POSTED ON JUNE 19, 2013:
And Then There Were Two
What's an odd man out to do?
Much to everyone's relief, the first round of the mayoral campaign has come to an end. After thousands of words and millions of dollars, the public should be given a break from campaigns so they can enjoy the rest of their summer.
That is not likely to be the case for the two candidates and their teams. After the candidates catch their breath, they will have to resume refilling their campaign coffers in anticipation of another very expensive general election campaign this fall.
One wonders after all of the money and effort spent so far conveying their messages, what more could either of them have to say to us this fall that we haven't heard and what more could any of us need to hear? Even the media treated the last 60 days as if we'd be picking our Mayor on June 11, so what can they report new this fall that we have not already heard?
For some, this campaign is about the need for change. For others, it's about staying the course and that change just for the sake of change is not always in the best interest of a city. The question is: do you believe the city is heading in the right direction?
For some, "heading in the right direction" is a feeling people have when they evaluate all of the information presented to them about Tulsa, not just their pet project or idea. No city is without challenges, and no city is ever finished improving. And not everyone will always be pleased with the selection of priorities or the pace of improvements. Nevertheless, the evaluation of "right direction" is really determining how people feel about the progress government leaders are making.
Perhaps the best scorecard for the public to consider when making their "right / wrong direction" evaluation will be the results of the current citizens' survey. This fall, the 2013 City of Tulsa Community Survey, being conducted by ETC Institute, will provide an unvarnished, plainspoken opinion of the citizens on over 90 topics and questions regarding Tulsa. The survey results will be, in essence, a public opinion poll on how the citizens see the effectiveness of local government and the issues facing Tulsa. Expect to see these survey results play a big part in the campaign messages this fall.
As hard as it may be at times, at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what elected officials or candidates think is the current state of the city. That's just the opinion of one person. The only opinions that really matter are those of the citizens.
The advantage of having only two candidates in the race is that it will be much simpler to compare and contrast their differences. Some will say that in a nonpartisan race, political philosophy and principles shouldn't matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Behind every position taken and sound bite delivered is a reflection of the political differences on how to govern. And if the candidates start to sound a lot alike, then there really isn't any reason to change mayors.
Those who will be following the election over the next few months will find some obvious differences with the candidates.
As the incumbent, Mayor Bartlett will provide specific ideas or steps to address issues. That's because he's in touch with where the current works in progress are and can be specific on these issues. Kathy Taylor's responses will be more general, broad, and without specific details. She will be talking about promises she would keep.
Mayor Bartlett will frame his positions based upon current realities. Kathy Taylor's will be based upon the reality she would create.
The biggest post-primary issue talked about is whether Bill Christiansen will endorse either remaining candidate. The reality of the situation is this: Bill Christiansen's endorsement will not make any difference or affect the outcome of this race in any way. It's simply not important. His supporters don't need to hear from him on what they should do now. They are not lost sheep who can't figure out on their own who to vote for. Those who cast their vote for Bill know that their first choice didn't make it into the finals. So they will decide who they will vote for, or whether they will vote at all, based on the current candidates, not Bill Christiansen's endorsement.
Local general elections are not like national political conventions where a strong contender who didn't make it can deliver his delegates to a stronger contender. Bill has nothing to deliver except his vote.
Some think Christiansen is holding out his endorsement because he wants something. This isn't a presidential primary where the loser wants to be named Secretary of State. There's very little with which to make any kind of deal. And if that were to happen, think about the howls and screams from the public decrying backroom deals.
If Christiansen supports Kathy Taylor, then he will have taken the same position he criticized Bartlett for. If he supports Bartlett, he is showing that he is not just a man of his word but, more importantly, that the integrity of his character is more important to him than the fact that he has some unhappy supporters or that he is angry about some of the things that were said about him.
This is politics. Everyone will get over it. We always do. There's no crying in politics. There are only two choices left. That's the way politics works. As Robert Redford's character in The Natural was told when he struck out: "Welcome to the major leagues, Mr. Hobbs."
For all of us who have run for public office and lost, the cold reality is that being in the political arena is much like being on the stage of a play. At some point, the curtain begins to close on you. You may fight to keep it open or keeping coming back out for one last ovation, but the fact is your show is over. Your career on the political stage is probably over for good. Your fans and supporters will drift to some other show.
2013 will likely be the final act for two of the three mayoral candidates.
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