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The “EX”-perience factor

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2007-09-07


When it comes to being elected mayor is experience a plus or a liability? How local voters answer that question could be a determining factor in the race between Democrat Tom Henry and Republican Matt Kelty.

Under normal circumstances, Henry’s 20-years of elected experience versus Kelty’s goose egg would seem to be a slam dunk for the Democrats. However, Kelty shrewdly wears his political inexperience as a badge of honor - the centerpiece of his anti-establishment, “I’m-no-political-insider” street cred. And Kelty’s upset primary win proves it resonates with some voters, especially his core supporters who are angry about property taxes, Harrison Square and basically anything to do with local government.

Plus, let’s face it, neither candidate has actually had the experience of being mayor. So, does comparing their histories really matter?

The answer, of course, is yes. Even Kelty acknowledges as much in his political resume. Despite his populist claims of being a political outsider, Kelty is quick to point out his inside-the-beltway connections. He worked as Joint Staff Regional Director for U.S. Senators Richard Lugar and Dan Coats, and worked on Lugar’s 1994 re-election campaign as well as the senator’s failed 1995 presidential bid. Clearly, Kelty hopes linking his name to those political heavyweights will add heft to his ambitions to win the city’s top political job despite never having held elected office.

On the other hand, the hallmark of Henry’s political resume is his five terms as a Fort Wayne City Councilman serving the third district. For Henry, convincing voters that he understands the complexity of city government shouldn’t be difficult.

The unknown “ex”-factor is whether both candidates will resist the temptation to go negative. Can Kelty stick to the issues, or will he scour Henry’s long city council record searching for something to attack? Will Henry succumb to the urge to take pot shots at Kelty’s credibility in the wake of the felony perjury charges?

One can only hope that as both campaigns ramp up, the question of experience is a matter of serious discussion rather than attack ad cannon fodder.

Let’s go to the video
Even before his TV spots hit the air in the primary, Matt Kelty used video cameras to shoot segments posted to myspace.com and YouTube.

Now, his supporters are joining him in cyberspace. His mom, Carol Kelty, is featured in one spot making the rounds on local blogs and on YouTube. “Matthew has wanted to be mayor for a long time,” Ma Kelty says. She also calls the legal controversy surrounding her son “garbage.” Another video post features Kelty fan Daniel Gerber, a young man who doesn’t even appear old enough to vote, touting Kelty’s virtues with a not-quite Wayne’s World charm.

However, the most noteworthy new video is by Citizen Kelty himself (and available on his website). Although the candidate says there are “a lot of things (he) can’t talk about because the grand jury is still seated,” he still manages to declare that he is “innocent of all charges;” claim respect for the judicial system “for all of its weaknesses;” and suggest that the lone vote against him in the Allen County Election Board hearing on his campaign finance filings was politically-motivated. Dubbed “Matt Kelty fights back,” the off-the-cuff performance shows the normally glib and conversational Kelty squinting, scowling and stammering. Unconvincing to the unconverted, and unnecessary for the unwavering, who thought this video was a good idea?

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