When the screen over the Howard Theatre’s stage filled with the face of defeated D.C. mayoral candidate David Catania, Joe Bowser used his cane to lift himself out of his chair. Joan Bowser turned to her 79-year-old husband and straightened his bow tie, smoothed his cardigan. This was it. The moment their youngest daughter, Muriel, 42, was being anointed mayor of the nation’s capital — the Bowsers’ home town.
In a way, this campaign began in 1975, when longtime Ward 5 activist Joe Bowser became one of the city’s first Advisory Neighborhood Commission members and his daughter followed him to countless community meetings in Northeast D.C. Muriel’s older sister even had a nickname for her: JB Jr. Over the decades, the Bowsers have knocked on thousands of doors, walked hundreds of miles in their chunky campaign shoes, and listened to countless complaints about graffiti, abandoned cars, dysfunctional schools, dilapidated playgrounds, crime-plagued corners. They are old-school Washington.
So when it looked like Catania was about to concede, Muriel Bowser’s parents took to their feet. Then boos filled the room as Catania began talking. Joan Bowser, 76, waved her hand to tamp them down. It was the kind of motherly gesture — probably accompanied by a look — that helped her raise five children in a modest rowhouse, that halted bickering and booing.