Bloomington was the site of what can only be considered a Democratic orgy yesterday. Dems gathered at the Irish Lion at 5pm to pay tribute to and write checks for mayoral candidate John Hamilton. An hour later even more Dems got together at the Fountain Square ballroom to pat each other on the back at the annual FDR Gala.
As members of the party stretched their conga line the city block from the Lion to the ballroom, I was reminded of nothing more than my days as a randy, rowdy 22-year-old when my friends and I would bounce from party to party on a Saturday night.
Toeing The Party Line
Only there were no guys wearing eyeliner or gals sporting fishnet hose (I ran with an avant garde club crowd back in the late ’70s and early ’80s). Led by that renowned fashion plate, former US Congressdude Baron Hill, the attire of the day was all business. The Dems mean business this year, having suffered a vicious ass-kicking nationally at the hands of the Republicans last fall. With Gov. Mike Pence’s recent pratfalls, party faithful suddenly are giddy with the possibility that the GOP just might piss away all its gains. Seemingly in the snap of a finger, 2016 looks like a resurrection year for the Dems so long as Pence et al keep stepping on their…, um, striped ties.
But first, there’s a mayoral election to get through this annum.
Hamilton and his wife, Dawn Johnsen, hosted their fundraiser at the Lion mere days before early voting begins (Tuesday, April 7th). The primary election day is Tuesday, May 5th. There’s a lot of dough to be spent between now and then. Hoping to draw more wallets out, Team Hamilton/Johnsen rolled in the heavy artillery of Blue Dog stalwart Hill.
“This guy,” Hill told the crowd after Hamilton intro’d him as a cross between his BFF and an elder statesman of rock ‘n roll (think Paul McCartney), “gets it.”
Whatever “it” is, the crowd responded, vocally at least. The number of zeroes they filled out on their checks has yet to be determined.
The currency at the FDR was less precise than dollars and cents. There, the Dems bestowed moral support upon each other. Everybody who was anybody in Bloomington Dem circles was there — save for the elephant who wasn’t in the room, Mayor Mark Kruzan.
Improbably, the mayor was a no-show. His AWOL-ness only struck me as I was leaving the Gala so I dashed off an email to one party big shot asking if it was merely my imagination. This person responded uncharacteristically tersely: “Mayor Kruzan was a top sponsor of the FDR Gala, but is keeping a low profile at events during primary season and focusing on his job at City Hall.”
This particular big shot knows full well a smart-ass like me would interpret this absence note as the pinnacle of political-speak, and so I have. My source may as well have written Kruzan “wants to spend more time with his family.”
The Mayor indeed is outgoing (ironic, considering he’s such an aloof figure) — his term ends the last day of this year — but, as far as the party is concerned, apparently, Kruzan’s out already.
I get the feeling some bad news will begin trickling out regarding Kruzan’s 12 years at the helm of this thriving, throbbing megalopolis. I’ll keep digging — hell, somebody’s gotta do it.
BTW: Whispers at the Hamilton affair have it that his opponent, Darryl Neher — Kruzan’s hand-picked guy — ought to downplay any connection with the mayor. The Hamilton camp sees the pairing as Neher’s soft underbelly. You know what? I agree with them.
Anyway, perhaps my favorite encounter of the night was with the city council’s District III representative, Marty Spechler. I rode up in the Fountain Square elevator with Spechler and a couple of young party supporters. We all intro’d ourselves to each other and one of the young guys remarked that he’s a faithful reader of The Pencil. Spechler looked puzzled. The following mini-convo ensued:
Me [to Spechler]: Don’t you read the Electron Pencil?
Spechler [still looking stumped]: I read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Me: Well, I’m not that big yet.
Spechler’s look morphed from baffled to grateful, thanks to the elevator doors opening. I wondered for a hot moment if he’d try to dig up The Pencil when he’d get home before my good sense reasserted itself.
As promised yesterday, I stalked two very decent (morally and ethically), very capable figures to ask them what their political plans might be vis-a-vis elective office. One of them already holds county office but I’ve been sensing this character ought to think in grander terms. The other is unelected but nevertheless is a key player in party affairs.
Let’s start with the already-elected pol. I tapped Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal on the shoulder and asked, point blank, “What about Congress, Mr. Prosecutor?”
Gaal: What about it?
Me: You. Congress. Why not?
Gaal [a lightbulb going off above his head]: You mean me, run for Congress?
Me: Yeah. You.
Gaal [without missing a beat]: You can quote me on this: I’d rather have a sharp stick in the eye. I love what I’m doing and I have big plans for this office.
That is, the one he already occupies. Fair enough. I believe him. Too bad. I could see Gaal giving Todd Young a run for his money.
The other person appeared equally as mind-blown by my Q. This person absolutely and positively denied ever even entertaining such a crazy idea. Now, I wasn’t meaning this person ought to run for Congress. Maybe something a little less ambitious, like county commissioner. Ixnay, the person repeated.
Me: Can I mention your name in tomorrow’s Pencil?
The Person [aghast]: No!
Again, fair enough. And again, it’s a damned shame.
Here are some pix from yesterday’s bashes: