Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ron Gibson & A Thing I Hate About Political Parties

Earlier in the week, I noted that former City-County Councillor Ron Gibson (D-At Large, 1999-2007) had more cash-on-hand in his campaign account (a bit over $11,000) than any sitting or any trying-to-be city-county councillor, except Toby McClamroch, Joanne Sanders, and Ike Randolph. In short, I hypothesized that Gibson was in decent shape to try to reclaim his seat.

But the day before yesterday, my man Jim Shella at WISH-TV reported that Gibson will announce on Friday that he is running for Mayor.

My colleague Jon Easter at IndyDemocrat gave a solid overview of Gibson's dreamquest, but I want to amplify it a bit.

Gibson's announced opponents in the Democratic field are Melina Kennedy and Brian Williams. Kennedy had $220,485 cash-on-hand at the end of 2009. Williams had $101,000. They both have been campaigning for a long time now, and they both have campaign apparatuses up and running. Gibson wants some of that?!? (I've e-mailed Ron on Facebook to get his motivation, but I haven't heard back yet).

I doubt any political observers will think he legitimately believes he can win the Democratic nomination. So what is his endgame?

I submit that this is a simple Braveheart maneuver. In that movie, the king's commmanders always offered land to the opposing force before waging battle, even when the odds overwhelmingly favored the king's army. This approach helped the king avoid looking like his kingdom was divided and losing resources he'd need for a bigger battle.

If Gibson runs, he'll elevate his county-wide name ID just by being consistently referred to as a mayoral candidate. City-County Councillor Jose Evans hasn't even announced for mayor, but in most stories about the race or about his activities, he's referenced in that fashion. Assuming no adverse political effects, Gibson's play is smart.

By getting in, Gibson recognizes the possibility that either county party or one of the mayoral candidates will pledge support for him in 2011 in exchange for him stepping aside and delivering the support of whoever he musters to his cause. At least six names are currently floating for at-large on the D side; I anticipate that number will grow. Locking up some slating support certainly wouldn't hurt Gibson's chances.

Now, maybe this is "just politics," but political parties (mostly mine) buy off people too often who try to dance on our stage with promises of future support, jobs, or who knows what else. I hate this because it encourages everybody else to play it the same way. If you have even a handful of influential fans or the ability to scorch some earth, by all means, jump into the field and create distraction! Even if you have no chance at winning, we'll cash in your bargaining chip.

I have no problem with candidates competing for an office at the onset when it's not clear who is going to prevail. What bothers me is when a candidate comes in late in the game who must know he can't win. (Of course, there are people on American Idol who you would assume know they can't sing, but they'll still jump on stage, either because they're delusional or they want some fame, so who knows). In short, at this juncture, Gibson's candidacy feels like prelude to a bartering session.

My advice on this to the party and the other mayoral candidates is this: don't give in. As a guide post, look at how the party has handled Greg Bowes, the Democrat opponent to party favorite for prosecutor, Terry Curry. As of this posting, I can say with almost certainty that Bowes has been offered nothing but the political equivalent of a horse's head in the bed (though I'm not sure what anybody could offer that he would find satisfactory).

My point is that my party and its front-runner candidates need to send a message by not only refusing to barter with the other long-shot, johnny-come-latelies, they need to demolish them politically for diverting party resources when we'll need every dollar to defeat Greg Ballard.

My first thought was that Gibson realized the value of beating City-County Councillor Jose Evans to the punch with his announcement. I confess to being uncertain on this fact, but I believe when Gibson announces on Friday, he'll become the first African-American male to run for Mayor of Indianapolis (African-American woman Z. Mae Jimison - God rest her soul - ran against, and lost to, Steve Goldsmith in 1995). Having an African-American man running would be an event long-delayed for Indiana's most populated city (thank you Unigov!).

Unfortunately, even with racial history up for the making, I doubt this gambit will pay dividends for Gibson. But I'll know more with a level of confidence when I see who is standing with him at his announcement. I'll know for sure if I hear political chatter about a deal that made Gibson go home. Then I'll know another player cashed in on nuisance value.

If that happens, we'll have only one question to ask:

Who's next in line?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It does not really matter.Aaron Williams is a lock for the next at Large seat.He will win.That boy has been groomed for this since the day he could walk.