Second tier wonders why

How did Mike Bell and Anita Lopez get to be front runners


My friend Charlie has a mantra. We call it his “how’d that guy” mantra.

Charlie is forever saying, “How’d that guy get a wife like that?” Or, “How’d that guy get a classic Corvette?” Or, “How’d that guy get a job like that?”

Joe McNamara and D. Michael Collins have to be asking: How did Mike Bell and Anita Lopez get to be front runners in this race?

Only two candidates can emerge from the Sept. 10 primary. Two of eight. Last weekend two mayoral candidates who are fighting to be in that final cut — Mr. McNamara and Mr. Collins — launched TV commercials. Joe McNamara’s ad attacks cronyism, and by extension Mayor Mike Bell and County Auditor Anita Lopez. The ad says nothing Mr. McNamara hasn’t said already, but it is tougher and blunter than is Mr. McNamara’s usual personal style. He is attempting to make a virtue out of the disdain sent his way by hacks and union bosses. And maybe Mr. McNamara has no choice. Maybe this is the only way he gets the reform vote out and behind him.

Trouble is, that is an inherently limited voting block.

If he could make it to the general election, being the “change” candidate might be a winner for Mr. McNamara. But attacking the forces who traditionally dominate the primary to win the primary? It doesn’t quite compute.

Mr. Collins, in his commercial, stays positive and reminds the public of his endorsement by firefighters and police officers. That’s smart. And the fact that he has a commercial at all may be a sign of a minisurge for Mr. Collins.

This race is all about getting from the second tier to the first tier. Or even the third to the second. It’s tough. Politics is more often static than dynamic.

It must seem unfair to the second and third-tier folks.

Over the years, Mr. McNamara and Mr. Collins have both immersed themselves in policy. Mr. Bell is not a policy guy. He does not see the importance of what Mr. McNamara is saying about developing local neighborhood micro businesses — not so much as big revenue boosters, but as poverty-fighting neighborhood boosters. He does not acknowledge what Mr. Collins says about the Department of Neighborhoods being dysfunctional and standing in the way of a better housing policy. Yet I don’t know anyone familiar with that department who thinks Mr. Collins is wrong.

Ms. Lopez is even further removed from policy.

The second-tier candidates must be thinking, “We get it, so how’d those guys get to be the leaders in this race?”

As my pal Charlie likes to remind me — and as President Kennedy said — life is unfair.

And, as another friend says to Charlie, “God divides.” Maybe the short, bald guy is working on a cure for lymphoma. Maybe the guy with the Corvette has no sense of humor. Nobody has it all.

The winner, on points, of the library debate Monday night was probably Libertarian Michael Konwinski. He knew more about the possibilities of a regional water authority than anyone on the panel. He has integrity and does his homework.

God divides and politics is anything but fair. Bottom line, if you have great ideas but are not electable, you can never be a great mayor.

Keith Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.