Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reflections on the 2008 Pittsburgh Mayorial Race, or "Dowd or Dowd not; there is no Try"

Whether you want them or not, here are some thoughts on the Pittsburgh Mayoral Race. I advise readers to save these in a shoebox under your bed and perhaps over the years, they will appreciate in value, allowing you to exchange them for cash, or gold, or food stamps, or ammunition, as the economy seems to be heading that way.

The announcement by Patrick Dowd that he was going to run was really no surprise. Once Peduto was out, then Wagner, then Sheilds, the path to challenge the Mayor was pretty much down to Dowd alone; no other remotely viable candidate is really out there.

The advantage that Dowd has is that he already defeated a very connected incumbent once (Len Bodack, who had the distinction of being present at Council meetings), so Dowd definitely has some experience with long odds. The secret to his win was a strong ground campaign and an extensive get out the vote effort, which got more voters out from the pro-Dowd areas of the Council District (Morningside, Highland Park) than the other areas (Lawrenceville). If Dowd expects to win, his ground game needs to be near perfect.

Additionally, there is still pent up campaign energy from the November election, especially in the African-American and "Progressive" areas of the City. Dowd could use both the momentum on the ground and the experienced campaign workers to create a fairly strong anti-establishment machine.

Another advantage that Dowd has, if you can call it that, is that voters don't necessarily like the Mayor. They aren't whipping off their shoes to fling at him, that's for sure, but there's this general malaise about the voting public. Voters don't hate Ravenstahl, and he's the default option, but outside a small base no one is really gung ho. Dowd, with a little work, could flip enough people to supporting him instead of blindly voting for the Mayor.

That being said, there are enough problems to make the Dowd campaign a long shot:

(1) Right now it's a three way race: Ravenstahl, Dowd, and Robinson. Dowd and Robinson split any anti-Ravenstahl vote and Ravenstahl wins.

(2) Luke has $1,000,000 in his war chest. Dowd has $31.27 and a bit of string.

(3) No incumbent Mayor has ever been defeated in the history of the City of Pittsburgh since the dawn of hyperbole.

(4) Voters in the other parts of the City hate politicians from the East End.

(5) Ravenstahl has the bully pulpit and the office to make rain prior to the election. Expect a news conference every day announcing a new program that will benefit residents of the City of Pittsburgh and which will be forgotten about by May 31, 2009.

(6) Ravenstahl needs the job. It's not like there's anywhere else for him to go right now, and with a wife and kid at home, he needs the money.

(7) Dowd was on the Pittsburgh Public School Board - a body so historically incompetent that it makes City Council look like a bunch of Philosopher Kings.

(8) The "Progressive" movement in the City seems very localized. The Southern and Northern neighborhoods are much more conservative, and probably reflect more of the voting public, in general.

So, Dowd, in my estimation is a long shot. If he can mobilize a strong GOTV effort, especially outside his East End base and in African-American neighborhoods, he may have a slim chance.

I'm not betting my food stamps or ammunition on it, though.


Bram Reichbaum said...

Well, if you give us your food stamps we can purchase frozen turkeys -- the ewoks have a sling-shot mechanism they're working on. Someone will be over on Wednesday.

Lady Elaine said...

If voters hate politicians from the East End, then how did Dick Caliguiri get elected three times and Bob O'Connor added a fourth victory all within the last thirty years?

And the Pgh school board had a better four years under Dowd than the city council in that time.

Unaffordable schools were closed, a new superintendent was hired and possibly the largest overhaul in the district's history is underway. Dowd's role was indispensible in making those things happen.

Although I do think Dowd might not win this year, he will most certainly lay the ground work for four years down the road to a victory.

O said...

I'm not disagreeing LE on your observation on the East End thing, it just appears harder, as I've noticed a natural antipathy from other parts of the City.

And I'm sticking by my School Board sucks position.

Schultz said...

An excellent analysis of what Dowd needs to do to win, ADB. Everyone is saying a win is next to impossible because of the size of Luke's war chest, and while Dowd needs to raise at least enough money for yard signs, lit, and full time staff, the outcome isn't going to come down to fund raising, it will be determined by Dowd's ground game and GOTV effort, like you said.

MH said...

O'Connor won his race against other East End politician. I'm not sure if that goes for or against LE's point.

Also, yes the school board does suck.

Anonymous said...

Luke In a landslide. Wish he would use Obama Dollars" to fill empty pools.

How can Mayor talk "green" technology, bike paths and so on...while watching kids sweat on urban streets.

I heard cost of trash cans would have filled the pools for years....