the roughest areas of the city” to Brown University and Harvard Law School, then to President Obama’s campaign and a series of legal jobs in the federal government.

“I want to work on efficiency and helping people build their skill sets,” Smith said of his goals for the office. He also pledged to establish a task force on “autonomy issues” in the District. “My family has lived here since the 1940s; not once have we been able to vote for a voting representative in Congress,” he said. “For me, D.C. voting rights and autonomy are very personal issues.”

D.C.’s health exchange is still hampered by delays, glitches 11 months after launch

D.C.’s health exchange is still hampered by delays, glitches 11 months after launch

By Robert McCartney Columnist, Washington Post, September 3 at 7:22 PM

While Democratic partisans tout the latest conventional wisdom that Obamacare is finally going strong, the experience of many ordinary people who apply for it says otherwise.

The ongoing delays and irritation that consumers endure while navigating the District’s health insurance exchange offer a window into the reality on the street.

Local health insurance brokers, who have a front-row view of the obstacles, say the District’s exchange continues to suffer from technical bugs on the Web site and poor communication with insurance companies. They said it’s maddeningly difficult to fix problems once they arise.

“It’s been a tremendously frustrating and laborious experience,” said Steve Nearman, a broker and financial adviser, who has placed nearly 100 cases for clients on D.C. Health Link.

“I made excuses for them for the first three months, because it was unprecedented demand, but now we’re in September,” he said. “I just don’t know why things aren’t getting quicker.”

My column last week about a Harvard-educated lawyer who wasted months trying to get insurance via the District’s exchange triggered a spurt of detailed e-mails from others complaining of similar difficulties.

I don’t write this to bash the Affordable Care Act. Far from it.

Like the brokers and almost all who wrote me, I strongly support the health law and value its benefits. I ask merely that it function properly.

“There are good things about it, but it’s being ruined by poor execution, not only at the federal but now on the state level,” Robert Poli, president of the Insurance Marketing Center in Rockville, said.

The District was supposed to be a rare bright spot for the health law. Its Web site was one of only four that didn’t crash on opening day in October. The city has performed better than Maryland, which is replacing its site after notorious problems.

Still, my inbox suggests the District still has much to fix. Here’s a sampling of horror stories:

■ Catherine Shaw, a retiree who lives in Georgetown, applied for coverage July 2, but “some glitch” prevented her income information from entering the system. She reapplied last month, only to be stymied by a conflict with her first application. She applied a third time, but said she was told there is still is “no known date as to when this process would be completed.”

■ Amy Dara Hochberg, a yoga teacher in Northwest, said it required four months and “numerous phone calls” to get coverage in the spring. When insurance was finally activated, she was charged for all of April even though only five days remained in the month. She said the problems “cost me time without health care coverage when I needed it, energy that took me away from my work and life, and money lost on the April premium.”

■ Amy Muhlberg, a government relations consultant who lives near Eastern Market, had to buy expensive coverage under the federal COBRA plan for March after the District exchange improperly denied her application. She was the wrong person to rebuff. As a former staff member on a Senate committee that considered the ACA, Muhlberg knew precisely what it required. She took the case to an administrative law hearing before it was cleared up.

“What happened to me was annoying, but I had the resources to suck it up,” Muhlberg, who has a PhD in biochemistry, said. “What truly bothered me was that there were other people out there that this happened to who did not have the resources I had.”

What can be done? Poli, whose company works with about 300 brokers who have dealt with the District’s system, and Nearman offered some constructive suggestions.

First, continue to upgrade the exchange’s Web site. Far too much information goes astray, and it’s too difficult to make updates or fixes.

Second, do more to educate the exchange staff, insurance company personnel and the public about how the process works.

Third, shorten the delay between passing an application from the exchange to an insurance company, and sending the individual the bill to pay to complete the sign-up process.

There’s little time to spare. The volume of work is going to jump soon. A new open enrollment period begins in November, and the Web site starts handling companies’ group insurance plans in 2015.

“I don’t think D.C. is ready,” Poli said.