May 4, 2009
The long and winding road ... to City Hall
One-hundred-twelve days ago, Gary Becker logged on to Yahoo Instant Messenger as WISC_GARY and struck up a not-so innocent conversation with Hope_Ulikeme14.
As we all know, Hope turned out to be Department of Criminal Investigations Agent Eric Szatkowski and Becker's chat led to his arrest at Brookfield Square Mall. Six days later, Becker resigned and a political free-for-all ensued. John Dickert and Rep. Bob Turner emerged from an 11-candidate primary field to compete in Tuesday's special election. Jody Harding (lower right) also stuck around as a write-in candidate.
It's been a long four months for the city; incredulous, sad, stirring, confusing and even exciting four months, but mostly just long. I saw it Saturday with Dickert and Turner during a radio interview for WGTD (listen here). Both candidates are so well rehearsed at this point the answers roll of their tongues without thought. They've participated in about 10 forums in three months, banged on countless doors and together spent more than $50,000 trying to convince city residents they should be the next mayor.
Turner and Dickert have given city residents a choice (click here to see where you vote). Turner ran as the seasoned veteran. He repeatedly touted his state and local government experience, and painted the more aggressive, but less experienced, Dickert as naive. Turner has the strong backing of local unions and would be Racine's first African-American mayor (and the second elected African-American mayor in the state).
Dickert ran as the change candidate. He touted an ambitious "10-year plan" to make Racine a "Top 10" city, and ran a high-energy campaign that outraised Turner by at least $8,000. While Turner talked about rolling city government back to the pre-Becker era, Dickert pushed for a post-Becker era. Dickert has support from much of the business and real estate community.
But neither candidate pulled away in the last month. Both come from a Democratic background and both were smart enough to tailor their campaigns around the city's key issues: jobs and crime. That left the race a battle of personalities: the youthful Dickert vs. the reliable Turner.
The good news for voters is there's not a bad choice tomorrow. Both candidates are capable of being an effective mayor. Dickert brings his real estate and lobbying skills to the job, and Turner brings a wealth of experience. We can't go wrong, but we have to choose. If you're undecided, here are three questions to consider for each candidate:
1. Do you trust him as the city's chief executive?
2. Do his business and real estate ties help or hurt him as mayor?
3. Does the city need "change"?
1. How valuable is his experience?
2. Do his union ties help or hurt him as mayor?
3. Will he be aggressive enough as mayor?
Have your answers? OK, now get out vote!