(NOTE: This is the column I wrote for the The Extra newspaper for May 8, 2014.)
Dennis Walaker has to be wondering what he did to deserve
Politics is a cruel world. Especially taking into consideration the challenger is a senior citizen himself.
Thus far city commissioner Brad Wimmer hasn't brought much to the table other than code words like "fresh," "change," "new" and "energy" -- apparently he and his high-powered campaign team believe 73 years old (Walaker's age) is past one's prime -- but that likely will change between now and the June 10 election. Or maybe it won't.
After all, where can Wimmer hit Walaker to say he would've done things differently?
Walaker was the rock on which Fargoans (and
Walaker's eight years have also seen the explosive
revitalization of downtown Fargo, a massive upgrade in infrastructure like
water mains and sanitary sewer, lower taxes and both population and economic
growth. It isn't like
So the motivation for running is ... what, exactly? "We just want to bring it up a notch and do a little better," Wimmer said.
Wimmer's campaign web site lists flood protection, strategic
business growth and keeping
The messaging his clear: Walaker is ready for pasture. Wimmer seems to be saying, "Thanks for all the hard work and success, Mayor. Now get lost, your time is past."
It all seems so heartless.
It's up to Walaker to counter with a campaign that not only points to his accomplishments, but shows voters he's not exactly the washed-up old man he's being painted as. On a recent day, Walaker had four ceremonial, ribbon-cutting-type appearances around the city in addition to his regular duties as mayor. Prior to Wimmer's challenge, Walaker didn't need to let people know what he did in a typical day. Now he does.
It'll be a tall order for Walaker. His first "campaign" in 2006 was based on flood protection and Walaker spend almost nothing. He went unchallenged in 2010, didn't need to campaign and received more than 90 percent of the vote. Walaker, frankly, isn't much of a campaigner. He's never needed to be.
Wimmer, meantime, has assembled a team that includes some of
the power players in
Wimmer also appears willing to infuse some partisan flavor
into the race for a non-partisan office. He is a well-connected Republican and
Inniger, Grindberg and Haugen -- the three most visible luminaries on his
campaign team -- are all Republicans. There is even talk of national Republican
operatives on the ground in
Walaker, meanwhile, has endorsed candidates of both parties
during his time as mayor. He's been more interested in helping candidates get
elected who will benefit
For that unselfish commitment to his city, Walaker is being told he's too old and tired to do the job any longer. Harsh business, politics.
(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on 790 KFGO-AM. His show
airs weekdays from