Naughty, nice, and the mayor’s race

Gary Abernathy Staff Columnist

Gary Abernathy Staff Columnist

Originally posted October 26, 2015

It is fitting that each General Election comes so closely on the heels of Halloween, and these days the holiday actually coincides with the election, considering early voting.

The tricks and treats that happen in campaigns as Election Day draws near rival the best pranks of the most creative costumed revelers on All Hallows’ Eve, and each side of a campaign has its own opinion of what actions constitute tricks and what qualify as treats. Or maybe it’s more like Christmas, coming down to which candidate is naughty and which one is nice.

Mayor Drew Hastings said that on one house visit he made last week, he encountered a resident who had already voted, casting a ballot for Pam Limes, the resident volunteered.

That’s fine, said the mayor, but he asked why the man chose Pam. Because, said the resident, he was told that Drew planned to close Shaffer Park, a place where the voter had played as a youngster. The rumor has never had any substance but seems to raise its head every year, and was certainly not going to skip a mayoral election cycle.

Drew himself has no doubt grown somewhat immune to the insinuations and claims made about him over the past four years. He has resisted the advice from some quarters to conduct a more hard-hitting campaign, and has taken the position that voters will either appreciate him for what he has accomplished or they won’t, and there is no need to enlighten people on his opponent’s shortcomings or remind them of her previous comments which perhaps could be used to his advantage.

Pam has also taken the high road, too, in her campaign literature and advertising, although it was probably tempting to lift comments, jokes or phrases from Drew’s colorful social media portfolio and put them in front of voters. It is, of course, impossible to control everything supporters say as they go door to door, as all candidates will attest.

Hillsboro’s mayoral election is an interesting microcosm of what is happening nationally right now in the political world. A conversation that was related to me over the weekend between two longtime friends, one who supports Drew, the other who supports Pam, illustrates the point.

Why, the Drew supporter asked, do so many of Pam’s supporters dislike the mayor so strongly? The Pam supporter replied that they just don’t like his attitude, his demeanor, the things he says sometimes that seem offensive or, for lack a better term, so politically incorrect.

To the Pam supporter, this was very important. To the Drew supporter, this was entirely inconsequential. Who cares whether the mayor is Mr. Nice Guy? What matters is accomplishment, and there certainly has been plenty of that, a point with which even the Pam supporter did not disagree. It probably requires a deep Freudian analysis to understand it, but there is a clear disconnect between those who value achievement versus those who focus on temperament.

We see this same dynamic happening nationally, particularly on the GOP side. Donald Trump continues to lead the national polls, despite his plain-spoken and sometimes offensive comments and his blunt assessment of everything from his opponents to immigration to foreign affairs. Most in the national media cannot understand why everyone isn’t running away screaming from Trump, who offends the media elite’s delicate sensibilities. They apparently miss the point that voters today are craving action over etiquette.

An increasing number of voters have reached the conclusion that they care less about whether a candidate checks all the boxes on the politically correct scorecard, and more about whether they believe he or she will tackle issues head-on and actually accomplish something. And yet, even locally, there exists among a few a certain hypersensitivity to the slightest hint of offensiveness.

Voters are increasingly willing to accept – even to welcome – the anti-establishment rebel, rough edges and all, over the careful and cautious politician, a development which sincerely irritates the establishment and all the careful and cautious politicians who have spent a lifetime trying to please everyone by saying nothing, especially nothing offensive.

Drew is hardly the ogre portrayed by his critics, but he is indeed much more unfiltered than the average politician. There are establishment officeholders of his own party who have never warmed to Drew because he does not play the game as they have learned it and practiced it.

It is in this subtext that this mayor’s race is most interesting, particularly in regard to the anti-Drew movement that long pre-dates Pam Limes’ entrance into the fray. Behind the scenes, there is palpable energy focused on payback for perceived slights, and revenge for the dismantling of sacred cows.

The Times-Gazette endorsed Drew for re-election last week, and I was certainly among the voices on our editorial board in favor of that decision. Then again, some say our support for Drew is based on the fact that he is our landlord because, after all, everyone loves their landlord, right?

I have said before and will repeat this final time before Election Day that I am proud of the fact that neither I nor anyone at this newspaper harbors any dislike or ill will toward either candidate for mayor. I admire both Drew and Pam for having the courage to put their names on the ballot, which is a very big decision.

I believe Drew has done a good job as mayor and has earned re-election. But if Pam ends up winning I will wish her well, have a good night’s sleep on election night, and then prepare to provide our readers with fair and complete coverage of the Limes administration for the next four years. I respect the will of the voters, as well as our democratic process in general.

Like most of you, I’m ready for it to be over. Elections can be fun, but they can also be exhausting, for the candidates, their supporters and the voters. Trick or treat is nearly here. Right after Halloween.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

Gary Abernathy Staff Columnist Abernathy Staff Columnist