News Analysis: Cordle/McFall Announcement Bodes Well for Ending Partisan Politics and Elections ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Thursday, October 8, 2009

News Analysis: Cordle/McFall Announcement Bodes Well for Ending Partisan Politics and Elections

In a surprise move to all but political insiders, Republican mayoral candidate David Cordle today announced that he reversed himself and will support creating a council-manager form of government and he picked up the endorsement of Democrat Trudy McFall who amassed close to 1000 votes in the September 15th primary. McFall also endorsed Republican aldermanic candidates Greg Stiverson and Scott Bowling who have supported the council-manager proposal.
This is no doubt a serious slap in the face of Democratic candidate Josh Cohen as well as the local Democratic machine while at the same time, possibly (I stress possibly) strengthening Cordle with core McFall voters who otherwise might have supported Cohen.

It will likely draw some Democratic supporters of the council-manager proposal to Cordle, which so far in the general election, has been championed by Independent Chris Fox. Similarly, at the same time, it may bring in key Ward One support to Cordle.

It’s yet another odd twist of events in an unusual election season that has seen top Democratic vote-getter Zina Pierre withdraw after beating six candidates including upsetting Cohen, then re-enter and then withdraw from the race following questions surfacing about her financial and legal situation as well as her residency.

However, it is clear that Cohen is the overall loser in this equation as he is not only likely to lose potential McFall voters, but is now the lone mayoral candidate opposed to creating a council-manager form of government, whose key feature is that the city manager will report to the entire council rather than solely to the mayor. Cohen has even refused to sign the petition that is circulating which may bring the issue to referendum. That petition has already been signed by more than 3500 voters.

Not to overdo the impact, this shift does represent a further weakening of the Democratic Party machine which clearly includes Cohen as a major player, and is a boost in the arm for the council-manager petition but how it will impact Cordle is, well…fuzzy. While the alderman and Cohen have been strong proponents of hiring a professional city manager (which city code already calls for in the guise of a city administrator), the former Army reserve officer and investigator has repeatedly said “the buck stops here” meaning the mayor’s office. Despite opposing the mayor-council form of government, he still signed the petition to bring it to referendum. Cohen will not sign the petition.

This is nothing short of an about-face for the alderman who sponsored legislation to compete with the bill to adopt a true council-manager form of government. Each bill failed with a 5-4 vote. McFall had become one of the strongest supporters of the council-manager form while a primary candidate. Independent Chris Fox was also an early and strong proponent of the council-manager form, so with Cordle now adopting a favorable position, this recent move could negatively impact Fox as well.

This eleventh-hour reversal is not a slam-dunk for Cordle and does seem out of place for a man who may be viewed by many as violating his own convictions in a late grab for votes. This is pretty much what the Cohen campaign along with Democratic incumbent Aldermen Dick Israel and Ross Arnett had to say about it as expected, denouncing the “flip flop as political opportunism”.

It gets weirder. Arnett and Israel are the primary architects in City Council for the council-manager form of government that Cohen opposes, meaning that their support for Cohen is….well you get the picture. Cohen says Cordle has a “troubling pattern of flip-flops” whereas with him “you will always know where I stand and why.” Arnett and Israel call Cordle’s move a “fox-hole” conversion. Ooooohhh….

But it’s not just about how voters will react to Cordle--what of McFall? She was out of favor with and lost her connection with the Democratic Party machine and with what had been a once cordial relationship with Cohen, but how will her endorsement of Cordle play in the voter’s minds? No doubt some will see it as a bold move, putting her vision for the city ahead of party and politics. However, others may see it as an abandonment of the party in which she belonged and perhaps as a personally motivated sting aimed at Cohen. If her goal was to ensure support for and enactment of the council-manager proposal, why did she not ally herself with Fox, who as noted above, was a long-time supporter of the proposal? McFall praised Fox but said he was too young and inexperienced for the job. Fox brushed off such thoughts.

Furthermore, there is the tax cap in which Cordle is alone among the three candidates and most clearly has separated Democratic candidates from Republican candidates, perhaps more than anything else. Had McFall supported Fox, she would have allied herself with not only a proponent of council-manager but also an opponent of the tax cap as is McFall. Now she is endorsing the one candidate out of the previously crowded field of seven Democrats and one Republican (except briefly and early on when Frank Flyntz ran) who alone supports the tax cap.

No doubt there have been discussions and meetings to work this out and it did not just fall from the sky. I suspect, as Cordle and McFall have said, that much of this is based on Cordle actually listening and learning and taking the advice of his supporters. Perhaps they have come around to accepting a council-manager form of government as the best way to handle what will no doubt be a messy budget and management situation for the next mayor.

How the once omnipotent Democratic machine will fare is perhaps the biggest political question to be answered, and of course, much of that answer may depend on whether Cohen wins of not on November 3—but that likelihood has just decreased in my estimation, although how much is clearly anyone’s guess. With eight disappointing years of Boss Ellen leading to widespread dissatisfaction, with L’Affaire Pierre upsetting more voters and embarrassing the Democrats, with Cohen moving from city council to county council and to mayor before any of his terms were up, with two major charter amendments potentially gong to referendum, it seems that this could really be a watershed year for city politics, resulting in a weakening of the two-party system and partisan politics and elections. Annapolis is one of three municipalities in Maryland still holding partisan elections.

Who is putting party and politics before city and who is putting city before party and politics. It’s hard for me to tell. I am sure a lot more can and will be said, but in some ways this latest twist and turn makes the decision for some voters much easier and for others, even more disconcerting. Count me among the latter, or maybe not, or maybe the former, or well maybe, er I’m not sure…anyone have a Tarot deck?

LISTEN TO CP Publisher Paul Foer on 1430WNAV at 8:15 every weekday morning.
READ CP Publisher Paul Foer's "The Ninth Ward" every Wednesday in The Capital
JOIN US EACH THURSDAY 8-9 am for our Sip N' Blogs normally at ZU Coffee, 934 Bay Ridge Road, Annapolis, Maryland, in the Giant Shopping Center. Oct. 15--Josh Cohen, Oct 22--Chris Fox (at Sly Fox Pub)
Oct 29--Dave Cordle. Stop by on your way to work for your morning latte and meet other local activists. Zu now has a drive-through window!


Paul Foer said...

To "Ted Hubert" Prove to me there really is a Ted Hubert and that is you (and not who I believe you are) and I'll publish your letter...and to all the other anonymous know the rules..

Ellis said...

I was a big supporter of Trudy. After what happened with Zina, I'm not sure I'm willing to get behind any candidate who is Dem or Repub.

Lots of thinking to do...

Fox was my second choice and currently my primary choice. The only fear I have regarding Fox is that perhaps he'll let bars stay open later. Let's all be honest here... it's not fun listening to drunk people walking through the neighborhoods looking for their car and pissing on our houses. F that.

So Fox... promise me you won't change bar hours downtown and we might have a deal. And Cordle... pass the city manager issue and we might have a deal.

blogger templates | Make Money Online