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Mayor’s Race Thins Out

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-11-21


“Today, I am announcing that I am a candidate for Fort Wayne Mayor.”

With those words, Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters announced that he is seeking Fort Wayne’s top elected post. After months of literally no suspense, Peters declared his intentions to run for mayor next year in front of a room full of supporters inside the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce. If elected, the Republican county commissioner would replace Democrat Graham Richard, who decided to step aside after two terms as the chief executive of Indiana’s second largest city.

Although his aspirations were no secret, Peters is actually the second Republican to announce his candidacy for mayor. Peters announced the formation of an exploratory committee months ago, but local architect Matt Kelty beat Peters to the punch by being the first Republican to officially announce his desire to be mayor. Kelty’s political claim-to-fame up to this point is a narrow defeat against State Representative, and former Fort Wayne mayor, Win Moses several years back in a low-turnout election. However, while GOP party faithful almost universally view Kelty as bright and promising, insiders say privately that the prospect of Kelty’s first-ever political office being mayor of Fort Wayne perhaps sets the bar a little too high.

Saying that “Nelson Peters will push our city to new heights,” another potential mayoral candidate, State Rep. Randy Borror, a rising star in the GOP, clearly signaled his intention not to run. Borror introduced Peters during the commissioner’s campaign news conference.

On the other side: In light of a Republican majority on the Fort Wayne City Council and a virtual GOP lock on elected offices in Allen County government, Graham Richard was the local Democrat Party’s star commodity. Who is the Allen County Democratic Party pinning its hopes on to keep the mayor’s office?

Well, uhh. Can they get back to you on that?

Even though he made a strong showing in a costly race against Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, Dr. Tom Hayhurst emphatically declared that he would not run for mayor in 2007, despite speculation that he might try to parlay his increased name recognition into a mayoral bid.

“You can put me down as a solid no,” the Fort Wayne City Council member told The Journal-Gazette.

Another “no” came from Fort Wayne Community Schools Board president Geoff Paddock. Paddock, who lost the Democratic primary to replace State Rep. Ben GiaQuinta earlier this year, said he felt qualified and ready to be mayor of Fort Wayne and didn’t relish the task of raising a million dollars or more to do it.

First-term at-large Councilman John Shoaff remains a possibility for the Democrats, but he is tight-lipped about his intentions for now.

What worries Democrats more than anything, however, is where Graham Richard stands on the prospect of the next mayor. His obviously close working relationship with Nelson Peters already has some Democratic Party insiders furious. Since the beginning of the his administration, Richard has taken heat from some Democrats for being decidedly non-partisan – in other words, he hired and retained too many Republicans, critics felt. Now those same critics worry that Richard will make it too easy for Peters to replace him.

NAACP ELECTION

Rev. Michael Latham is not being replaced anytime soon. Latham kept his post as president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) by just seven votes during the organization’s recent elections. Latham’s narrow victory over Vince Robinson, editor of the weekly Ink newspaper (and a contributer to Fort Wayne Reader), followed a media frenzy that including an editorial criticizing Latham’s leadership that was published in both Ink and The Journal-Gazette. In the end, backed by the church that he pastors (Renaissance Baptist Church) and his control of the branch membership lists (which dictated who could and who couldn’t vote), Latham pulled out a win. However, the election numbers tell an even more interesting story: in 1998, when Latham assumed leadership of the local NAACP, the branch had more than 1,500 members. Currently, membership has dipped to below 300 (and of those, fewer than 170 turned out to vote). Apparently, members have been voting with their feet for years.

FIRST IN SECOND

“The First Choice for the Second District” gets Political Animal’s nod for the catchiest political slogan in some time. Credit it to Karen Goldner. The Democrat is kicking off her campaign to unseat looooooonnnnng time second district City Councilman Don Schmidt. Schmidt, a Republican, has been a member of city council since time began. An old-school conservative who remains sharp as a tack, Schmidt has faced minimal opposition in recent years. However, Goldner could change that. Widely viewed as intelligent, passionate and well-connected by observers on both sides of the political aisle, Goldner served as the city’s director of economic development and worked successfully under both Democrat and Republican administrations. Currently, she leads economic development initiatives for influential local businessman Don Willis’ AdVenture Fund.

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