My own paper hasn’t weighed in with its election coverage, but the a.m. rag has, and based on my extensive research of the Fort’s mayoral election — which I happily define as “checking in with the local papers online most days” — I think I know what happened.
The race was the incumbent’s to lose. Graham Richard instituted a new organization of the police department that didn’t do much to reduce crime, presided over a city in economic freefall and retains the personal magnetism of Ari Fleischer. Plus, an illness kept him off the campaign trail for much of the critical final weeks. And yet, when he went up against a well-funded Republican he just barely beat (129 votes) four years ago, he stomped her like a steamroller. What happened?
His opponent, Linda Buskirk, went negative when Richard got sick, with at least one ad that insulted the intelligence of anyone with 1/4 of a working brain — the soft-on-drugs one mentioned here a few weeks ago. I think she was pushed to do this by Comrade Shine, the GOP chairman, and other moneymen whispering in her ear. I think they told her she couldn’t win otherwise. And I think it underlines the problem she had then and now, and why she’s now most likely headed back to her career in public relations — she’s too easily manipulated. Everyone who’s ever come in personal contact with Linda knows she’s a very nice person, not a raving wacko, and probably didn’t have her heart in stuff like the soft-on-drugs attack. But she’s a political novice and she put too much trust in her advisers — stone culture warriors, the sort of people who care less about governance than winning. And it showed. And voters are not stupid.
Fort folks, feel free to discuss.
UPDATE: Buskirk’s campaign manager, quoted in The News-Sentinel:
But Buskirk campaign manager Jim Banks said he was “very proud of the campaign.” Referring to endorsements by fire and police unions, Banks said, “This was all about police and firefighters. It was very personal for them.”
Another miscalculation. It’s widely believed that the opinions of safety workers are coin of the realm in city elections, but no one ever explained to me why the opinion of some police officer or fire fighter is more important than that of a waitress or stockbroker. I’m not surprised they endorsed Buskirk; Richard did reorganize the patrol districts, and that always pisses off people whose power rests on the old model. Make me understand why it’s the public’s problem, and I’ll listen.