When I ran for Mayor of Dayton at age 27 I thought I knew it all. Just point out what’s wrong, and explain what you would do different. I had an 11×17 campaign piece with positions on everything- if you look at it today, I looked like an oracle, but I didn’t get elected, taken seriously, or help myself.
That was the race where Mike Turner got his start. I was there, and I know what kind of campaigner he is, where he gets his money, his support and who buys his favor. There are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for his backers- and, frankly, running against him in a gerrymandered district is difficult enough, even for a well seasoned pro with strong backing.
I was excited to hear Richard Chema had entered the race when I read about it last week. On paper, he sounded like just the guy who had a shot- until I met him tonight, and watched him do hari-kari on the dais of the Montgomery County Democratic Party meeting hall. It was painful to watch.
When I introduced myself before the meeting, I was already starting to wonder if Chema had a chance. Tony Capizzi (who lost to Turner for his second term in the most expensive Mayoral race in Dayton’s history) could speak, knew the issues, and was well known, but suffered from the same small man’s dilemma, Turner cuts a clean figure in public. My first advice to Chema was to stand tall, throw your shoulders back, chest out- or you’ll end up looking like Dick Nixon next to JFK- his retort was some un-catchy slogan about â€œsending Turner to Texas.â€ Not a good start- considering Dayton voters put huge confidence in home-town products- and Turner has that speech down.
When it came time for the two candidates to speak, Jane Mitakides, who ran against Turner the last time, gave a short, friendly, comfortable speech. She stressed that it wasn’t about beating each other in the four-way fray, but about beating Turner. She didn’t give us her life history, or try to throw together slogans on the fly (she’s been in advertising and knows that they don’t come that easy- at least not the good ones).
Then came Chema. It didn’t take more than 30 seconds to sense that even in this safe setting, we were watching a fish out of water. Between putting on and taking off his glasses, turning to some pre-written speech that then got ignored- to repeating his talk of sending Turner to Texas- and then going on, and on, and on- Chema showed that he had no clue of what he was doing. Much like me at 27.
At 27 you can chalk it up to youthful exuberance; at Chema’s age, you call it stupidity.
There are two things I know for sure about politics now: it’s a popularity contest not a test of intellect, and there is a lot of money at stake- not a place for the naive to play. Even if Chema was Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein rolled into one- (he’s not) he will be dead meat in a debate with Turner- head to head with Mitakides who plays nice and he’s still burnt toast.
Before the meeting ended- I asked Chairman Dennis Lieberman from the floor- why the party wasn’t making an endorsement, where he went on about money and lack of time, but that they may next week. After both had spoken- it was clear that an endorsement now, and maybe some political maneuvers could save us all some money- and skip this expensive primary if we could get three people to step down.
I went up to both candidates after the speeches. I suggested to Chema that he takes a crash course in public speaking, he didn’t take the advice too well. I went and talked to Mitakides- and she was all ears.
This election isn’t really going to be about who the candidate is, it’s going to be about if the people of the Third district want to continue to have a Congressman who rubber stamps the Presidents policies. All the Democratic candidate has to do is be able to hold their own in front of public scrutiny and continue to raise the question of are we better off – or are the insanely rich supporters of Mike Turner doing better?
It was hands down clear tonight that Jane Miakides is the better choice and the only hope.
I just hope Dick Chema can get his old job back, or find a new one quick, because he doesn’t stand a chance in hell of going to DC as our next Congressman.