Saturday, September 15, 2007

Digesting the Mayoral Primary

The sorta close call re-nomination of Mayor Don Plusquellec offers a bit of a window into the black box that is local politics. So let's probe a little and see what we can see.

The ABJ ran a good piece analyzing the results by ward and the week's News Night Akron delved deeply into it. The Leader story is notable only for Finley crying foul because some of his Republican voters may have been disenfranchised, which is just too easy to bother going there. Results are here.


Before we get started, let's revisit Finley's campaign. I described Finley as inept to which a commenter said, essentially, "Scoreboard." Fair enough, but let's dig deeper than that. The sentinel question is whether Finley's 47% was a vote for him or against Plusquellec. And therein lies the charge of ineptitude.

To be sure, Finley's organization on a shoestring was impressive. As the anonymouse noted, he had a solid volunteer base, got signs distributed well throughout the city and apparently got his vote out.

Which is all the more impressive considering how thoroughly the substance of his campaign failed to inspire. His platform boiled down to being nicer than the current Mayor and opposing everything the mayor supports. This last to a comical degree. Mayor wants to take down the Innerbelt? I like the innerbelt. Mayor rejected a job training program? I'm for it. Mayor wants to redevelop Goodyear Heights? Against it.

On the one hand it was the damnedest primary campaign, on the other, it looked hauntingly familiar. Then I figured out where we had seen this before:

It got to the point that I wondered what Mayor Finley would do without Plusquellec as a foil. The first time a new issue came up, how would Finley know his position without learning Don's first?

All of which made his showing Tuesday that much more remarkable

The Role of the Republicans

One point discussed by the NewsNight Akron gang was the number of Republicans who rolled out to the polls in response to appeals from Without some information about which precincts the Rs came out in, it's hard to even guess how they affected the race.

In any event, Finley was a fool to think Republicans were his friends. If he had pulled off the upset, Alex would have backrolled the strongest candidate he could find to run as an independent. And by strongest I mean not David Drew.

(I wondered if the A2 machine might attempt a sub rosa campaign to turn out Republican votes for Finley for that purpose, although given everthing happening between the R's these days, its doubtful such a campaign could remain quiet. Witness, e.g., Coughlin and Co. campaigning for Andy Padrutt in Green, a move no doubt driven by either punishing an enemy or setting up the Dem they think is weakest.)

It is notable that Finley performed well in the more Republican-leaning southside wards. In particular, the fact that Plusquellec underperformed in Kenmore, the neighborhood with which he is closely identified, suggests an explanation like Republicans and independents turning out for Finley.

Voting for NotDon.

The overwhelming explanation for the result is Plusquellec fatigue. Yes, part of that is the Mayor's occasionally harsh personality. Part is the ill-considered income tax ballot issue last spring. But much, I fear, arises from a general discontent about the economic direction of Akron. Lots of people thought deeply about the state of things to give Plusquellec credit for keeping Akron in better shape than most NEO cities.

But this can't last forever. People around here are getting more and more news like this and they are getting tired of it. While they may for a while say things are a little better here than there or that this is all about forces beyond the control of the guy, eventually they get sufficiently angry that they just vote against everybody. That's poignant news for Plusquellec, but a serious concern for Strickland. He's on an extended honeymoon now, but at some point people are going to start asking where the jobs are.

Finley's Future.

The NNA gang argued about whether Finley has a future in Akron politics. To an extent that depends on Akron's fortunes. If Akron gets some economic good news, Finley will be known as the pol who cried wolf to the extent he is remembered at all. If the city struggles he could find a place as standard bearer for a voter rebellion. He'll have that Kucinich "Guy Who Was Right All Along" thing going for him.

He certainly is done with the mainstream Democratic Party. He made no friends among the progressives with his pro-life stand. But he could conceivably lead a broad, blue collar insurrection against the establishment.

Could do, but probably won't. He would be hard pressed to do such a thing if he didn't have Plusquellec to run against. And in any event, he hasn't shown the political chops to really build a movement. In this election he was sufficiently bland that discontented people could project their particular hopes and grievances on him and nothing clashed. To really lead an upset charge, he'll have to project something of his own.


Arshinsquellic said...

"Coughlin and Co" did not support Andy Padrutt in Green or any other candidate in the primary anywhere, as discussed on the blog

Just another Arshinkoff whopper to try to turn R's against Kevin and Dan Croghan.

Ed Esposito said...

Nice analysis, Pho...I still think much of the Finley vote was against Plusquellic's personna but that doesn't rule him out as being done politically.

Anonymous said...

You should have posted the Monty Python clip with the abuse room. That is why local businessmen, city workers, and citizens are tired of Plusquellic. Being conservative about expenditures and getting back to the basics of city government was a good program for our community. Don't you think Plusquellic is reckless with the debt? Let's see $750m divided by 200k residents = $3750 for every man, woman, and child in a town with an average income of 20k.

Eric Mansfield said...

Good insight here ... those of us who have been covering the candidates don't always get to see how the rest of town views the event coverage.

We can certainly over-analyze every vote, precinct, ward and candidate comment .. but the one thing most can agree upon is that the vote was closer than we expected.

Still, isn't it amazing that more Akron folks have voted for Zippy in the mascot competition than came out to vote in the mayoral primary?

Maybe that means Zippy should be on the ballot :)