While this race had a relatively fiery start, it’s been a bit of a fizzle towards Tuesday’s vote.
The police pension spiking started as a big issue, with the Omaha Police union throwing their weight around, claiming their opposition to Vokal was all about “saving the children”.
Each of the candidates tossed out an economic development plan, about which there hasn’t been much further discussion or debate.
Then the police pension plan came up again, with everyone throwing out their ideas (or lack there of).
But ask many Omahans and they’ll tell you there’s not much fire about this race.
An interesting nugget came the other day when Jim Vokal decided not to go on Tom Becka’s afternoon radio show on KFAB. Becka was all wound up, and openly mocked Vokal and his campaigning style. One could say that you couldn’t blame Vokal for avoiding what one caller called Becka’s “woodpecker on crack” style. (Then again, Becka would likely have been polite to Vokal, so we can’t really see where going on the show would have hurt him.)
But the real telling point was when Becka asked only pro-Vokal callers to chime in. And about three called in.
Now we KNOW there are more pro-Vokal peeps out there. And we don’t doubt that Becka would have put them on. But we think it displays more of a complete disconnect right now in an election where there are no real driving issues — or at least any that have really been driven by the candidates. One can only get so excited about cops retiring early.
So aside from the predicted low expected turn-out in a contested primary (unlike, at least, 2001 and 2005), where do we see things headed?
Well let’s look at the pluses and minuses of the three major candidates:
Omahans have shown that they either love Hal Daub or hate Hal Daub. (Well, love and hate are probably both too strong, but you get the picture.) It’s notable that Daub has not had an easy election since his last House victory in 1986.
But by all accounts, looking back, he had a very successful tenure as Mayor. So why wouldn’t Daub be cruising to a third term as Mayor?
Well, Daub has passionate supporters. He can raise lots of money in Omaha. And he will likely get his supporters out to vote. Daub’s advantage is his West Omaha base, which traditionally has had a very high voter turnout — even without a primary. One would think that this primary could work for him.
But Daub can have a ceiling in the Omaha electorate. While his supporters can turn out, his non-supporters can as well. Some will simply fill in an oval that doesn’t have “Hal Daub” next to it. If turnout is strong in the eastern part of the city, that could pose a problem for Daub (especially if turnout is high in the Democrat District 3, with its competitive primary).
There are Hal Daub yard signs all over town. But there are lots of houses where there isn’t a Hal Daub sign. Do they vote too?
Let’s face it, Jim Vokal is not an electric personality. Stand him next to the the frenetic Daub and you might grab his wrist to check for a pulse. But do Omahans see that as a bad thing? People liked Mike Fahey because he seemed even keeled. Daub lost back in 2001 mainly based on what some considered his disagreements with the City Council.
So does Vokal seem more…agreeable?
Well for one thing, in the now Democrat city of Omaha, Vokal is perceived by many as non-partisan. He beat Democrat stalwart Anne Boyle in a Democrat district. He has had a good relationship with Mayor Mike Fahey. But he still pals around with the Chuck Sigersons of the town, so he hasn’t lost his GOP bona fides. This appeals to people.
But others feel that Vokal, still in his thirties, is lacking in experience. While Vokal has an eight-year record on the city council, in his professional life he doesn’t have an extensive resume. The OWH pointed out that Vokal’s managerial experience in pretty much nil in a position that is essentially the City manager.
But, do voters care? In many respects, people are looking to see what a candidate’s vision is for the city, as opposed to how he manages, say, a snow storm. Then again, while someone like Daub certainly has that experience, how many non-Mayors do, yet are still elected? It is certainly a plus for Daub, but for many doesn’t necessarily cancel out Vokal.
Like it or not, Vokal’s biggest asset is probably that he is not Hal Daub. There’s a reason that Vokal has been pushing his “same old Hal Daub” theme. While Vokal took a lot of shots from the police union, voters looked through the union attacks to see who they were coming from, and many have pointed at Daub. That may or may not be fair, but it it likely the case.
The question is, can Vokal parlay that anti-Daub sentiment into a #1 or #2 spot?
When Suttle got into the race, we thought he looked like the kind of guy who could potentially waltz into the third floor office at the City/County building based simply on his resume.
Let people know that he has worked with HDR. Push a few City Council votes. Be the Democrat successor to Mike Fahey and let it happen.
But then Suttle opened his mouth.
Toboggan runs. Papal visits. Iowa business parks. Platitudes to cut waste with no specifics. We got a chuckle out a line from the “Weird Harold“, an online parody site:
Candidate Jim Suttle says he’ll solve the pension shortfall by “negotiating with the unions,” an ingenious gambit, which left the other candidates speechless. “That guy walks on water,” said Mayor Mike Fahey. “Did you hear him out there? Negotiating! I’ve been doing this job how long? I never thought of that!” Fahey was also “blown away” by Suttle’s secret plan to serve donuts at the negotiating table. “Forget subtle,” said the Mayor, “Jim is just plain wicked clever.”
After the Obama victory in Omaha and the prospect of an electorate splitting Daub on the ballot, Suttle could have been measuring curtains. Instead, there won’t be the massive Obama turnout and voters who are looking for an alternative to Daub, particularly Democrats, may instead look to Jim Vokal. Or just stay home.
So where do we come down on Tuesday? Well, like we said on the District 3 race, we think it’s going to be close.
We think Daub will take the the Primary, but won’t get over 50%. We think that Vokal and Suttle will battle it out for second place.
And we think Vokal will pull it out.
So, because you can’t win if you don’t play, we provide these Leavenworth Street odds:
Daub into the General: 1:4
Daub over/under: 38%
Vokal into the General: 2:1
Vokal over/under: 33%
Suttle into the General: 3:1
Suttle over/under: 29%