Tag: politics

Despite Inordinate Coverage, Dixon Not Actually Running for Mayor


In the background of Baltimore’s mayoral campaign looms resigned former mayor Sheila Dixon, well, at least in the coverage of the race, if not so much in actuality. She has donated moderate sums to at least two of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s challengers, and, according to local news outlets, she has also offered certain candidates “advice.” What her involvement in the race really amounts to is anyone’s guess.

The number of headlines given to Dixon during the Democratic primary strikes me as so ordinate, that I wouldn’t be surprised if a minority of voters believes she is actually running. Her picture seems to appear on local news sites more often than any of the candidates’. Will she run in 2015? Who is she backing? What did she say about Rawlings-Blake? Have Baltimoreans forgiven her?

I could see why it’s appealing to spend one’s political coverage on Dixon. She has that scandal, and scandals are useful when you are looking to form an opinion on a politician. Depending upon your point-of-view, her gift-card theft was either an inexcusable abuse of power, or an overpunished ethical gaffe. Either way, you think something. The top candidates on the other hand, Rawlings-Blake, Pugh, Rolley, Landers: to form opinions on them you’d really have to bone up on where they stand on the issues. Sounds like homework.

Or maybe it’s that Rawlings-Blake leads by a boringly huge margin in the polls. Or maybe the prospect of choosing the next leader of a city that has been struggling for so long to turn things around with limited success is just too stressful and we’d rather not think about it.

Or maybe I just have amnesia, and it’s really 2015, and it’s Dixon versus Rawlings-Blake.

Mommy, Where Do Campaign Funds Come From?


A recent article in The Examiner compared the sources and sizes of Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral candidates’ campaign funds.

In terms of cash on hand, incumbent Stephanie Rawlings-Blake finds herself in an almost luxuriously comfortable lead with $1.4 million. Compare that to the funds of Catherine Pugh or Otis Rolley, the mayor’s stiffest competition, who have each raised around $250,000 over the course of the entire campaign.

Rawlings-Blake’s money tends to come from unions and businesses; Rolley’s from individuals; Pugh’s from elected officials, loans, and one Scott Donahoo, a car dealer who donated $75,000 to the Pugh campaign.

Perhaps hoping that distancing himself from our disgraced former mayor was worth $1,000, Rolley returned the grand donated to his campaign by Sheila Dixon. Pugh took it.

What do you think? Do the sources of campaign funds give us important information about the candidates? Or is it just another distraction from the real issues?

Despite the misprint on the sample ballot sent out by the state board of elections, the Democratic primary (which nearly all news outlets are calling “election day”) is September 13.

Did Our Mayor Get a Makeover?


The teenagers I worked with last summer had some definite opinions about Baltimore’s mayor — only, they were mostly about the way she looks. I remember one particularly heated discussion:  “What is with her hair?” J. scoffed. “I know. Can’t she afford to get it fixed?” M replied.

It’s true (if sad) that politicians — especially, it seems, female politicians — often have their appearances picked apart and obsessed over. Combine this with the culture wars over black women’s hair, and you’ve got a tricky situation for women in the public eye. If they’re perceived as spending too much money/time on their looks, they’re vain or wasteful. Not enough, and they’re sniped at for not properly representing the city.  Earlier this year, Councilman Robert Curran said as much to the Baltimore Sun:  “To be a good leader, you have to look good, too. I hate to say it, but that’s part of leadership. I don’t think [Rawlings-Blake] would be the leader she is today if she hadn’t gotten in control of her weight. She was able to take command of her own physicality, and then show she could take command of the city.”

So no surprise that now that Rawlings-Blake has officially announced her reelection bid, she seems to have revamped her look as well. Will her mayoral makeover serve her well in the upcoming campaign, or are these surface changes a distraction from the real substantive issues we should be thinking about? Does it matter what the mayor looks like?

Rhetorical Style Setters


Two weeks ago, Newt Gingrich’s press secretary Rick Tyler penned a press release on behalf of the Republican presidential hopeful and former Speaker of the House that was so florid, so melodramatic—it actually contained the words, “But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich…”—that it inspired ridicule from all corners of the media, peaking on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” where veteran actor John Lithgow gave the full statement a halting, bombastic dramatic reading. 

Now, the language of this press release is certainly overblown by any measure, even absurd. But what is it that we, as the voting public, require from our presidential candidates in terms of rhetorical flourish?

George W. Bush’s folksy language and accent-heavy delivery helped earn him two terms as president by identifying him as a political “outsider” who could relate easily to the average American, however imprecisely defined that term might be.

Barack Obama succeeded in 2008 with a poetic-but-not-too oratorical style that used straight-forward questions as jumping-off points for sweeping emotional statements digressing into “Let’s win one for the Gipper”-style national pep talks.

What style will win over voters in the 2012 election? Can most of us see past the rhetoric and understand what a candidate really stands for? How much oratorical flourish do we expect from a president, and when does it go too far?