Friday, May 15, 2009
Mayoral Ramblings - Hillary's Votes, Luke's Money, Patrick's Face
I've heard Councilman Dowd speak several times and I can now never look at him the same way. He has a classic campaign poster with a very serious looking picture of him: a clean cut man, clean shaven with a jutting jaw looking for a political fight. I've heard his speech several times in which he mentioned that he used to have very long hair. Now every time I look at him instead of seeing the Gary Hart-like clean cut dark suited candidate, I visualize someone rushing for the stage at a festival seating Dead show.
At first I didn't know what to make out of Dowd. After several conversations with him I have come to these conclusions:
* He loves talking to people
* He is comfortable speaking to a group
* He is confident and not afraid of a fight
* Chameleon-like, he adapts to the audience
* He genuinely believes what is going on in the Mayor's office is just plain wrong
* He is very bright
These are enough attributes to make him the best choice for mayor. Unfortunately he doesn't have much of a chance. At the recent Dowd gathering I spoke with some of his supporters. One woman who was practically fawning over Dowd mentioned that she was a strong supporter of Hillary. I mentioned to her that Hillary is the reason that Dowd has little chance of prevailing next week. The reason is money. Dowd doesn't have much and Ravenstahl has a lot. He has a lot because Hillary and Bill cut a deal with him. Ravenstahl agreed to give Clinton his support in return for Bill agreeing to do a fundraiser for Luke. Bill honored the deal and the Ravenstahl campaign was $1 million dollars richer. Dowd just can't compete with that type of advertising budget. Luke is all over the TV and Dowd can't get on the air.
There was discussion about the picture in the PG of Dowd in front of the Pat Ford Memorial Electronic Billboard. Dowd said the picture down right frightened his children. I think it summed up his feelings about one of the stronger examples of pay to play and Luke getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Dowd was disgusted. It was grandstanding a bit, but it was also genuine. He really worked himself into a frenzy and it appeared that his face was going to fall off.
Luke and his people are using some rather intimidating tactics. I have spoken to several local business people. They will not show up to any political fund raisers for anyone other than Luke. Luke's people check up on everyone. If you want the help of Grant Street and you show up to a political event that the administration doesn't like, they know it and let you know that they aren't happy. We have a 28 year old mayor who is about to be re-elected, and is developing an old fashioned Chicago style machine. We would be better off with Chicago style deep dish pizza. Although artery clogging I think it would be better for our health, at least if you believe in democracy. Luke's machine could begin to roll like a freight train. He could be mayor for another 40 years. It is starting to look like an era of intimidating politics in Pittsburgh.
I admire Carmen Robinson and Dowd for understanding that the democratic political system is important. Those in power must be challenged so that we have a check and balance. Although, perhaps, neither has provided a clear plan of how they are going to save the city, they have opened the public's eyes to things that don't look right. They are both intelligent, articulate and strong voices who seem more credible than Luke. It probably isn't going to make a difference on Tuesday, but I do think if Luke continues to take a "Luke first" approach people are going to remember the voices of Dowd and Robinson four years from now. They have both earned my respect and appreciation for making a challenge and I expect to reward one of them with my vote on Tuesday. I have not heard enough from Robinson. I think she is short on experience, so I think that I will be going with Dowd. Even if he loses, I think he and Robinson have at least caused Ravenstahl to think about his actions. He is going to be held accountable. The more votes that go to Dowd and/or Robinson the louder that message will be.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem that this election is exciting many people. After the historic, impassioned election in November I think that local voters are having a Presidential hangover and are sleepwalking through these primaries. I expect voter turnout to be very low. Normally you would think that could provide a perfect storm for an underdog, but certainly Bill and Hillary's $1,000,000.00 will be spent making sure Luke's people know the difference between his posters at the polls and his picture on the garbage cans. A million dollars pays for a lot of election day campaign workers who will call voters and drivers who will make sure they get to the polls.