Press Talk: Will he, or won’t he? The mayor

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Let’s get right to it. Will he, or won’t he?

I say he will.

OK, next subject.

Well, hold on just a second before we leave the topic. What we’re discussing here, of course, is whether or not Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt will run for re-election. Goodness knows, you can make a case for the guy to simply say, “Thanks for the memories, it has been a box full of fun times — but I think I’d rather have just my close friends relentlessly pound on me.”

(Note: I’ve certainly been one of those who have, ah, pointed out the occasional shortcomings of the mayor.)

Still, with all the pain and suffering virtually any politician has to go through, there is a certain amount of toughness and pride — honor, if you will — of not letting the screamers and naysayers run you out of office.

And in the end — when you include that politicians also believe they truly are doing good for the community — the mayor’s answer will be ‘yes’ to have his name on the ballot later this year.

I should add that not everyone agrees with me on this. I spoke to a very savvy local political observer — who knows the art of running a campaign — who said Leavitt is already late to the game if he wanted to run again.

I disagreed and bet a quarter on his running again.

Mind you, Leavitt has said nothing officially about another run. He is likely still assessing his chances with a few close advisers. But all relevant signs are indicating he will run for re-election.

Who can beat him?

When you examine a race like this, you first have to ask yourself: Who can beat him?

One name being tossed around is former City Councilor Dan Tonkovich. Tonkovich may be as polished a local politician as I’ve ever seen. He is smooth, well-tailored, articulate and easy on the eyes.

But he was unceremoniously dumped by a relatively unknown Pat Campbell back in 2007. That tells you there has been a shift in what voters are looking for today in a politician. And polish might not be it.

Also, the only chance for any candidate to beat Leavitt is to essentially be the anti-Leavitt. Tonkovich does not fit that mold.

Others will emerge, of course, but screamers and naysayers have not done well in Vancouver. And in the end, Leavitt isn’t making his decision based on who might run against him.

What Leavitt has to do

When you look at the mayor as a candidate, you also have to ask what he has to do to clean himself up. And that’s two main things:

• First, he has to rid himself of that anchor he’s been carrying around since the last election. And that would be the “no tolls” campaign push he made when talking about the proposed new Columbia River Bridge. He supports the new bridge.

The mayor has tried to inch away from that old campaign talking point; but if I were his adviser, I’d tell him to clearly admit his mistake and say he wishes now he wasn’t so adamant back then.

• Second, Leavitt has supported raising city taxes — not a popular thing these days — but he has to clearly articulate that there were no other good options for the city.

Expect an announcement sometime in mid-February, before the State of City address on March 20. And I could use that quarter, Mr. Mayor!

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, or Twitter:

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