ON THE AVENUES SPECIAL EDITION: As David White’s mayoral campaign begins, let’s briefly survey the electoral landscape.
A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
Here’s what we know: David White, a Democrat, is running for mayor in 2019.
White’s probable opponent is two-term incumbent Jeff Gahan, who has yet to formally declare.
All indications are that outgoing county commissioner and former city councilman Mark Seabrook will seek the Republican nomination for the general election.
Rumors persist, but currently no other candidates for mayor have been revealed, although veterans of the political primary process know that wild card candidates are the devil in the ballot details.
Before hazarding a brief analysis of yesterday’s David White for Mayor newspaper insert, allow me to disclose to readers that we talk to each other. I’ve known him since I was in college and he was running his first business, a sporting goods store at Highlander Point. We stay in touch.
Moreover, I chat on a regular basis with numerous other locals involved with politics. Seeing as I’m a disenfranchised, left-leaning, European-style Social Democrat, you’d think most of them would be Democrats in the American parlance.
Actually they tend to be Republicans, although in fairness those Democrats somewhat outside the mayor’s (and party chairman Adam Dickey’s) compact ruling clique have remained civil to me, and I thank them for being open-minded. The inner circle tends not to communicate openly with me, or for that matter, anyone else who has an opposing point of view.
But it’s indisputable that they’re all reading the blog. Quite frankly, I find this delicious. In the months to come, NA Confidential’s overall ideological standpoint will remain quite clear: Eight years is enough, and it’s time to flush Gahan’s clique — time for a new cast of characters, and time for inclusive, transparent and fresh thinking.
However, I think this mandate for change applies to me, too. I’ve reached the pinnacle of polemics and the apex of pure satire, and consequently the blog’s tone is going to undergo a revision.
Make absolutely no mistake: politicians and their acolytes at any level of governance who amass power and make decisions impacting human lives always seek to use their power (read: money) to thwart dissenting points of view. Gahan’s circle is no exception.
To be blunt, they’ve richly deserved every last bit of my abuse, and I’m unrepentant. But I’m also capable of looking in the mirror, and with White’s formal announcement tomorrow, we’re entering the next phase in local political terms. For the moment, this political phase isn’t about me.
This liberates me to focus on my own next phase, because I’m quite happy to be back in the better beer business, and thankful for the opportunity. With this opportunity comes responsibilities, and I intend to honor them.
Since exiting NABC three years ago, I’ve been a free agent of sorts, bound to no one (except the missus) and in large measure unassailable. My inner Mencken has been given free rein to roam, much to the clique’s annoyance, but now I’m working again, and a measure of circumspection is required.
Besides, given that the coming race stands to be highly partisan and emotional, it’s time for raw facts and cool analysis to help build the case against Gahan’s continued presence in the Reisz Mahal he’s erecting for himself with the use of taxpayer Viagra.
(Oops — sorry about that. Old habits die hard, and I’m not a cold turkey sort.)
Recalling the Trump supporters in t-shirts proclaiming they’d rather be Russians than Democrats, it remains that I’d rather a souvenir pet rock from the 1970s, dusty and attic-bound for forty years deep within a rat-gnawed Special Export beer crate, to serve as mayor of New Albany rather than Jeff Gahan.
If you didn’t know it already, now you do. I desperately desire change, and as one small way of achieving it, I’m prepared to change my own approach in the hope of being part of the solution.
Two decades into his career with Rush, Neil Peart sought a drum tutor and “reinvented” his approach to drumming. Peart already was one of rock music’s greatest drummers, and yet he sought to become better. I’m inspired by his example and will do my best to emulate it, starting tomorrow morning.
Let’s return to yesterday’s newspaper insert, which the Green Mouse has learned is the de facto text (subject to revision) of tomorrow’s announcement by White.
White couldn’t be any more clear as to the gist of his coming campaign: Gahan has the city on the wrong course, and he must be “fired.”
According to White, the city has used its “credit card” (no doubt referring to the TIF mechanism) to pay for “shiny objects,” while neglecting those residents most in need.
He suggests that budgetary scrutiny is needed, and raises what is likely to be a recurring topic: Gahan’s campaign finance effort, wherein the mayor’s team solicits vendors and contractors to donate large amounts to the mayor himself.
By saying he will not accept campaign donations from those individuals, businesses and outside entities seeking to grease their own wheels, White clearly seeks to distance himself ethically from the incumbent.
White has much to say about Gahan’s secretiveness, bullying, and imperialist instincts as mayor, and by openly mocking Gahan for “hiding” in his office, the challenger references the mayoral inner circle’s raging paranoia.
This opening broadside focuses on changing the tone of governance from the “Dear Leader” model to a people-oriented, grassroots, community-based approach — approachable and front-porch as opposed to Gahan’s favored ultimatum-by-press-release.
Among Democrats, few have been as vocal as White when it comes to questioning Gahan’s commitment to helping the community’s most vulnerable, especially as this pertains to the mayor’s public housing takeover. This is a promising start, but left-leaners and self-styled progressives are likely to seek more depth from White as to his positions on social issues.
It’s only one statement of intent, and we cannot infer too much from it. However, few candidates in recent memory have come out of the gate for the primary election with such a barrage. Agree or disagree, but obviously White is going straight for the jugular.
Much of what happens next will be prefigured by the 2018 mid-term election coming on November 6. The playing field for our 2019 municipal elections probably will take shape depending on whether a “Blue Wave” materializes here.
If it does, and the Democrats show local gains, the party’s current leadership will be strengthened. If it does not, then Gahan, his party chairman and a scant four remaining city council Democrats will be placed in a last-ditch, us-against-them scenario — and we can expect them to do whatever it takes to defend the lucrative system of political patronage that Gahan has adeptly exploited these past eight years.
On the other hand, the party chairman’s conflicts of interest aside, Gahan’s steadily escalating negatives make a strong case for White, given the centrist (at best) and right-leaning (bingo) tendencies of those older local Democrats who actually bother voting. After all, White is a fiscal conservative.
Concurrently, while no flaming radical, and stopping short of Bernie Sanders, White’s concern for the vulnerable and his libertarian attitudes toward social issues might be a welcome change for those of a more youthful and progressive bent, given they’d no longer have to clench their teeth and tolerate Gahan’s reactionary worldview in an ongoing Faustian bargain to preserve the party’s declining prospects.
Personally, I believe White is correct to come out swinging, because in point of fact, Gahan has been given a free ride — and it must stop.
Insulated by a crushingly passive local media, his own groveling sycophants, those fat-cat supplicants bearing wheelbarrows of cash, and a generally apathetic malaise, Gahan successfully has deflected scrutiny. Will the famously ill-tempered Gahan be able to resist White’s calls to come out and grapple over the issues?
And, will Adam Dickey’s blatantly compromised Democratic hierarchy even pretend to referee a fair fight?
This should be very interesting, indeed, so stay tuned to a kinder, gentler NA Confidential.