Danny Westneat says that there’s a “buzz” coming from political newcomer Joe Mallahan in the mayor’s race. I haven’t met Mallahan yet, but folks I trust tell me he’s a personable guy and not a bad public speaker.
As it turns out, there was also a buzz at last night’s Progressive Majority fundraiser during Jan Drago’s brief speech, but unfortunately for her, it wasn’t coming from Drago herself. Rather it was the buzz of audience members quietly talking amongst themselves as they lost interest in Drago’s words.
I had the opportunity to meet Drago for the first time last night, and we had a lovely conversation… a much more comfortable conversation than I tend to have with elected officials upon first meeting, especially those about whom I haven’t always written kindly. I came away genuinely liking her, at least about as much as one can come away liking a person after a fifteen-minute conversation, and I can understand why her supporters like her too.
But after watching her less than dynamic performance in front of a friendly, alcohol lubed crowd, I have to stand by my previous analysis:
The dilemma for the challengers is this: how do you defeat a competent, scandal-free mayor whose values you share, and whose policy agenda you largely support? You beat him by being a better politician.
And that’s why I’m convinced that none of the challengers in this race, not even Drago, can beat Mayor Nickels, for as vulnerable as he is, and as grating as his style obviously can be, none of his opponents possess the force of personality necessary to get voters excited about change.
Drago struck me as likable enough and all that, but she just doesn’t seem capable of generating sufficient buzz to toss out the incumbent, however low his approval numbers. And while her 16 years on the council no doubt leave her well qualified for the office, it’s hard to see her dynamically selling the pitch to disgruntled voters that what we really need now is an infusion of old blood.
As for Mallahan, perhaps he really can generate that kinda buzz. I dunno. Then again, we tend to set an awfully low bar around here when it comes to exciting politicians, so perhaps he just comes off as buzzy compared to the rest of a less than exhilarating field?