April 6, 2009
Racine's Greatest Election
Racine should be proud.
If there was a way to clean away the embarrassment Gary Becker brought to the city, this was it. 11 candidates. Packed forums. Volunteers. Donations. Heated debates. If anyone wondered, it's clear now: People care about this city and its future. We'll be fine with Mayor Becker. We are fine without him.
What's remarkable about the field of 11 candidates up for election on Tuesday is that any of them could be mayor. I believe that. These are smart, dedicated, experienced political, business and community leaders who would do well to fill the chair at City Hall. Perhaps most importantly, there's a general decency to the field.
And while only two of the 11 candidates will advance, we may look back on this race as the launching point for elected offices. Are there aldermen, County Board members, a County Executive, state representatives, state senators even a Congressman in this mix? Quite possibly.
In my 10 years in Racine, this is hands down the greatest election I've been part of. Racine's 2003 mayoral race was a great campaign. Becker defeated Ron Thomas with incumbent Mayor Jim Smith launching a write-in campaign after sleeping through the primary.
But this year it's been beyond impressive to see groups like Community for Change and YPR draw hundreds of people to hear and meet the candidates. Thousands of people will go to the polls Tuesday as informed voters with a plethora of choices for what they want this city to become. Let's not forget this.
In 2007, Becker ran unopposed and the city was worse for it. Elections are a time to reflect on our community and hold candidates accountable for their promises and actions. When an incumbent runs unopposed, it can be a sign that everyone is happy with the direction of the city. More likely, it's a lack of courage among challengers unwilling to put themselves on the line.
This spring, we have candidates who took the risk. Every one of them has a vision for the city, and, regardless of outcome, every one of them deserves a voice in city decisions. Nine candidates will lose on Tuesday, and a 10th on May 5. But the eventual mayor - and the City Council - would do well to recognize the wealth of talent that's emerged this spring.
As a community, we are fortunate to have this many choices. Now, it's our job to weigh in on these choices and decide how we wish to proceed. Don't miss your chance to participate in what may well go down as Racine's greatest election.
Vote Tuesday and remind a friend to vote too. With this many candidates, a handful of votes could mean the difference between second and third place - the difference between advancing to the general election or getting left behind.
As a personal note, thank you to the candidates for being accessible and open throughout the campaign. Without exception, all of the candidates have been a pleasure to work with and we're looking forward to the future mayor running an open and transparent government.
Good luck to all.