Friday, August 17, 2007

Other people's blogs ...

Chris Briem runs a recap of the Bodack-Dowd contest from this past spring (and you can’t comment on it). He says that we are sufficiently past the election to deconstruct what happened. Well, really he says what he has said all along, which is that Lawrenceville on the one hand and Highland Park on the other were largely unmovable, that they voted the same way and in the same numbers as in the 2004 primary. Keep in mind that in 2004 Mr. Bodack was defeated, but because he was defeated by a combination of two candidates, he in fact won a plurality. This year every one cast their votes the same way as in 2004, but there was only one Dr. Patrick Dowd. So I effect the race, according to Chris, was all about Len, Lawrenceville’s affection for him and Highland Park’s dislike of him. Fair enough, put that way it is hard to dispute.

I do want to look at a few other factors, though.

This time around, Mr. Bodack was the incumbent, son of a popular State Senator.

Dr. Dowd, while on the school board, had been part of the group that had fired the African American Superintendent, John Thompson, and in fact Dr. Dowd had felt compelled to make a speech about why he had thought it necessary (maybe he will have a handler on city council to keep him from doing that sort of thing again).

I think I had heard that the elder Mr. Bodack was not doing so well, which could have limited the help he could have given his son and distracted his son as well.

There was the questionable effect of blogs, this one, of course, included.

There is the door knocking done by Dr. Dowd and others, sufficient to attract the attention of Dr. Dean.

All of these factors mixed in to this year’s race, pulling it this way and that, all toward the fateful 80 votes that would determine the winner. The point I want to make is that the only factor under any one’s control was Dr. Dowd’s door knocking, and Mr. Bodack’s lack of it. The other factor’s were either facts of life or happenstance. So again, credit is due to Dr. Dowd for the effort he put into the campaign. Otherwise incumbency and other factors would have likely tipped the balance the other way

I had taken notice of what had appeared to be a high turnout in 2007 for the primary, but Chris was at pains to tell us it was very similar to the 2004 turnout. Maybe both races were fairly heated. Maybe the 7th district is very patriotic, always wanting to do their civic duty by voting. Maybe it’s a big district. Maybe Len Bodack should have offered Highland Park to Bill Peduto, to reduce the size of the district.

So Dr. Howard Dean came to Pittsburgh and apparently congratulated Dr. Dowd on his door knocking skills. Hmm. This was a primary. There were no republicans in sight, only democrats. It’s nice and all that he came, but I think Dr. Dean should be careful about deliberately splitting the party.

On the Burgh Report I made a comment that Bill Peduto did not have a degree. This is what I had read in the PG. In fact, he does, he went back and finished. Why didn’t I know? I really dislike the Trib’s editorial policies, and I forget that the Trib, sort of like the WSJ, has some decent reporting.


Jonathan Potts said...

I certainly agree with you that Dowd's hard work no doubt played a big role in his victory, but I also agree with Chris that Dowd's victory, in itself, is not evidence of a titanic shift in the political landscape.

This wasn't the first time that Dowd defeated an incumbenent. He won his school board seat by beating Darlene Harris--his future colleague on City Council--who, if memory serves, was the sitting school board president. She was a divisive figure but had hard-core supporters.

EdHeath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EdHeath said...

Zapped my last comment because I wanted to be clearer.

Yeah, the thing is, Chris is impressed with how similar the vote and the structure of the vote was between 2003 and 2007. I agree, but all the door knocking Dowd did should have made some difference (12,000 doors? Well, even 6,000 would be very impressive). Perhaps Lawrenceville and Highland Park were fairly fixed. But it does seem likely that Dowd would have lost even the few votes he did get in Lawrenceville, and that he had some effect in Morningside and Stanton Heights without the door knocking. I think Mr. Bodack started with an advantage in name recognition, and the heavy internet emphasis of Dr. Dowd’s campaign probably did little more than help organize efforts. But I will say Mr. Bodack seemed opposed to getting out to campaign himself, which I found puzzling. In any event, all of Dr. Dowd’s efforts served to bring voters back to where they had been in 2003 voting wise, and a little more, but that’s how you beat an incumbent.

I don't know anything about Dr. Dowd's race against Darlene Harris. I should say I have watched the City Council a couple of times on TV, and she has surprised me favorably.

westwardwall said...

As a resident of the ninth ward I am far more interested in the effect the outcome of this race will have on the community. Mr. Dowd's office on Butler street is rarely open. I see, on a daily basis so many problems that he could address now as a Democratic councilman elect ( for all practical purposes). Where is he? What a great opportunity to meet people in Lawrenceville if he only propped open the door on Saturdays for a few hours and talked to people who wandered in. Seemingly the process of getting elected is more important than learning what one can do to serve.Its as though we are seeing what it will be like after the election. A darkened store front that could so easily be used to promote a civic sense and concern for the community. One has to watch carefully to see the problems we have in Lawrenceville. I don't believe Mr. Bodak really cared when all is said and done. The irony of his giving a $30,000 grant to the fledgling Roberto Clemente Museum whose owner wants non-profit status was a poor choice for bleeding hearts but a good one for sports fans. Better to have followed Clemente's lead and spent the money trying to rescue young children in the 10th ward and down on Hatfield street from poverty. Why do you suppose there is so little dialog concerning the performance of council members and so much concerning the strategy and tactics used to get elected.