Friday, May 19, 2006

Politicking on the Ped Mall

Politicking on the Ped Mall

A Friday night in summer on the Iowa City Ped Mall is about as close to an old town square as you'll find. Food carts and restaurants galore, and free live music. So if you're running for office in Johnson County it's THE place to be.

Tonight was the first summer concert and with a high school band playing the crowd was parent-heavy and thus extra rich with voters. So it was impossible to turn around without running into a candidate, and no lapel was left unstickered. Some sightings:

  • Congressional candidate Dave Loebsack wearing Mardi Gras beads, acquired at an Emma Goldman fundraiser and not by the, uh, traditional New Orleans method. (Thus avoiding scandal and remaining in the bounds of taste.) It's an eat-and-run night for Dave (in this case grilled cheese, a Ped Mall fixture) and a quick chat about Leach's budget vote.

    Dave Loebsack issued a statement Thursday responding to Iowa Congressman Jim Leach's recent vote in favor of the Republican sponsored 2007 budget resolution.

    "Leach has proved he is now a champion of big deficits, big debts, and a great tax burden on our children and the future of America. Not only has
    Leach shown his disregard for responsible budgets and spending, but has also succumbed to bully pulpit pressure from the Republican Party,"
    Loebsack said.

    In a recent news story published in The Hill, Alexander Bolton reported House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) made a thinly concealed threat
    to GOP incumbents warning of possibly losing choice committee appointments if they failed to vote for the resolution. Leach was included on a list of
    Boehner's GOP members who could hinder the Republican leadership's goals, however, in the end Leach fell in line with the House Republican majority.

    "The vote for the budget resolution, and a clear lack of leadership in failing to stand up to the Majority leader, reaffirm it is time for a
    change in Iowa's second district."

    Eight vote margin. Close, but not hold the vote open two hours close. Leach made a choice here: the ever-tighter party whip is more important than the actual constituents.

  • Ed Fallon was also enjoying a hand-held meal when I said hi. He had volunteers out and about, Mike Blouin though not present also had volunteers out and about. I half expected to see Sal Mohammed in his sandwich boards, but no such luck. But eighteen days before the primary there was no visible Culver presence at all.

    Now that I think of it there was no visible Republican presence of any sort either. Of course, downtown Iowa City is about as GOP unfriendly a spot as you can find in the state, and it's primary time so even Republicans are "Democrats" at the moment. Closest thing I could find was some folks running an anti-"DaVinci Code" table.

  • Locally, both county attorney candidates and both county attorney candidate spouses chatting with everyone in sight. Also supervisor candidate Larry Meyers out and about. He needs to target his campaign theme to the all important heavy metal vote by using Metallica's "don't Tread On Me" in an ad. They'd love it on KRNA.

  • Not on the ballot but follow up on Monday's bike-bus-car race from two mayors. North Liberty burgermeister Dave Franker continues to claim victory despite his chronological third place finish, citing the phone calls and reading he got done on the bus. (I do miss the laptop work I got done on the bus, but the tradeoff for the bike exercise is fine by me. All I accomplish in the car is changing radio stations.) Meanwhile Ross Wilburn says he could have made better time with a different route. A three minute stop at 10th Street in Coralville cut the margin of victory close.

    It's important to be where the people are and at the same time be yourself. When and where I ran, where the people were was at the high school football game. But if you're going to do that, you'd better have been at the game most Friday nights for the last 20 years - like my opponent had. I hadn't. I would have looked really phony if I'd tried. People may ignore a no-show but they actively dislike a phony. I still remember a story about a candidate who showed up at a church social at a church he'd never been at before. Worse yet, it was his opponent's church! Probably LOST the guy votes.

    The Iowa City Ped Mall, though, is pretty much acknowledged as open turf. There's every-Friday regulars and there's people who are drawn to a particular performer. Doctors and professors milling about in the same physical space as (though not actually mingling with) young people with hair in several unnatural shades. Even my folks love it when they visit. Hint to Iowa City: Play to your strengths.
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