As you know (and thanks for not raining ignominy down on me) my postmortem of the mayor’s race was slightly off — not to mention my prediction that Mike Burke would win.
Leave it, then, to Charlie Wheeler, pathologist and former mayor, to come up with an alternate postmortem.
“You can beat the fire fighters, or you can beat The Star,” he said Tuesday night, “but you can’t beat the fire fighters and The Star.”
Quite an insight, I think.
I would augment that slightly to say it’s almost impossible to beat a candidate who has The Star, the fire fighters, is well-funded and has a ton of personal appeal.
Sly James was such a candidate. I didn’t want to admit it during the campaign because, of course, I was “all in” for Burke.
But now that it’s over I will tell you that one of the reasons I liked the mayoral forums — before and after the Feb. 22 primary — was waiting for James to come up with a funny line or employ a unique image or metaphor. He seldom disappointed.
My favorite James line, which he uttered at a February Chamber of Commerce forum was: “Until I see a headline that says, ‘Ph.D. shoots master’s candidate at 39th and Troost,’ I’m going to continue to believe that education is the key to long-term reduction of crime.”
Let’s face it: James was not only a good candidate, he was an interesting candidate.
Burke was also a good candidate. But, let’s face it, he wasn’t interesting. As much as I like him and as much as I think he would have been a better mayor, he was careful and fairly predictable. Because of his charm and spontaneity, James connected with many more voters than Burke.
And so, it’s time to offer congratulations to James and all of his connections, including campaign manager Brian Noland, state Rep. Jason Kander and his wife Diana, and my friends Donovan Mouton and Mike and Carol Grimaldi. Everyone connected with James is rightly proud and thrilled, I’m sure.
When Mouton, former neighborhood liaison in Kay Barnes’ administration, told me about two years ago that a friend of his named Sly James was running for mayor, the first thing I said was, “Kansas City is not going to elect a man named Sly as mayor.”
Well, not only did Kansas City elect a man named Sly, it elected a fat black man named Sly.
That says a lot — a lot — about the man, the voters and our city. Sly convinced the voters that he’s anything but sly. He convinced them that he’s sharp, funny, forthright and likeable. It’s a winning formula, isn’t it?
You know, when you get beat by a 54-46 margin, it’s hard to go back and say, “Our TV should have been better,” or “We should have been tougher,” or “We should have been more specific about our candidate’s record.”
No, when you get beat 54-46, it’s usually the opponent who did it to you; you didn’t beat yourself.
At the watch party Tuesday night, I heard one Burke backer say that we should have capitalized to a much greater extent on Burke’s opposition to the proposed Shughart, Polsinelli building on the Plaza. Another was furious at K.C. Star reporter Dave Helling for his stories about Burke and his law firm’s dealings with the Port Authority.
Forget about it. None of that mattered. We — those of us on the Burke team — were up against personal magnetism, magnetism projected by a guy who made sense when he opened his mouth and who never got rattled.
At our Feb. 22, primary-election victory party — the night the TV cameras caught me dancing with council members Cindy Circo and Jan Marcason — an acquaintance of many years, Susan Stanton, offered a word of caution about the upcoming general-election campaign.
“Never underestimate a charismatic candidate,” she said.
I heard her, but I didn’t really believe her. I thought experience would count more than personality. Man, was I wrong.
At the same time, I have no regrets. It was a great, two-month run. Some people contended that it was dull, or that there wasn’t much to choose from between the two men. From my perspective, however, it was anything but dull; it was exciting, it was intriguing; it was good political theater. And I’m going to miss the curtain going up on the show night after night.