I did not vote on Saturday as intended, life having determined it had other plans for me– which actually turned out to be good, as I had forgotten that there were ten Goddamn people running for the three at-large City Council seats and maybe I ought to look into that. Therefore, having spent part of my evening browsing campaign websites, and for those for whom my opinion might be relevant:
This will be a brief note and not a full post, as I am barely even awake and really need to get myself up and moving, and chances are those of you for whom this is relevant know how to find my in my Clark Kent identity anyway– but I’m planning on voting early today, as is my usual preference, and I’ve decided I am voting for Regina Williams-Preston for Mayor of South Bend today.
The simple fact is that most of the current Democratic mayoral candidates are running on very similar platforms; there seems to be broad agreement about where the city is at and where we should be focusing our energy and our funds in the current years. We have an abundance of good options here. I am voting for Regina because in the years I have known her (through my job) she has built a reputation as a tireless, dedicated and approachable educator and as a member of the City Council she has been the type of public servant who looks for and builds consensus where it can be found. Feel free to seek out some of the national news articles that have been written lately about how she and Pete Buttigieg worked through some of her concerns about the 1000 Homes in 1000 Days program that convinced her to run for City Council in the first place, if you like.
The official election is this Tuesday, and early voting is available downtown right up to Election Day. A mayoral primary in an off year is likely to only draw ten thousand or so votes, so this is literally a situation where every single vote genuinely counts. I encourage any South Bend folks who are reading this to head down to the County City building today or tomorrow and vote for Regina.
I say it every time I talk about local elections in South Bend: the actual election is the Democratic primary, particularly with respect to the mayoral race, because the local Republican party absolutely refuses to run anyone with the remotest shred of credibility. In the last several years their candidates include demonstrably crazy people and at least one person who was homeless while running for office. They’ve run exactly one credible candidate since I moved back here in 2007 and he spent his entire race running against the city. Turns out if you think a place is a terrible shithole where no one should live, the voters who live there don’t choose you to run the place! I know, it’s weird.
Seriously, this was an actual mailing by those fuckers. Forgive me, it’s the highest-DPI scan I can find and it’s not great:
… yeah, that’s even worse than I thought. It reads: RIP: Here lies South Bend, a once vibrant city now abandoned by business, overrun by violent crime, and driving people from their family homes because of high property taxes.
Now, put me in charge of this awful place that I obviously hate!
Yeah, good luck.
Anyway, I talked about Republican candidate Sean Haas’ shitty website the last time I talked about the mayoral race around here. I am compelled to let everyone know that I have seen my first Sean Haas yard sign, and this motherfucker, who supposedly is a teacher, has no fucking clue whatsoever how capital letters work:
There are ten total and six unique words on that goddamned sign and two of them need capital letters and don’t have them. I dunno, maybe some of you out there think I’m being superficial, but this is a level of don’t-give-a-fuck that I would find shameful from a middle school student. I have both a former student and a former co-worker in common with Haas, although I’ve never met the guy, and while they both say they won’t vote for him neither of them think he’s a terrible person. So, fine, I won’t cast aspersions upon his ancestry or anything like that. But if your damn lawn sign has two typos and only ten words you do not get to be Mayor. I need people who give a shit in that job, and this guy clearly doesn’t, and furthermore he doesn’t have anyone working for him who gives a shit either or this abomination would never have made it out of Photoshop.
Or, y’know, Paint.
It was probably Paint.
So, yeah: when whoever wins the Democratic nomination wins 70-30 in the fall, this is why: it’s not because South Bend is so monolithically Democratic that a Dem win is inevitable– South Bend is in Indiana, after all– it’s because none of the local Republicans give enough of a shit to actually put up a nominee who is worth the money spent on his campaign.
(EDIT: I think I’ve decided who I’m voting for, by the way, but I think I’ll save it for another post and not step on this one. Needless to say, it won’t be Haas.)
You are probably aware by now, one way or another, that my mayor is running for President. I’ve talked about it around here a bunch, I’ve donated money to his campaign a couple of times, and on my last candidate preference he was in second place. He has spent much of the time since then annoying me, but that’s another post.
Here’s the thing, though: South Bend needs a new mayor! And our mayoral elections are held the year before Presidential elections, so it’s this fall– and I believe early voting for the primary has already opened and the actual primary is May 7. There are, I think, nine Democrats running for mayor. The local Republicans have probably selected a local malcontent of one sort or another; they have not run a remotely credible candidate in something like twelve years, and that guy spent the entire election running against the city he supposedly wanted to run, and lo and behold we decided not to put him in charge of the thing he obviously hated.
(Which is another point in my long line of reasons to never vote for Republicans. Republicans believe that government is worthless and cannot do any good. Why, then, would I ever put one in charge of government? They will prove themselves right!)
Anyway, whoever wins the Democratic primary is going to be the new mayor. I don’t know who the Republican candidate is, but there’s only one and he’s gonna be some flavor of lunatic and about 20% of the population will vote for him and that’s gonna be it.
I have no idea who I’m going to vote for. Our local newspaper hasbeenrunningprofiles of the various candidates and is about halfway through them at the moment. I know two of the candidates personally (if you live around here, and you’ve ever seen a picture of Oliver Davis in a Santa suit, that’s my Santa suit) and have met a third a handful of times, which is really weird. Those three, plus the guy that Buttigieg has actually endorsed, are the four I’m looking at most closely right now, but I’m going to be paying attention to the Tribune profiles on the other four.
There has been no polling that I’m aware of. My gut tells me that James Mueller is probably the frontrunner just because of Buttigieg’s endorsement, but maybe not? I dunno. He sent out a pretty comprehensive mailer about his plans and ideas a week or so ago, and I liked what I saw, but I also feel like it’s time for South Bend to have a black mayor, and the other three candidates I’m looking at– Oliver Davis, Regina Williams-Preston, and Lyn Coleman– are all African-American.
So I’ve got some work to do. Road signs are starting to pop up all over town, so I need to start scouting out townhall meetings and seeing which candidates have credible websites and such. It’s a weird feeling, to really have no idea which of these four I ought to be pulling for. I mean, the presidential primaries don’t start for months and you go seven or eight candidates deep before I start getting into folks I don’t have opinions on. I need to hold the mayoral candidates to the same standard, I think.
UPDATE: I had a brief moment where I felt like maybe I was being unfair to Sean Haas, the Republican candidate. After all, when I wrote that paragraph up there I didn’t even know his name. So I looked him up, and this is literally the first thing that you see when you look at his website:
Two typos in your opening text is too many typos, and the rambling article that follows is an ungrammatical bloody mess. If you can’t find a proofreader for your website you don’t get to run my city. So. Bye, dude.
This is gonna be one of those book reviews that’s more about me than the book I read, so buckle yourself in for that.
The strongest single-sentence recommendation I can issue for the book my mayor wrote, Shortest Way Home, is this: Pete Buttigieg made me proud to be from South Bend.
(In case you’re wondering, he wants you to think his name is pronounced “BOOT-edge-edge,” but “bootyjudge” is also acceptable, because I’ve voted for this dude four times so far and I get to poke gentle fun at his name if I want to.)
It is rather difficult to express just how unlikely a sentence that is for me to have written. I grew up here, y’all. I escaped to Bloomington for college and to Chicago for nine years after college and then … well, my wife is amazing, I totally married up in the biggest way possible, and I literally would not trade her for anything, but my one and only reservation was how the hell did I move to a city with 3,000,000 people and end up marrying someone I went to high school with?
Which, yeah, that’s what I did. And there’s a whole story there, and I’m not sharing it, but if you had asked me even two years before we got married what the chances were of me marrying someone from high school I’d have told you zero and not been kidding, and I’d probably have been slightly offended by the question. I moved back to South Bend because one of us had to move and I hated my job and she didn’t want to live in Chicago; it just made more sense for me to come back to where my family was. (And I’m not complaining about my family! I hope that’s obvious! It’s just that they all lived somewhere I didn’t want to live in.)
And then we elected a dude who wasn’t even thirty yet to be Mayor, and I think I competed against his ass (and probably lost) when I was on the Quiz Bowl team in high school, and I voted for him because everyone else running pissed me off and he won by default … and then the guy turned out to be way more Mayor than South Bend ever deserved, and he turned the fuckin’ city around in two terms, running against and crushing by 80-20 the parent of one of my former students to win his second term.
And there was that time I almost killed him. And now he wants to be President, and I’d rather have him as my Senator or my Governor than my President right now, but I gotta admit I’m coming around. And Goddammit he’ll be a good President when he gets around to it but I’d still prefer he take over for President Harris when her second term ends in 2028.
So here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure I liked this book more than most people will because, well, I live here. And this is a memoir written by a still relatively young mayor of a mid-sized city. It may be that the appeal is somewhat limited, especially since it really is about mayoring, for the most part, and about revitalizing a city that basically none of you live in. But Buttigieg really genuinely is a smart, fascinating guy, and this is a ridiculously compelling book given what it’s actually about. It’s the second “I’m running for President!” memoir I’ve read this year– Kamala Harris’ was first– and it’s a better book than Harris’ was. (It’s also much less of an “I’m running for President!” book, for the record.) But Pete Buttigieg loves the hell out of South Bend, guys– the book is drenched with it; I thought I loved living in Chicago but it pales in comparison to how Pete feels about being mayor of the town he grew up in. And my curmudgeonly THEY PULLED ME BACK IN nonsense just couldn’t stand up against it. I’m this close to ordering a damn flag, for God’s sake.
(Shout-out to the graphic designers, who incorporate elements of South Bend’s flag throughout the book but never call direct attention to it, in a way that I find clever. The current flag was a product of his administration, and looks like this:)
I still really don’t think Buttigieg is going to be President in two years. For the record, he hasn’t officially announced yet; he’s still in the exploratory committee phase. But there’s a townhall on CNN tomorrow night at nine, and maybe you ought to watch that? And maybe if you watch that, and you think, hell, Luther’s right about this dude, then you should probably check out this book. If nothing else, for the chapter about meeting and courting his husband, which is the most ridiculously fucking adorable thing I think I’ve ever read.