Friday, April 29, 2011

On the South Bend Mayor's race, or, The pot calling the kettle black

My beloved Grandmother Walker had a favorite expression that dated back to when people routinely cooked with wood fires.  "The pot calling the kettle black" means exactly what you think it does.  We'll return to that point a bit later.

The primary races for South Bend Mayor are pretty interesting this year - both for what they have, and for what they don't have.

The Republicans don't have a candidate, in any real sense.  They feature a guy who isn't campaigning, a guy who runs for something every election, and the presumed front runner, Wayne Curry, who didn't do very well when he ran for Common Council the last time around.

Interestingly, the major supporters of the Republican nominee of four years ago, Juan Manigault, don't appear to be displaying Curry signs in front of their homes or businesses.  Instead, you see signs (big ones) supporting Mike Hamann.

For those who don't know, Mike Hamann was a Republican when he served as a County Commissioner.  Now as an elected Democrat, Hamann serves as a County Council member.  He's currently a candidate in the Democratic primary for Mayor.

There are some who say Hamann is no Democrat.  One thing's for sure - he's no Progressive.  Hamann is a founding member of the so-called Citizens for Community Values.  The CCV has been the driving force for protecting legalized special discrimination against our GLBTcitizens in South Bend, and has been very active (if not dominant) in Republican election efforts.  And these folks backed a candidate the last time around who shared their conservative social values, but also managed to make 1.1 million dollars disappear while he was in charge of an agency whose only function was to keep track of money.  (I documented this through a FOI request in the fall of 2007).

The more familiar type of Democrats running are Barrett Berry, Ryan Dvorak, and Pete Buttigieg.

Berry has an interesting background, but has low name recognition and hasn't raised much money.  Polls seem to indicate the race is between Dvorak and Buttigieg - but such polls are generally of "likely Democratic voters".  One wonders if such polls reflect crossover possibilities of former Republicans voting in the primary.

But now let's look at the Pot (Dvorak) and the Kettle (Buttigieg).

Dvorak is currently serving as a member of the Indiana General Assembly.  His father, Micheal, serves as St. Joseph County Prosecutor - also an elected official.  The younger Dvorak has had pretty easy election contests up to now - thanks at least in part to the Dvorak family being pretty seriously connected to the local Dem Powers That Be.

Dvorak seems to have served his constituents well and we could do a lot worse for Mayor.

Buttigieg is also a local guy, but left and returned.  A Rhodes Scholar and business consultant, Buttigieg took on a thankless task of running against an entrenched incumbent for the office of Indiana State Treasurer.  Far from "phoning it in", Buttigieg ran an aggressive campaign all over the state.  It's not a stretch to think he earned a lot of appreciation from the party and the officials he campaigned with - and that sort of appreciation is often expressed in future support.  (The future is now).

So now we come to the cookware conundrum.  Dvorak's campaign has recently released a TV ad which criticizes Buttigieg's political connections and lack of executive experience.  That differs from Dvorak's background in what way?

Actually, one might say the opposite may be slightly truer.  Dvorak's support is clearly from the local machinery, Buttigieg's is from the seasoned pragmatists who likely look at him as a future possibility for US Rep or IN Governor.  Which of the two seems more likely to hold to the familiar local path?  Neither has executive experience as such, but Buttigieg works with some of those folks and has a business background which could be quite useful in creating new developmental strategies for South Bend.  It always seemed that Buttigieg offered just a bit more than Dvorak to me.

I have to wonder if recent polling looked bad for Dvorak.  This campaign had been very amicable up to now, and the claims made in the new spot are a stretch at best.  Amicable campaigns do work best for the leader though, and the Dvorak strategists may have calculated that they had nothing to lose.  

This seems clumsy, and I suspect it will backfire in this race.  Hopefully it won't present problems for a good officeholder, Ryan Dvorak, in future campaigns.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a former Northwest Indiana resident, living in Chicago now.

    Saw a friend of mine was supporting Pete Buttigieg, and had no idea how the race was shaking out or who was running.

    Intrigued to learn Dvorak is running for Mayor. He did well in the IN General Assembly - except he's probably tired of watching any Dem legislation that makes it out of the House get devastated in the Republican Senate.

    Thanks for the informative post.


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