I Got Them “Down Ballot” Blues

So what’s been happening down-ballot while everyone has been focused on the Mayoral race? What’s going on with the races for the (in the words of the late, great, Bob Haggart) “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body?”

The race for the vestigial organ known as the Common Council President is already over. Van Robinson is the Democratic nominee–with no challenger. Van can now preside at meetings knowing he can’t vote or introduce legislation. He names committee chairs, but tradition dictates that incumbents name their preference. Your tax dollars at work.

The races for Councilor At Large are staggered, with two positions open every two years. The two incumbent Councilors not required to run are Kathleen Joy and Bill Ryan. The other two seats are both open races, since the current incumbents Van Robinson and Stephanie Miner are term limited and running for higher office.

There are three candidates for the two Councilor At Large positions. 5th district Councilor Lance Denno is seeking to step up after only one term and is joined by fellow Democrat Jean Kessner–a former news reporter for Channel 9, who currently works for AIDS Community Resources. The only Republican candidate is former executive director of La Liga (Spanish Action League) Fanny Villareal.

Unusual–three quality candidates, thoughtful and committed. I think the two Democrats will win, just because of the registration gap (3-1 in favor of the D’s.) Also, Villareal, who might be expected to run strongly in the Latino community, comes out of the dysfunctional power struggles that go on within la Liga. Her Latino support may not be as strong as you may think.

All 5 District Council seats are up–with incumbent Pat Hogan in the 2nd District guaranteed victory with no challenger. Incumbent, and sole Republican, Ryan McMahon in the 3rd District faces Democratic opponent Dorothy Matthews whose claim to fame is resigning from the school board after being forced to reimburse the school district $1,900 for flying to San Diego for a conference and never actually registering or going to any workshops. Easy win there for McMahon (who must be laughing his ass off at the quality of opponent.)

The Republican Party, desperate to find candidates in the overwhelmingly Democratic city, are trying to replicate the success that former city party chair Bob Gardino had with current Councilor Ryan McMahon. Gardino steered a just-graduated-from-LeMoyne McMahon around the neighborhood watch meetings, Council committee hearings etc. and ran a credible, but losing first campaign. He has gone on to serve two solid terms.

Two young Republicans, one still in college, are taking one for the team in hopes of building for the future. I don’t see the personal investment of time in these candidates that Gardino spent on McMahon, however. In the open race to succeed Lance Denno in the 5th district, Tristan Daedalus is taking on former Common Councilor Nader Maroun. Daedalus is still in college and is largely unknown–even after announcing his candidacy. Maroun hasn’t been in office in 20 years, so he is knocking on a lot of doors personally to re-introduce himself. (Including mine–and I signed his petition.) Maroun wins easily, especially so since his district is the heavily Democratic East Side.

The other Young Republican running, Matt Rayo, may be as unknown as Daedalus–but he has two things in his favor. The 1st District has more Republicans than any other area in the city and was represented by a Republican just two years ago, until Jeff DeFrancisco decided he didn’t love politics like his father (state senator John D.) and resigned.

The biggest benefit is that Mayo is running against the most vulnerable Democrat of recent times–incumbent Michael Heagerty. He came into office two years ago on a wave of enthusiasm after his successful efforts at developing businesses in Armory Square (Pastabilities, the late, lamented Styleen’s Rhythm Palace) and overseeing the renovation of his family’s Palace Theatre in Eastwood. He said he was going to focus on housing issues.

The two years in office haven’t been kind to Mr. Heagerty. He asks no questions during committee meetings, he seems confused even on how to introduce his items on the Council agenda and was recently upbraided in an irate letter to the editor in the Post Standard for never returning phone calls on constituent issues. His only vote of substance was his deciding vote allowing the demolition of an historic house being pushed by the developers of the Ronald McDonald House expansion. (so much for his renovation street cred.)

And the news today tops them all–Mayo successfully challenged Heagerty’s signatures on his designation petitions, so Heagerty has lost his spot on the Democratic Party line on the ballot. He missed the signature quota by one–and guess who forgot to sign his own petition?

Given the Republican voters in the 1st District, the stench of incompetence coming from the Heagerty campaign and the fact that Mayo has three lines to run on–I predict a stunning upset here for the Republicans.

The 4th district Council race features incumbent Tom Seals against perennial Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins (he really should buy some generic “Vote Howie” lawn signs–save money on the annual visual work.) Howie, who says he’s aiming to win this race, is going to get his ass handed to him. Here’s why:

1) Tom Seals is EXTREMELY well known in the community–as both the city’s first African-American police officer and a long time school security guard after retirement. Huge family–including former NFL player Ray Seals. He’s an officer in the American Legion. In local politics, personality and name recognition are key. NO ONE has more of this within their district than Tom Seals. People know and like Tom Seals.

2) The fact that Tom Seals knows little about politics or the issues facing our city (much less be able to propose solutions) means little or nothing to his constituents. Why? See #1 above.

3) The Working Families party poured tons of support into Seals and his campaigns since he agreed to push the living wage bill in his very first campaign. That will not change. Even though the legislation hasn’t worked and the Driscoll administration has done everything in its power to gut the law, Tom Seals still gets credit for being the first politician to support it.

4) Howie isn’t as successful a candidate as the press would have you believe. Dr. Jennifer Daniels polled significantly better in her run for Mayor as Green Party candidate than Howie did in his “breakthrough” mayoral campaign four years ago. Howie’s most successful campaign was when he was the only candidate to run against U.S. Rep. Jim Walsh in 2004 (when the 25th C.D. was the only district in the country that voted for Kerry yet couldn’t field a Democratic candidate against a Republican incumbent for Congress.) But those votes were against Walsh, not for Howie.

5) Howie may be the national standard bearer for the Green Party to pursue electoral politics, but he doesn’t know shit about developing a local Green electoral presence–recruiting volunteers, effective media, registering new disenfranchised voters. Every campaign seems to start from scratch–let’s go get Howie on the ballot.

6) The Green Party is all about the perfectly nuanced position paper–printed single space, in nine point font, back-to-back, on recycled paper and using organic non-toxic ink. The Greens do not knock on doors, engage people and solicit their opinions. Their issues are confusing and oftentimes outlandish–and presented from the top down–straight from Chairman Howie’s Little Green Book.

2 thoughts on “I Got Them “Down Ballot” Blues

  1. Phil, Hi there. I’m reading this ancient post because I was Googling Bob Gardino who has a letter in todays paper and I’m trying to find out a piece of info. Happened to be reading all stuff about him. Meanwhile my email has changed and I can’t see where to edit it in your crazy website. Please advise. Dorothy


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