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Fort Wayne Reader
If you’ve read this issue’s feature story (and if you haven’t, please take a look before you read this column), you know that Matt Kelty wants to be the next mayor of Fort Wayne. A young, handsome, successful business man and family man, Kelty has all the makings of a dream candidate. He clearly has the wholesome appeal, conservative credentials and the drive to compete for the GOP nomination this spring.
But can he win? Much of the mainstream media, along with many Republican Party insiders, have all but declared Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters the frontrunner. The local TV stations broadcast Peters’ campaign announcement live; at GOP headquarters, Peters’ sign was prominently displayed for weeks before a Kelty poster got equal billing; and local Republican officeholders flocked to Peters’ kickoff news conference while all-but ignoring Kelty’s announcement event.
However, even if a Kelty/Peters primary race is a David and Goliath affair, keep in mind who won that Biblical bout. Based on political precedent, here’s Political Animal’s unsolicited advice for the Kelty.
Sure, with his high-profile office, his experience and his fund raising ability, Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters appears to be the 800 lb gorilla in the GOP primary. However, keep this name in mind - Joe Squadrito. Back in 1999, the smart money was certain that Allen County Sheriff Joe Squadrito would be to be a shoo-in against his lesser-known opponent in that year’s GOP primary. But the smart money was wrong. Squadrito was soundly defeated by a political newcomer - Linda Buskirk.
The lesson? Conventional wisdom isn’t always so wise. Keep the faith.
Like Kelty, Linda Buskirk was the underdog in her first GOP primary. Like Kelty, her strategy relied on a strong grassroots campaign. Like Kelty’s narrow defeat at he hands of State Rep. Win Moses, Buskirk also lost her first political race (to Democrat Graham Richard) by a whisker.
However, Buskirk’s rematch against Richard resulted in a near landslide defeat. Most voters blamed blistering attack ads and mailers from the Buskirk camp.
The lesson? Stay positive. Negative campaigns can be toxic to your health.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” - V
“Families make communities. Governments serve them.” -Matt Kelty
Like the hero/terrorist/protagonist V in Alan Moore’s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” (and the movie of the same name), you have to admit that some of Kelty’s catchphrases are poetically profound. But how do you incorporate these philosophical statements into the actual operation of city government?
“I am part of a larger initiative to change the culture in which we live,” Kelty writes on his campaign website (www.mattkelty.com). Huh? That could use a bit more clarification. With rhetoric like that, Kelty hopes to appeal to an ideologically conservative base of voters. However, he risks alienating others by skimping on the details on how a Kelty Administration will stimulate job growth, spur economic development, fill potholes, fix sewers, etc.
The lesson? Verify the veracity of your vision by vanquishing vagary in your vocabulary.
Although he ran as a Democrat, Mayor Graham Richard has enjoyed a trmendous amount of bi-partisan support. Part of that comes from the fact that he almost never wore his political affiliation on his sleeve. In fact (and much to the chagrin of diehards in the Cemocratic party), Richard filled key positions in his administration with more than a few Republicnas. Obviously, ability was more important than party affiliation.
The lesson? Ricghard will leave Fort Wayne in good shape for whomever succeeds him. Bi-partisanship has been an important part of the equation.