I know y’all just love to go into conniptions whenever I tell a starry eyed young City Council hopeful like Zac Ploppert to keep his powder dry, but the truth is, running for office, even one as nondescript as alderman, isn’t merely a matter of getting your name on the ballot.
There’s a heck of a lot more to it.
Yes! I get that we’re genetically predisposed to root for the underdog, and we desperately want to believe the system is fair and balanced, but it isn’t. It favors incumbents, name recognition and money.
Lose two elections before holding a public office and I’d put your odds at winning the third at a meager 10 percent. Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham wasn’t willing to go quite that far, but he did say two opening losses mean “you’re seriously damaged.”
So, more often than not, getting elected is a matter of timing.
And it’s with that thought in mind that I want to examine just how Geneva’s mayoral race is starting to shake out.
Of course, after recently announcing his intention to seek a fourth term, the only candidate, so far, is Kevin Burns. But truth be told, he’s vulnerable for the first time in years.
Though he can probably overcome setbacks like the Steve LeMaire thefts, the frequent power outages, and the those fascinating county chair campaign emails, he’s going to have a much more difficult time explaining away how he single handedly kept a property tax hike alive.
Despite his previous proclamations to the contrary, the mayor isn’t fiscally conservative on his best day at a time the electorate is demanding some real cuts. And by “cuts” I don’t mean the current Geneva fantasy game of budget to budget comparisons where you brag about not spending money you haven’t already spent.
A new half-million-dollar computer system and we still need every last city staffer?
Losing the GOP county chair primary contest by a stark 40 percent doesn’t help matters, either. The key stat there is the mayor didn’t even carry Geneva, and once people get used to voting for someone else …
So our bottom line is, the timing is such that a reasonable mayoral opponent has a chance to prevail in April. Should Kevin Burns win this election, short of some massive new revelation, he will probably have the job for life.
Since two terms is good enough for the president, and the mayor is far too close to city staff to make those real cuts, I’ve been encouraging 2nd Ward Alderman Rich Marks to take advantage of this window of opportunity and give it his best shot.
Marks has served admirably on the council, he has an amazing grasp of city finances, he’s a real fiscal conservative, his comportment is more suited to that central dais chair, and it’s time for some new blood.
But just when I thought I was wearing him down with threats of running myself, (remember, being gung ho about an office is never a good thing), the prospect of a third entry gave him pause.
He hasn't been taking my calls, but word on the street is, with Mike Bruno and Mike Olesen also competing for Sam Hill's soon-to-be-vacant 1st Ward seat, former Alderman William Barclay has shifted his sights from that office to the one Kevin Burns now holds.
Despite whatever delusions he might harbor, he can’t win. Just because Mayor Burns is vulnerable that doesn’t mean he’s vulnerable to anyone. To beat even a damaged incumbent, you need some combination of:
Charisma is obvious, gravitas is a combination of demeanor and track record, and we all know what money is.
Though I’ve always been quite fond of Mr. Barclay, having to chose “D – none of the above” is never a good sign. Because even if your timing is just right, being the alternative candidate isn’t good enough to win an election. Bill Brady ran for governor on the “I’m not the other guy” platform and, right in the middle of a vast Republican sweep, he lost to a guy who promised to raise taxes.
Add Barclay’s consistent indecision to the fact he temporarily bowed out of Geneva politics and Kevin Burns trounces him by 15 points.
Though I’m convinced he’s not in cahoots with Burns—my observation is they don’t care for each other much these day—since the mayor automatically wins any three-way race, Barclay is essentially holding the opposition candidacy hostage.
So I’m calling on him to either poop or get off the pot. Waiting till that last Dec. 24 minute to announce only reinforces that wishy washy image. Either say you’re running for mayor or make it clear that you’ll be sticking to your former 1st Ward plans.
The citizens of Geneva deserve to know.