Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mayor's race: The blitzkrieg is coming

Posted By on Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 5:43 PM

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

A. Conan Doyle, Silver Blaze

For those of us who love horses and detective stories, Silver Blaze is still unmatched a hundred years after it was first published.

And for those of us trying to read the political tea leaves, it teaches a simple lesson: When nothing seems to be going on, that’s just your faulty perception.

The ballots for the city election will be mailed out in less than four weeks. The stakes are high — the winners will run city government for the next four years, and the losers will go home and lick their wounds.

Yet it doesn’t feel like a real campaign. No mailers, no insistent TV commercials, few candidate signs, no attack pieces, none of the sophisticated and expensive strategies that Rachel Beck, Kevin Blank and Jenkins Pere et Fils employed in their brilliantly executed strong mayor campaign.

es_money_0124_320x240.jpg

The leading mayoral candidates have raised, in aggregate, more than half a million dollars. Where is it? When will they start spending real money?

Excluding Richard Skorman and Tom Gallagher, the mayoral candidates have the name ID of a rock. Steve Bach has moved aggressively to overcome that deficiency with signs and an early television commercial, and Brian Bahr generated some buzz with his first TV foray, but Dave Munger and Buddy Gilmore have been relatively invisible.

That’s because a citywide campaign is so expensive that even the best-funded candidates have to hoard their resources and go all-in during the last weeks. A citywide mailing to all registered voters can cost tens of thousands, while blanketing the airwaves with commercials for a month costs hundreds of thousands. Our amiable amateurs don’t have that kind of money … or do they?

Now that the city clerk has put candidates on notice that corporate contributions are off-limits, you might assume that this will reduce the flow of money into campaign coffers. It will — but what about money into so-called 527 "issue committees," those anonymous cash receptacles that dominated the November elections?

That’s the dog that didn’t bark.

No candidate would want to have hundreds of thousands in special interest money dumped into his campaign — it’d make him look bought and paid for. But a separate entity called something like “Citizens for Positive Change"? No problem!

A couple of weeks after Great Britain, France, and Germany were formally at war, nothing much happened. Derisive commentators called that period the “Sitzkrieg,” suggesting that Hitler lacked the will and/or the ability to launch his much-heralded “blitzkrieg.”

They were wrong.

So keep your heads down — the campaign wars have yet to begin. Amateur Hour ends this weekend.

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