Thoughts on electibility of a City Commissioner

Dean Lovelace ran three times before he pulled out of a general election so that he could run in a special election and win. Before that, he had been pushing for dividing the city up into districts so that he would have a shot.

After he was elected, he never once pushed for districts, and he has been re-elected without serious challenge. He’s now accepted by the Montgomery County Democratic Party- even though he rarely makes an appearance at a MCDP meeting.

Abner Orick was only elected in a special election. As the only Republican to serve before the political coup staged by Mike Turner who squeaked by with a 400-vote win against the damaged Clay Dixon, it’s been a long time since the Republican party even fielded a candidate. The Republican Party didn’t even endorse Turner the first time he ran. Gary Leitzell now has its backing out of desperation, even though he’s not a Republican.

The only election process that has counted in Dayton for years, isn’t even an election. It’s a meeting of the Montgomery County Democratic Party screening committee, and it happens behind closed doors. There, union leaders, elected officials, party pogues with patronage jobs and a few others, sit in judgment of who should even turn in petitions. The main question- “if you don’t get endorsed, will you run anyway?” Once they’ve made their pick, candidates are guaranteed the following at a minimum:

  • At least one joint slate mailing from the state party to every registered voter and probably one from the local party as well.
  • A person or two outside every polling place handing out literature on election day.
  • Union workers to go knocking on doors and phone banking.
  • Union halls and party HQ to hold fundraisers- complete with guaranteed donations by party faithful.
  • Access to a robo-caller owned by the Democratic party.
  • An excuse by the Dayton Daily News editorial board to endorse a candidate because they “have an endorsement of a party”
  • Access to special software that allows them to do higher level targeting of voters.

Best of all, you never have to explain your positions again, since we have almost zero coverage of these off-year elections. No debates, a few candidates’ forums, not much else. Once you’re an incumbent, it’s pretty hard to lose. Mike Turner “lost” to Rhine McLin, right into Congress (the stage had been set before the Commission race- with maneuvering for Tony Hall to leave office, and the district re-drawn to conveniently include his home). Abner Orick “lost” to go on to get the choice patronage job of head of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Once elected, you don’t go hungry again. Doors are opened, jobs provided:

Dean Lovelace got a job at UD. Idotha Bootsie Neal first at Central State West and then running Wright-Dunbar, Chuck Curran at Sinclair, Bob Taft at UD, Jon Husted (who doesn’t live in Dayton) gets a cush job at the Chamber of Commerce that he doesn’t have to show up for- the list goes on.

If this doesn’t sound like a private club to you, with very strict rules on permission to enter, I don’t know what does. We have the most segregated political system around since Tammany Hall.

I’ve been asked often why don’t I just try to be that round peg to go in the round hole? Why do I bother putting myself, and my business through this? Why do I keep trying- because, as the Borg said “resistance is futile.”

When I started, I was naïve. I was warned too- windows shot out at my office two nights in a row, a death threat, attacked by Mayor Richard Clay Dixon with his fists of fury (front page, below the fold news, that was the beginning of his fall from grace), a coffee mug hurled at my car by the head of a union- who then taunted me to get out of the car so he could kick my (just out of Special Forces) @$$- and then slammed my car door on my leg as I started to take him up on it. Theses incidents would scare most “family men” off.  I was still young, idealistic and a fool.

Now, I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. I know the risks, I know the odds, I know how things used to work. And, realistically, I knew these things when I was seventeen- because my old man, who got his master’s degree in political science at Boston University and ate lunch and debated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and worked in the newspaper industry as a copy editor when objective and investigative journalism was still practiced, took time to write me a primer back in 1969 about the underbelly of American politics. That book, “Dear Son”– has been freely available on this site for over 2 years.

Read the book. Read the post “A Thinking Man” by 2x Pulitzer Prize Nominated Dayton resident Larkin Vonalt, Then you might begin to understand why I keep trying in this idealistic pursuit of an opportunity to bring a voice from the community for the community to our commission.

And if you want real entertainment, go back and look at my campaign literature from my first two races. Scoffed at, it was tabloid sized and filled with ideas. Dig through, play gotcha if you must, but, the sad reality is, my idealism remains unshaken, even as our city has suffered through many years of mismanagement, corruption, and coddling the elite who fund the machine that works to keep you in the dark.

This post alone, contains more information that you’ll get from Mayor McLin, Commissioner Whaley or Commissioner Williams on their entire sites- combined. People have told me that voters are too stupid to read all this, that voters don’t care, that voters won’t take the time to research the candidates.

The Dayton Daily News Editorial Board won’t do it either.

And all 41 (as of this writing) of my admitted readers (see this post where I asked people to sign their names with “I read”) aren’t enough to get me elected. (I know there are many more because I understand them these here intertubes and web statistiks (intentionally misspelled)).

The couple of thousand dollars I’ve raised is nothing compared to the $100K war chest raised by the Mayor and Nan Whaley (in fact, I’ve been told that part of the reason they’ve raised so much is by seeding the fear that I may win and upset their little private tea party).

So, why, facing all odds, do I continue to try? I can point out that Abraham Lincoln lost seven times before he was elected, I can remind you that my name is David and the name comes with a Goliath-slaying complex, or I can say- look at yourself in the mirror and ask, why haven’t you tried? You care about this city or you wouldn’t still be reading this.

Tell me why you haven’t run for office, I’d like to know. And rest assured, once elected, one of my missions will be to make sure we have primary elections in the future, that all have access to the data that I’m gathering and the tools I’m building, and that we won’t ever again have candidates like Matt Joseph or Nan Whaley whose only qualification for office was being a faithful part of that political machine that has run this town for, well, long before me.

Thanks for reading.

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7 Responses

  1. David Lauri August 29, 2009 / 11:05 am
    I couldn’t get elected even if I wanted to.  I’m openly gay, which I realize is no longer enough by itself to be a disqualification although it does remain a serious obstacle, but I have enough dirty laundry in my past that I don’t care to have aired and that any opponents could choose to dig up.   I have a blog on which I’ve said things which no one wanting to be elected to public office should say.  Despite my concerted effort since coming out years ago to be outgoing — actually since coming out some would say I’ve disabled my internal censors, the ones every closeted gay man has to have to remain in the closet, and am too blunt for my own good, at heart I’m an introvert (ISTJ) and don’t have the stamina it would take to glad hand enough people to get votes.  I’m not good at remembering names (a skill that apparently Senator Teddy Kennedy had in abundance).
     
    Moreover, even assuming that I could get elected, I don’t want to hold public office.  I am on my church’s council because I care about my church, think it does good things, know it’s done good things for me personally, and want to make sure it continues to do good things.  However, I find committee work tedious.  I much prefer working on my own (see note above about my introversion).  The nature of the job of a politician, except perhaps for judges not on panels, is having to work in cooperation with others.  I wouldn’t do it if you paid me.
     
    Do I not care about Dayton as I care about my church, one might ask, and the answer is that no, I don’t, not to the same degree.  I live here because I was born here and because I have ties here.  I do do some small things to make Dayton a better place (volunteering for the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations has been a key one over the past decade), but I will never run for office, not even if the machine were dismantled and it would be conceivable that I could win an election.  There are others who enjoy being politicians and some of them are even good people, so I wouldn’t want to get in their way.

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  2. truddick August 29, 2009 / 4:19 pm
    Why don’t I run? Because I have a realistic view of my limitations and I’d make a lousy politician. Much less commissioner (or whatever office).

    I’ll say it again. We allow each voter to cast a vote for every open position–e.g., 3 commissioner seats open, you get to vote for 3 candidates. Or they gerrymander districts to reduce competition and to constrain the other party.

    The way to prevent such strict partisan politics is to allow each voter only one vote (3 commission seats open, you get to vote for one commission candidate). This way, the parties would still elect 1 or 2 of those 3 commission seats, but an organized third party or independent candidate could net the third.

    That would have the greatest effect in the state legislature. But it would also open up county and city commissions and boards of education to people who were not honored by the party elites.

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  3. Larkin August 29, 2009 / 5:28 pm
    I don’t run because I believe that serving the people is a hundred percent of the time job, and I am already subject to too many masters. I could not give the position the attention or the dedication that it deserves. It would be like applying for a job that I don’t have the time to take . . . . 

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  4. Ice Bandit August 30, 2009 / 12:40 pm
    The Ice Bandit will leave it to the historians to chronicle when Christianity was replaced by government worship as America’s predominant religion. Years ago, Americans looked to their church, neighbors, community or themselves to remedy the problems we now routinely look to government to solve. One would think our Pope lived on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC rather than the Vatican. The church, at its apex of influence, established schools, settled disputes, and through charitable works, addressed the needs of the least affluent. In fact and in deed, the Church, the lodges, the unions and the schools were the bedrock of solid and independent communities who not think of looking elsewhere for the welfare of their constituents, and it was all voluntary. But when government became the defacto state religion, volunteerism was replaced by coercion; tithes were replaced by crushing taxation; ethics were replaced by vague legalisms and, under the pretense of “we know what’s best for you,” government edicts and dictats permeate every aspect of our lives. Like that chicken fried in the 11 secret herbs and spices? Uncle Sam has decided red meats deep fried in transfats aren’t good for you. Enjoy that Simon Bolivar stogie after a good meal and drink at the Dublin Pub? Big Bro says you’re treading on the preferences of people who don’t smoke and yet seek to go into a place with a $30,000 walk-in humidor and nights dedicated to puffing. Like the sound of that commode flushing that 3 gallons of water down to the underground? Nope, gotta’ restrict that porcelain shrine to 1.5 liters just like the folks in water-starved Albuquerque, despite the fact we are literally floating on water. This in-your-face nannyism is now the hallmark of governments local and national, and  displays the total disdain of government for those they no longer even pretend to serve. What is governments core job. The constitution says protecting its’ citizens. But as 9-11 has shown, that isn’t on the “to-do” list. Dayton has daylight shootings in front of dozens of witnesses, yet nobody has seen anything because it will be years before any action would reach a docket, and the citizens would be on their own. Gun sales are at record levels because citizens no longer trust government for anything except confiscating their money for projects in areas a thousands miles away because their congressman has seniority and muscle. Our schools no longer teach, because it has been re-designed as a job programs for certified education majors. Our courts no longer dispense timely justice because it is become an ATM for folks with law degrees. Our constabulary now longer protects because they have become radar and ticket totin’ ersatz tax collectors. Thirty years ago, when the Democrat Party had a strong and outspoken libertarian wing, the Ice Bandit was proud to count himself in that fellowship. Now, alas, the Democrats have de-evolved into the people we were warning about. The servants have indeed become the masters. So, to answer your question Dave, as to why some of us have not run for office; many of us want to tear down the myraid institutions that demean us, impoverish us, restrict our pursuit of happiness and property, and yet call that “hope and change.”  If all of the aforementioned dysfunction can be laid at the Shrine of the Church of Big Government, why would we become beggars and hookers to obtain the $100,000 necessary to become high priests??????????????

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  5. David Esrati August 30, 2009 / 2:24 pm

    If all of the aforementioned dysfunction can be laid at the Shrine of the Church of Big Government, why would we become beggars and hookers to obtain the $100,000 necessary to become high priests?

    Beautifully said bandito. Thanks. I still hope that if elected, the indication of my success will be the elimination of my position.

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  6. tg August 31, 2009 / 10:32 pm
    Personally I’d like to believe I can have more influence outside of politics rather than handcuffed by them. I don’t have a thick enough skin for the job. Plus I live in Greene County. I’m too entrepreneurial – which means I’m lousy at playing with others, like to have control, am too creative and very impatient. My heart is in East Dayton, South Park in particular, and it would be hard to remain objective.

    On the other hand, we don’t make political contributions, which means we don’t pay to play, so my influence is still limited. I look at the Mayor’s position and think how much authority is truly there? Could I make a great spokesperson for the City? In my heart the answer is ‘absolutely’ – but I don’t care to waste tens of thousands of dollars on a campaign to do that. If I can’t have the same control that I would with my own company, it’s not worth it. I’ll just keep plugging away out the perimeter and hope it makes a difference there.

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