Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5 Takeaways from City Council Election

The Wheel doesn't do listicles. But they are popular on Buzzfeed and easy enough to write, so let's do one anyway. Here are our 5 takeaways from Richardson's City Council Elections.

  1. You can't beat somebody with nobody. Five of seven incumbents ran unopposed. Needless to say, they won. Even Mayor Laura Maczka, who riled her neighborhood with her support of the Palisades development, didn't draw an opponent. Not surprising, in all cases, the somebody won and the nobody lost.
  2. Money talks, bullshit walks. Campaign signs were few and far between. Mailers from candidates were non-existent. The only significant expense in the campaign was a mailer from a political action committee, the Richardson Coalition's perennial voters guide. The two candidates recommended in that mailer won handily. Consider this second takeaway a corollary to the first. Just as you can't beat somebody with nobody, you can't beat somebody who is spending money when you have no money to spend yourself.
  3. You attract more flies with honey than vinegar. People lined up at the podium during the visitors section of city council meetings to excoriate the mayor and city council for various alleged failings. Many more ripped the mayor and city council (and Richardson Coalition PAC) on social media. In the end, it was for naught. There was no exit polling done, so we'll never know what voters thought, but perhaps voters just aren't persuaded by denunciations and insults. Anger doesn't get you anywhere.
  4. The rebel alliance only wins in the movies. Because of takeaways one through three, the new city council is going to look a lot like the old city council. When the establishment is the side fielding the most candidates, the status quo wins the most races. When the establishment is the only side spending money, the status quo's message is the only one the voters hear. When the establishment paints a positive image of the city and the opposition runs against the establishment, expect voters to vote for the upbeat message not the cynical message. You need more than just being against something to win elections.
  5. Hope springs eternal. Social media was filled with high expectations for next time. There was talk that next time there will be lots of candidates. That might yet come true. But just running candidates in all races isn't enough to win elections. Will they be the right candidates? Will they be able to attract money to run serious campaigns? Will they offer positive, constructive messages? In 2011, thirteen candidates ran for seven seats on the city council. Some of the challengers were lightweights. Some criticized the status quo but failed to paint a positive, constructive vision of their own. All of the challengers lost. Hope may spring eternal, but humans have a funny way of repeating past mistakes. Unless things change in 2017, unless strong, positive candidates are recruited to challenge the establishment, expect similar results.

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