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Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed candidates 

As promised, it's time to make fun of the rest of the mayoral aspirants. A few weeks back we talked about the ol' perfesser, Jim Null; this week, let's cast a skeptical eye upon three other council members who seem to believe that the City -- nay, even the Republic itself! -- would be the better for electing them mayor.

First off, Mayor Lionel Rivera: Anyone remember the Saturday Night Live routine, the one wherein Bill Murray is running for high-school president? Garrett Morris enters at stage left, and breathlessly proclaims: "Bill, you've got the black vote!" To which Bill replies "Garrett, you are the black vote!"

Well, there are plenty of black and Hispanic voters in our fair city -- enough to make up a nice base for any politician who can win their votes. But I'm not sure that Lionel -- ardently pro-business, devotedly conservative -- can count on their support.

Of Rivera's three principal opponents, two (Null and Ted Eastburn) are significantly more progressive, and the third (Sallie Clark) is a down-to-earth populist. All three can be expected to make significant inroads into Lionel's ethnic base. That's not good news for the current vice mayor, because he needs at least 80 percent of the traditional minority vote.

He also needs to win most of the precincts in the conservative northeast/northwest part of the city, and to take a few votes from Clark on the West Side.

Rivera needs some significant support from the power structure to fund his campaign, and he needs Eastburn and Null to split the moderate/liberal votes. If it all falls into place, Lionel could squeak in with a thin plurality.

Now, Mayor Sallie Clark: Clark's base is clear -- it consists of thousands of Westsiders who adore her, plus hundreds of cops and firefighters who don't need to be reminded of her support over the years. She needs to both energize her base -- it's a potential army of envelope stuffers and precinct walkers -- and convince the folks up north that she's the real conservative.

Since the power people are unlikely to drop multi-thousand dollar contributions on her (too independent for their liking!), she'll need to get hundreds of small checks to mount a decent campaign. To win, Sallie has to sweep the west and southwest, run even with Rivera up north, and get a big hunk of the women's vote.

And what about Mayor Eastburn? The amiable cardiologist has a fine reputation among his peers, but he may just be Dr. Kevorkian for his April opponents.

Eastburn's base? The medical community, not to mention the thousands of grateful patients (and their families) that he's treated over the years.

Eastburn is smart, well prepared, has a lovely family and looks like a movie star. And if that's not enough, his former associate, newly named Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, will likely at the very least tape a TV commercial for him. Talk about inoculating him against any insinuation that he's a (choke! gasp!) liberal.

Right now, Eastburn's the clear frontrunner. In the next couple of weeks, I'll bet that the power people quietly move into his camp. It's hard to imagine that El Pomar Foundation Chairman Bill Hybl doesn't grasp the potential benefit to this city of having a mayor with a direct line to Majority Leader Frist -- and if Hybl backs Eastburn, most of the power structure will follow suit.

And what does that mean? By the end of January, Eastburn will have all the momentum -- endorsements, campaign money, and visible support from all over the community. And it'll mean that he'll be perfectly positioned to win.

But it won't come without a fight; he'll have to sweep the North End, Patty Jewett and Shook's Run, do well in the west and southwest, and beat Null in the north. Should it all come together, Dr. Ted'll waltz in the way Mary Lou Makepeace did six years ago, crushing his opposition and garnering a clear majority.

That leaves Mayor Null. He's competent, prepared, and, as we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, he's paid his dues.

Unfortunately, he needs to get the same liberal/moderate voters that Eastburn's after. And these are sophisticated voters; given a choice between moderates, they'll go for the likely winner. Makepeace's early endorsement gave Null some momentum, but, just as four aces beats a pair of deuces, the Frist factor outweighs the lame duck mayor.

So what's the prognosis? Right now, Clark and Eastburn are the contenders. Man vs. Woman, Moderate vs. Conservative, Innkeeper vs. Doctor, Council member vs. Council member. And who's gonna win?

Whichever one gets some much-needed help from Emme on Fashion Emergency.

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com

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