Wake me when it's over
Three weeks remain before voters cast their vote for mayor, yet one fact is undeniably clear: This is the most boring mayoral campaign in the modern history of Baton Rouge.
Be honest: Is anyone at all excited about this election—other than the candidates themselves and those who will handsomely profit if their guy is in office?
The main challenger, Mike Walker, like most punk bands, knows but three chords: wanting an army of police on the streets, a Bush-like pledge of no new taxes and a promise to return Baton Rouge to what he believes were the halcyon days of the 1950s.
The incumbent, Kip Holden, rendered angry and combative by three bond issue defeats and an icy relationship with the Metro Council, is content to play defense, BRAVEly proclaiming the crime problem is under control. Instead, he suggests, our focus should be on all the children that will be injured or killed in scores of school bus accidents if we continue to ignore the bevy of bridges in this parish that are on the verge of collapse.
Even the long-shot candidates are failing to move the excitement meter. Gordon Mese maintains Utopia is merely a repaired UDC away, and Steve Myers is proving to be a one-hit wonder, teaming with a co-founder of the Front Row Lunatics to put his 40-day message to song.
Not since the second half of Alabama's utter beatdown of LSU in the BCS title game have I been so numbingly bored in the late stages of a contest. And just like that gawd-awful Jan. 9 night in the Superdome, I can't wait for this tedium of a death march to come to its merciful end.
If the Metro Council is looking for a reason to let us get drunk seven days a week, then this campaign is exhibit 1. No one should have to suffer through this sober.
This race is such a who-cares affair that the campaign contribution haul of all four candidates combined is less than the $800,000-plus Rolfe McCollister single-handedly raised in his 2000 primary run for mayor.
Even four years ago, when Holden was trouncing the lamest main challenger ever, Wayne “Spider” Carter, there at least was some buzz over whether or not the mayor would have the stones to push another mega-bond issue, loaded with downtown goodies, before suburban voters.
This time we've got murder, maiming, waivers and a theme song—hardly the stuff that inspires one to believe it's morning in Baton Rouge.
There are a handful of reasons why this campaign is about as exciting as LSU's 2012 offense. For one, this is a race about fear and safety, not inspiration and the potential for greatness. Walker, the aggressor from the day he announced, has made the escalating crime rate his drumbeat message, and Holden has been content to do little more than refute whatever charge Walker tosses out there.
Moreover, other than crime, these candidates are ignoring almost every other issue. There's no talk of the alarming escalation of retirement debt and its impact on the city-parish budget, little said about a sewer overhaul plan run amok, not a word on how to bridge the divide between suburbanites and urbanites, and but a passing mention of economic development and job creation.
Yet I suspect the principal reason for such indifference is that for many voters this is a race about who they don't want for mayor, rather than who they do want.
There are those who believe eight years of Holden is enough, but they can't stomach the prospect of what might happen on Walker's watch. Then there's the near certainty of another four years of gridlock with a divided council, regardless of whether it's Holden or Walker occupying the mayor's office.
Consequently, this is a decision about which of these two lackluster candidates is seen as least offensive. My guess is that Holden will ultimately be the winner in Indifference 2012.
The mayor still has his supporters in the downtown crowd, the black community won't abandon him and—while Walker will fare well in the suburbs—enough south Baton Rouge voters will decide four-and-through with Holden is better than Walker for a potential 12 years.
Having said that, please wake me when it's over.
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