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Blowing Your Chance

By Jim Sack, 12/10/2018

Four candidates out of a possible six stood respectfully beside the lectern at the Fort Wayne Sport Club, their hands clasped awkwardly at crotch level. Geoff Paddock, Patty Hayes, Jason Arp, and Rachel Lott, aspirants to make a difference, offered themselves up to explain their worthiness to serve you as city council members. In front of them. staring politely, were a cadre of serious-faced neighborhood leaders at the South West Area Partnership meeting.

Four of six candidates. Missing were democrat Jorge Fernandez, and Republican Taylor Vanover, neither of whom, it turns out were contacted by SWAP leadership, both chagrinned at the oversight.

As is usually the case with candidates’ nights, the attending candidates stepped forward to the lectern in succession to offered a brief resume of their achievements, and a recitation of their philosophy of community service. Once all spoke, they awaited questions from the assembled.

So it was on April 18th.

All four of the candidates spoke to their passions and to their accomplishments. Ms. Hayes and Ms. Lott, both relative newcomers, both esteemed public citizens, explained their volunteer activities, but, lacking legislative experience, could only speak to what they would bring to city council to make our community the envy of the world. Messrs. Paddock and Arp, however, focused their time on discussions of their achievements and, in the case of Jason, his lingering gripes at city council. He has many.

Mr. Paddock, ever the gracious gentleman, focused on his service to the neighborhoods. While Mr. Arp, on the other hand, emphasized is stewardship of public funds and his Don Quixote-like opposition to nearly any and every expenditure of public funds that might be associated with “economic development.”

Mr. Paddock’s is running unopposed to Democrat primary, as it is Taylor Vanover, Mr. Paddock’s presumptive fall opponent, on the Republican ticket. Mr. Vanover did himself no favor by skipping the partnership meeting.

Politics in Fort Wayne is done at the “retail” level, hand-to-hand, waged on the front porch, preceded by a knock on a storm door, conducted by the candidate surrounded by a small team with clipboards in hand and agitated dogs nipping at the heels. Candidate helpers carry a list of targeted voters and knock only on the doors of the party faithful for the primaries. In the general election those lists burgeoning to include those who occasionally vote in the party primary, “Soft-Ds or Soft-Rs, those who switch hit, and those who regularly vote, but only in the general election. The goal is always 50% + 1. Door-to-door, hand-to-hand, it begins like a social event, a stroll, then rises to street fighting à la Stalingrad by early November.

Ms. Lott is running against Mr. Arp in the Republican primary. Ms. Hayes is running against Mr. Fernandez in the democratic primary for a chance to unseat Mr. Arp.

You see, SWAP members, neighborhood presidents and officers all, will explain what they saw and heard at the meeting to their association members who make up a fair percentage of voters, especially in primaries where the insiders and activists, including neighborhood association regulars, make up the bulk of voters. It is unfortunate that both Vanover and Fernandez were not invited, for Vanover running unopposed it was just a disappointment, but for Fernandez it could cost him the nomination in a close race against Ms. Hayes who spoke eloquently to the neighborhood leaders.

Ironically, Mr. Vanover emphasizes attention to neighborhood matters in his campaign literature so it must have additionally disappointing to be overlooked when invitations were distributed.

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