Mother's Struggles Helped Shape David Catania's Politics

Seeing the softer side of D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate David Catania is rare -- he's better known for a sometimes fierce temper – but in an extraordinary conversation Monday night, he revealed the domestic abuse his mother suffered at the hands of her first husband.

The D.C. Council’s Education Committee chairman, Catania is making education reforms the center of his campaign for mayor. He got that focus from his school-dropout mother in Kansas.

“I think she was very mindful of what she did not have, and so education was the be-all and end-all in our house,” Catania said.

Monday night at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill, Catania said his mother’s first husband used police dogs to make her cower in fear.

“She was married to a man, not my father, who was abusive,” Catania said.

He revealed details of the abuse.

“And when he would leave, he'd let the police dogs loose and so she really was constructively a captive of the house,” he said. “She couldn't leave.”

It was even worse than that before his mother, who gave birth to Catania later, got out of the relationship, he said Tuesday. The dogs were used to force her to cower and keep her in particular rooms.

“So it wasn't simply isolation,” he said. “It was that these dogs were used to intimidate her.”

Catania's mother died in 1990 of cancer. Her struggles helped shape his politics today, he said.

“Often, you know in politics, you only see the individual for the work they're doing today,” Catania said. “And my work with respect to domestic violence, the work I did many years ago to extend unemployment benefits to women who are victims of domestic violence, for instance, and the care and attention I've taken to health care, and women's issues in particular, all informed by my mother.”

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