Loose Lips

Spoiler Alert: Carol Schwartz Makes a Fifth Go at the Mayoralty


Have you stocked up JNCO jeans and v-chips? If not, LL says get on it, because the ’90s are back in a big way in District politics.

How else to take the mayoral announcement from ex-Councilmember Carol Schwartz? Schwartz unveiled her bid in an email to reporters Monday, breaking news that was so surprising that LL had to call her to make sure it wasn’t a hoax.

“This will make it a little more interesting for you, right?” says Schwartz, proving that the 2008 ouster from the D.C. Council that cost Schwartz her place in public life didn’t harm her talent for self-promotion.

There are lots of reasons for Schwartz to stay out of the race: She’s an ex-Republican giving up a comfy retirement to run a late-starting campaign in a city filled with new residents who have never heard of her. But then, there’s one big reason to run: She has the chance to screw over mayoral rival, fellow ex-Republican, and Schwartz bête noire David Catania.

Of course, that’s not the story Schwartz is telling. In a dense press release that suggests Schwartz has had a lot of time on her hands lately, she lays out how seeing a “void” in the city’s leadership made her decide to run against Catania and the Democratic nominee, Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser.

Soon enough, Schwartz thought, she had figured out the perfect mayoral candidate: herself.

“People would call, say, ‘Carol we need you,’” Schwartz says. “‘Come back. Run for mayor.’”

Indeed, Schwartz, like her more electorally successful erstwhile rival Marion Barry, is one of those Home Rule–era politicians who’s found a way to stick around after all these years. After winning a seat on the now-defunct school board, then-Republican Schwartz vaulted onto the Council in 1984, into one of the at-large seats reserved for non-Democrats.

On the Council, Schwartz positioned herself as a common-sense Republican, pushing tax holidays and gay rights while opposing government waste and congressional Republicans’ attempts to interfere with the District’s gun laws. Schwartz’s position outside the critical Democratic primary process gave her the apparently irresistible option to launch general election campaigns aimed at collecting voters opposed to Barry and then-Mayor Anthony Williams.

All those mayoral bids—this will be her fifth—gave Schwartz the name recognition that a councilmember out of office for six years wouldn’t usually have. In her 1994 race against Barry, Schwartz’s profile was so good that her campaign went the Cher route and put just “CAROL” on her signs.

Indeed, Schwartz has run for mayor so often that her press release/manifesto includes paragraphs of emotional grappling with being called a “perennial candidate."

“My desire to be mayor, that’s not new news,” Schwartz says.

Also not a secret: Schwartz’s long-running feud with Catania. Despite being that rarest of creatures in the Wilson Building—Republicans—Schwartz and Catania didn’t find friendship in their solitude. As early as 1999, Schwartz complained to this very paper that she wanted her trash-talking counterpart to “chill out a little” on the dais.

“Her and Catania didn’t see eye-to-eye on much,” says Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans. “They were not friends.”

Schwartz sees it differently.

“Just put it this way,” Schwartz says. “I didn’t like his earmarks, and he didn’t like my sick leave [legislation]. And that’s when our friendship ended.”

Schwartz likely could still be donating Council paychecks to charity—her usual practice while in office—if she hadn’t pushed in 2007 and 2008 to require District employers to offer paid sick leave to workers. The business owners who had helped keep her in office turned on her, instead supporting upstart Pat Mara in a primary bid to beat Schwartz. (Unhappy Republicans aside, Schwartz would ultimately turn out to be on the winning side of that issue—Mayor Vince Gray signed a bill expanding it even further last January.)

While Catania had left the GOP in 2004 over the party’s opposition to gay marriage, that didn’t mean he was entirely done with Republican in-fighting. Catania staffers planted signs for Mara and partied at his primary victory party over Schwartz. During the race, Schwartz implied to reporters that Catania had an even bigger hand in Mara’s challenge.

Undeterred, Catania openly raised money for Mara after Schwartz launched an unsuccessful general election write-in campaign. (In the end, neither of them won; now-ex-Councilmember Michael Brown, who ditched his Democratic party registration to run, did.)

Running for mayor now gives Schwartz a chance to do Catania like he once did her. An unlikely confluence of events has put Catania closer to the mayor’s office than a cranky, openly gay, ex-Republican in D.C. has any right to expect to be. There’s the federal investigation into Gray, the U.S. Attorney’s kneecapping of other councilmembers with mayoral aspirations over the last few years, and Catania’s current perch atop the voter-friendly Council education committee. By offering another choice for independents, Republicans, and Democratic voters who didn’t back Bowser in the primary, Schwartz can throw all those stars out of alignment.

The bad blood isn’t lost on Catania campaign manager Ben Young, who’s playing the Alex Jones role in this election conspiracy theory. Young accuses Bowser, who endorsed Schwartz in her failed re-election six years ago, of getting Schwartz to help split Catania’s base.

“Is that a serious question?” Bowser says when LL runs that one by her.

But Young says there’s a historical precedent for mayoral stalking horses in Sulaimon Brown, the longshot 2010 candidate who praised Gray in debates, then took illicit kickbacks from his campaign on the side.“They’re trying to reduce the mayoral election to a joke by bringing out Sulaimon Schwartz,” Young says.

For now, Schwartz isn’t talking about either of her rivals.

“There’ll be plenty of time where we’ll speak to each other,” Schwartz says.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • ted loza

    Jim slattery....former Carol scheduler, now Muriel's....hmmmm.....

  • Bac

    "The 90s are back in a big way"

    Far be it from me to get in the way of a CP all-attitudinal moment, but um, Carol Schwartz left in 2008, as you note.

    Writing and reporting well are hard, I know.

  • Thunder

    Why are you assuming that Carol Schwartz will only effect Cantania's vote? I know that most of the media is white male reporters in this town, but do you have to accept Cantania's press releases as fact?

  • Wrack

    She's a 70-year-old, unapologetic chain smoker. Is she going to make it through a term?

  • SayWhat

    Carol Schwartz is going to mess David Catania's vote up, he already couldn't win, now he definitely will not win. This is really a democratic town and democrats will show up for Muriel even if they have issues with her.

  • Ward6Res

    Of course she is helping Muriel (and her buddy Kaya)! Pretty obvious... And don't you think was Evans trying to help his friend Gray in the primary (a lot of money wasted on those signs, Jacky-boy)?

  • Really?

    That's soooo David! Comparing Carol to Silly Sulaimon is a slap in the face.

    David et al are show casing what many people see as his biggest problem...his ego! In politics you have no permanent friend or permanent enemies just permanent interest. He's nasty, mean and vindictive. As much as I have an issue with Murial I believe that at the very least she would listen and try to find a solution. We have a divided city...not just black and white but along the economics level too and I think Carol would do well to balance these competing interest.

  • Bob


    This Democrat (who by the way, has repeatedly raised funds for Democrats in national elections) is showing up for Catania. I know lots of Democrats who plan to do the same. I voted for Schwartz when she ran against Barry back in the day, but she's a has-been now and hasn't even stayed involved in DC policy or politics. We don't need an airbrushed, anodyne version of DC's traditional political culture as mayor, and that is exactly what Bowser is. Catania offers a proven record, a chance from the past, a chance to break one party's perpetual patronage lock on the District building and thoughtful ideas for the future.

  • Bob

    That's "Catania offers a change from the past...."

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  • Oz

    Linda Cropp

  • OG in DC


    Catania offers an opportunity for a whole new patronage system to lock in. It's not really change, it's just a different set of hands in the till.

  • maktoo

    As a former Marylander, I have a deep fondness for spite votes.

    This candidacy - and her "liberal Republican" stance - sounds more attractive the more I read. And I'm not Republican...but Bowser seems to just blow through events assuming everyone will support her. I perturbed by her lack of effort.

  • maktoo

    that should read "I AM perturbed"....as usual. ; )

  • Andrea Rosen

    I'm a Democrat who planned to vote for Catania until Carol announced. I remember her well, as I've lived here since 1985. What makes a candidate a "has-been," callow young man? That five years ago she had the courage to fight for a ground-breaking bill (D.C.'s mandated paid sick AND SAFE leave law was the first in the nation) that cost her her seat? A bill that was further vindicated just weeks ago by its extension to tipped employees (the sacrificial lambs of 2008)? That she's a woman who dares to run for office at an age when, according to males, airbrushing is required to make her presentable? Democrats and independents who spurn Ms. Bowser ("proud, very proud" to have earned the $$$$$ showered on her by corporate donors, big and small, far and wide) should line up behind one candidate, and in my view--at this point, anyway--that candidate is the former Republican with the hard-earned name recognition: Carol.

  • Sebastian Townview

    I seem to recall that Carol Schwartz quit smoking several years ago.

    While I still do not know how I will vote, at least Carol is a known entity. And she gets major props for pushing through paid sick & safe leave in 2008; even though she knew it might cost her a Council seat, she did the right thing anyway. THAT is refreshing.

  • E. Masquinongy

    "This will make it a little more interesting for you, right?"

    Ms. Schwartz got that correct, Mr. Sommer. So without offering any proof of her motivations, you portray her as a willful spoiler. But she gets exposure that money can't buy.

    You've been played, Mr. Simmer. My admiration for Carol just went up two notches.

  • DCShadyBoots

    Schwartz needs to go back to Texas where she's been all these years.

  • DCShadyBoots
  • SayWhat

    Bob, Bowser is going to clean David's clock, no disrespect intended Sir, please don't take it personally, because when it is all said and done, we will still have each other. Don't ever get that twisted!

  • Businessasusual

    Fuck 'em all, goddamn one party state.

    Government for of and by the government.

  • businessasusual2


    The Arrogant City Council, Part I
    Dorothy Brizill, dorothy@dcwatch.com

    notice of the plans to hold a roundtable were filed by the Government Operations Committee with the Secretary of the council on Monday, and notice of the Thursday roundtable was posted on the council web site on Wednesday — is shockingly rushed and confirms my belief that there was a deliberate effort to conceal these two important nominations and discourage public participation in their consideration. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if you keep the record open after the hearing for the submission of written testimony. The die is cast when citizens are denied the ability under council rules to participate in a confirmation hearing simply by not giving the public adequate advance notice of the hearing.”

  • cruzrwgt

    Who is licking her ears? Is her best friend bored with his job and wants to play paid political advisor again?

  • tntdc

    The story neglects to say whether Mara or Schwartz won the primary. Bad writing.

  • Will Sommer


    "the 2008 ouster from the D.C. Council that cost Schwartz her place in public life"

    Catania staffers planted signs for Mara and partied at his primary victory party over Schwartz"

    "Schwartz launched an unsuccessful general election write-in campaign."

  • G

    I thought Schwartz was dead, she has attempted to win the mayors race in the district fora while now. Give it up Carol.

  • Nortwesterneer

    What makes a candidate a "has-been," callow young man?
    While I get the point you were trying to make, Politicians absolutely have a 10 year life-span on new ideas. That's why John McCain could never have won in 2008- his "time" was 10 years earlier when he was prepping for the 2000 election.

    Carol Schwartz's "time" was no more than 1986-96 or so, after that she was either out of new ideas or people believed her to be out of new ideas, which is the same thing when talking about votes.

    Voters normally vote for new energy and new ideas, its how politics work. Ask a politician.

  • Rich Peterson

    Carol is Back!

    Yes, we know her and Carol goes by, "Carol." In the biz, we call that, "Name Equity." And, it certainly helps with campaigns. Even if the contender has been running for well over one year, "Name Equity is Everything."

    Unless of course, you're one of the 75,000+ thirty-something's or younger who just came into the city.

    The corrupt practices of DC politics must come to an end.

    And, look at Carol's record of over 40 years. Not one scandal or hint of malfeasance has ever been associated with her campaigning, fundraising, governance and good standing in the city.

    Naysayers, gotta get her on something else. Why not go after the "Costume Jewelry." Blame her for making a "Fashion Statement." It has always served her and every other female well.

    There is a reason why Statehood has always been at issue. Look at the behavior of our citizens on these posts. Carol has always been on the front end of this fight and when Carol was a Republican running for Mayor in 2002, Carol may have just had a shot with our former leader, President George Bush. We blew it on that one.
    If there were hurt feelings over Catania's support of Patrick Mara in lieu of Carol, during her re-election in the Republican primary in 2008, they certainly do not exist today.

    Five years later in a very happy and successful retirement erases any signs of anger. Just look at anyone of us. Is it human nature to hold onto such negativity?
    As, Paul Simon says, "Time Heals All Wounds." Let's move off of the Catania sentiment. Frankly, I have always liked Catania and he has city support. Just now, he has some healthy competition.

    As for upcoming debates, Schwartz and Catania are exceptional debaters. Bowser needs work. A lot.
    Carol will show up and speak, unlike Mayor gray did in the last election. Carol doesn't doge debates or forums. She soars in them.

    Carol and Catania (Nice to ring to that "Term of Art,") will "Battle" each other well. Both are well spoken and coherent.

    Bowser's performance is weak. And, Over three years ago, I was certain this seat was hers. And, it was confirmed when Gray jumped in. All the other candidates had their own baggage and no chance of success.

    Then, Enter Catania? And, now Carol. Will Vincent Gray try a write-in as an Independent. In this town, one never knows.

    Carol will create a buzz, good will and likeability.

    That's all you need in a campaign.

    Carol has the instinctive and ingrained gift to "Own Any Room" Carol enters. Carol has a rowdy laugh and charm that brings an audience to their feet. Her deliberate and focused discussion empowers voters to rise to the occasion.

    Let's cut to the chase on all of this nonsense regarding why Carol is returning to DC politics.

    Most of you here consider yourselves, "Politicos." In the event you are in your element, then you clearly know there are dozens of reasons "Not to Enter a Political Crusade Four Months Before Showtime."

    Let's look at the extraordinary amount of work that goes into campaigning.


    Political Forums (Debates)

    Campaign activities (walking neighborhoods, shaking hands, kissing babies, speeches, etc)

    Public Events (Adams Morgan Day, Pride Day, Passports DC, July 4 Parades, Halloween/Oktoberfest/Pumpkin Festivals, DC Drag Queen High Heel Race, National Hispanic Day, Barbecue Battle, DC Fashion Week, Latino Festival, etc. I haven't even begun to reference all the events that will put a candidate's scheduler into panic mode.

    Grassroots organizing: Recruiting campaign captains in every ward. They will run many campaigns in that voting district to distribute literature, making phone calls, defending Carol against criticism, encouraging neighbors and friends to support Carol, etc.

    Developing and Securing Endorsements. Developing a list of prominent people and organizations who will endorse and encourage their constituents to support Carol and work for her election effort.

    Developing a Communications Program. Executing a communications plan for earned media, paid media, and to direct voter contact with a campaign website, social media, brochures, press kits, press releases, email newsletters, white papers etc. And, most importantly, securing every email address for every district voter. And, then communicating with them frequently.

    Developing and Distributing Press Releases, Whitepapers, and Position Papers. Detailing the issues that are most important to Carol. How Carol will solve the problems that exist for District residents. Executing talking points about the issues and philosophy of how Carol will govern. This includes opposition research.

    Oh yeah, I forgot. Carol is allegedly a Rehoboth Beach Buff. You can rest assured Carol will not make that commute for the next four months even with the multitude of district residents summering there, Carol needs to reach hundreds of thousands of people. They are not having Happy Hour at the Blue Moon.

    As for fundraising, some of you think Carol is going to fund her campaign with savings. Do you really believe Carol has that kind of money sitting in her "nest egg?"

    If so, then turn in your "Politico Game Card." Muriel Bowser currently has well over $700,000 cash on hand remaining for the general election. And she already spent $1.5 million launching her campaign. And as we all know, the big money will come in over the next four months. Do the math! Do you really think Carol Schwartz has that kind of money laying around?

    Okay, maybe one or two of you "politicos" did put the most logical "burden" for Carol to put together. Carol has to "create and install" a Campaign Team. Theme. Organization. And, more.

    Piece of cake, right?

    Suffice it to say, over the next four plus months, there will be 24/7 work on the campaign. If she wins, she will need quite the vacation before she begins office, when Carol should be assembling her government. If she loses, she will embrace yet another Take II Retirement.

    And, for all of you who insist on calling Carol a, "Has-Been," let's put the right face on it. A "Has-Been" is someone who is no longer popular or successful. No would deny that Carol is quite popular and her activities, especially in public service (Volunteerism) is quite successful.

    One could say, Carol is a, "Once-Was."

    Carol "Once-Was" a Very Successful and Popular Elected Official.

    Carol believes in herself and her abilities, as evidenced with Carol's campaigns against Marion Barry and Tony Williams. Why would she go up and against Bowser and Catania with all of these disadvantages in assembling her campaign on such short notice, if she didn't think, she had a chance in hell?

    Switching Carol's registration from Republican to Independent will only support and soar her candidacy. Look at all those hundreds of thousands of voters she came into contact with Carol over her 28 years of elected office. Would a "Democratic Label" have supported Carol's efforts? Sure, then she wouldn't have created, "Democrats for Carol," giving voters permission to cross party lines. And the results of Carol's two most recent Mayoral runs proved it work. Now, there is no more, "Sell Job." How so many "Dyed-in-the-Wool" Democrats had begged Carol to do so earlier.

    “Perennial Mayoral Candidate?” Only, Carol! Only Carol has the innate skill to turn any negative into a positive. Carol addressed it in her announcement: "The dictionary defines "perennial" as constant, lasting, unfailing, unchanging, abiding, enduring." Yep, that adequately and beautifully characterizes who Carol is and what she does. She's right, "These are actually some of the qualities DC Voters should look for in a Mayor.

    Oh, and Carol has a full understanding of the issues.

    Google Carol's record.

    Read Carol's announcement to enter the race this week.

    From her successful elected runs on the School Board and voted into leadership positions, she brought back standardized tests and saw scores rise. Carol participated in firing an inadequate superintendent to make way for two very successful ones. Carol championed Banneker Academic High School. Carol instituted back to basic curriculum. Carol advocated for a longer school day and year as well as stronger evaluations of teachers. And, at the time, Carol's first child out of three was born circa 40+ years ago, Carol and her late husband were on their way to become people of means. Carol chose to enroll all three of her children in DC Public Schools. Pre K through Grade 12. No private schools for Carol. Not, that she didn't see the value for District residents to take that path, but she was putting her focus on building a system all residents could be proud of. That's Carol.

    Let's Look at a Few of Carol's Many Accomplishments:

    In Carol's earlier years on the Council, Carol lowered the income tax from 11% to 9.5%. Carol fought for seniors to remain in their homes by allowing them to defer rising property taxes until they decided to sell.

    Carol lowered D.C.’s inheritance tax (the highest in the country at the time) to match the federal level.

    Carol created two annual tax free holidays for back-to school and holiday purchases.

    In addition to embracing the "Comeback" of our city, in which she played a major part, Carol is most concerned about the district residents who are being left behind or pushed out. Carol has always concentrated on the disenfranchised and the welfare of all city residents. Not, just the 1%, of which she is not member.

    Carol was the sole voice on the council to stop the earmarks and naturally, was unsuccessful. The earmarks continued and prospered. The corruption on the council needed to stay alive and well.

    However, Carol was successful in stopping members of the Council from raising the amounts collected for their Constituent Service Funds, knowing they were plum for harm. When Carol left office, her voice was diminished and the Council proceeded with unanimously doubling the amount of funds they could raise each year. The earmarks got even bigger in number and amounts. And, the corruption continued. That's right. Maybe, Carol was just "Too Ethical" for the job?

    Carol banned the DC government purchase of SUV's except for emergency use; which certainly wasn't in play when D.C. Council chairman, Kwame R. Brown was elected and he ordered a "fully loaded" Lincoln Navigator L with a DVD entertainment system, power moon roof and polished aluminum wheels. Alas, the corruption continued.

    And the Corruption Still Continues. Carol's name, history or legacy cannot be remotely associated with any of it. Carol has always been squeaky clean in her campaigning, not one allegation against her and with her governance, not one censure or reprimand. Carol always saw the council as an institution of principal. Her integrity is beyond reproach. You cannot find them cleaner than Carol.

    Carol Is Corrupt Free.

    And, that is one "Factoid" we can all agree on.

    Was Carol ever ahead of her time? Repeatedly!

    Specifically, 13 years ago, when she pressured Dan Snyder, Washington Redskins owner, to change the destructive name of our football team back in 2001, over a decade before President Obama and other prominent Washingtonians jumped in. Carol was successful in securing the resolution from the D.C. Council and the Council of Governments.

    Ahead of her time? Carol prohibited the harassment of students based on sexual orientation. This was long before The Supremes ruling on Gay Marriage last year and all the national dialogue on bullying.

    And, Carol enacted the strongest Whistleblower Protection Law in the country which was replicated by the federal government. Not too shabby. And, again, "Ahead of her time."

    I remember past campaign mantras where Carol wanted to kill the "15 minute Quarters" on the meters, which are now, "75 Cents" or more for 15 minutes. Carol removed most parking meter fees on weekends and evenings and loosened parking rules for residents overnight.

    And for us Nats fans, Carol voted for baseball after ensuring that the District got the best deal possible from Major League Baseball. It's a shame Carol's not managing or coaching the team to help them reach for higher heights.

    Carol may have ultimately lost in 2008 on her ground-breaking D.C. mandated paid sick and safe leave bill, but it was the first of its kind in the nation (Again, ahead of her time) and that is a very good way to go out.

    So, after reading this diatribe, what are you expected to do?

    Sign Carol's petition as Carol needs 3,000 signatures and jump on her campaign and bring her to victory.

    Rich Peterson
    A Loyal Supporter, Follower and Voter During Her Years of Service.

  • Beentheredonethat

    The problem with Carol is that her campaigns are filled with drama and internal discord. She hires professional people but then has her kids really running the show, sometimes to the detriment of the campaign. 1998 a good example.

  • DCLukas

    I wonder if anyone has looked at the outstanding debt Schwartz had to now former Bowser advisor Tom Lindenfeld?

  • Will_Sommer

    I have. As of now, there doesn't seem to be anything there. Schwartz paid the money directly to Lindenfeld from her personal checking account and wrote it down as a loan from herself to her campaign. Surprisingly, OCF says this is legal. Now that the debt is paid, it looks like the only remaining loan is from the campaign to Schwartz...and it doesn't look like she has plans to collect.

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