Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Deeper Meaning in Akron Primary Results: Ward 8

Ward 8

First off, since posting last night I've been confronted with evidence that my assessment of Sandra Kurt's volunteer corps was off. I was out of town over the weekend and apparently they made themselves known with canvassing and live calling. Hers was the only campaign we got a live call from. She also had plenty of money and hit the mail hard as Redhorse notes in comments to my last post. On the other hand, I could have papered a room with the mailers from Bolden and Padilla as well. In the end, an appealing message plus lots of shoe leather worked.

And the result was an overwhelming victory. In a five-way race (OK, one candidate managed 37 votes, but still) she garnered almost half the total votes.

In a way Sandra's victory is a victory for identity politics. In the post-racial age of Obama, we're supposedly beyond voting based on group identification. But Sandra wasn't afraid to say that she is part of constituency that is very important in Akron politics but long neglected on Council.

I'm talking, of course, about engineers. Sandra's victory is a victory for Engineering-Americans everywhere.

OK seriously. Her identification of her profession with her problem-solving approach was a nice bit of messaging. It also had the happy effect of making her candidacy about her being a good candidate, not about prospectively being the first openly gay member of Council. This could be the way identity plays in politics. Identity motivates a base and members of the community rightly take pride in milestones. But the candidacy itself is judged on merits, not trail-blazing. Identity is more of a sidebar than the story.

Not to say this will be a seamless transition. For example, the picture accompanying the story is captioned "Sandra Kurt (right) laughs with volunteer Tina Jarosch (left) and campaign manager Shelley McConnell as they celebrate Kurt's victory" Well, OK Tina certainly volunteered, but she is also Sandra's spouse -- at least in eyes of the State of Iowa. Did the ABJ just miss that? Hard to imagine the paper not learning the spouse of a straight candidate to avoid a similar mistake. Did they take into account the fact that the State of Ohio doesn't recognize the marriage? And if so, is that a proper stance for the paper to take?

I don't mean to say that ABJ is bad, bad, bad. Just acknowledging that the media will have a learning curve when covering officials who are not only out, but also either married or civilly united.

Meanwhile, there were other candidates in the field. I hope we haven't heard the last of Bruce Bolden and Will Padilla. Both are good guys with solid credentials and a real desire for public service. Unfortunately, there was room for only one at the top.

I also hope that Raymond House will take from his experience some knowledge or real-world governance. His time on Council was pretty much a rumor to those of us living in the ward. If he had reached out to constituents early and maintained contact during the campaign, he likely would have gotten the nomination -- he certainly wouldn't have finished third out of five. It's hard for academics to appreciate the importance of retail politics. Hopefully Cox has learned it, if too late.

Linkage: WKSU story here. ANN, including interview w/Sandra here. Official canvass at BoE here.