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Home / Articles / · Archive / News & Columns /  Blaming Lamely
News & Columns

Blaming Lamely

By Holly Mullen
Posted // June 22,2007 -

It’s always a kick to hear a political candidate offer a reason for exiting a race early. The truth is, it’s almost always about cash'specifically the failure to raise enough of it. But that’s not the kind of simple justification a candidate wants to ladle up for public consumption.

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Most candidates would rather move down a column of choices, Chinese-menu style, twirl an index finger and land on the most disingenuous explanation possible.

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I’ve covered enough political campaigns in my career to hear them all. There’s the ever-popular “I’m leaving to spend more time with my family” excuse. And before the ink is barely dry on the press release, the guy is an Armani suit working the state Capitol halls for EnergySolutions.

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Once, while working in squeaky-clean Minnesota, I heard a first-time candidate say he was exiting a race because politics was even dirtier than he imagined. He couldn’t take the ugliness of it all. At least the wimp was honest.

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My favorite explanation of late tumbled from the mouth of Nancy Saxton, who dropped out of the Salt Lake City mayor’s race earlier this month. The two-term city councilwoman put the blame for her exit squarely on lame-duck Mayor Rocky Anderson, whom Saxton believes has so single-handedly screwed up the city, she didn’t have it in her to clean up his mess.

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“There are many [city] departments hanging on by their white fingernails. It’s going to take a long time for the next mayor to clean things up and restore confidence and pride by the employees,” Saxton told The Salt Lake Tribune on June 16. “I would rather continue on with the goals that I’ve laid out and started.?

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Saxton has decided to run for a third term in her Central City council district, where adjunct University of Utah political science professor Luke Garrott had planned on seeking an open seat. Saxton has always run on a platform of constituent service and neighborhood involvement. Garrott’s academic work is in grass-roots political and neighborhood organization. So, it should be an amusing contest to watch.

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Still, it would have been nice to hear Saxton speak a little truth to power here. She was early to declare her mayoral candidacy but never could paddle her way up from the sandy bottom of candidates who can’t raise money and can’t get their names out. Saxton, smart but flighty, was stuck in that tier of financial underachievers including physician and regular candidate J.P. Hughes and Latino activist John Renteria, who can’t seem to stay on the straight and narrow path. (Renteria was ordered to a one-year jail sentence this month for violating his parole on drunken driving-related convictions).

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It would have been refreshing to hear Saxton just say it like this: “The race is too damned expensive, and I can’t raise the money.” Pundits are predicting the Nov. 6 election will cost the final two candidates at least $1 million a piece. So far, the top four are on their way. As of June 1, businessman Keith Christensen has raised $504,000; Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (by way of disclosure, my stepdaughter), $241,000; City Councilman Dave Buhler $216,000; and State Rep. Ralph Becker, $176,000.

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If she couldn’t bring herself to talk dollars, Saxton might have said'in all honesty'she lacks the huevos to be mayor. No question, after the legacy Anderson is leaving, his replacement will need a hefty set. But going out with the excuse that filling Anderson’s spot will require too much work? Politics has always been the art of the possible. If you don’t believe you can do the job better than your predecessor, why risk the run in the first place?

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I’d like to put it to the next candidate to blow up a little tip. Please give us some semblance of the truth when you bow out. We might even feel sorry for you. Meanwhile, I’ll exit this column until next week. I’ve got to get home for some time with the family.

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A final note: Tequila shooters all around for City Weekly’s winners in the 2007 Utah Journalism Awards, sponsored by the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The awards were presented June 15.

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Staff writer Ted McDonough was named “best newspaper reporter.” This is especially significant because CW competed directly with Utah’s daily mainstream newspapers. The out-of-state judges noted that McDonough “tackles socially relevant and complex stories and makes them easy to understand and eminently readable.” McDonough also won first place for government reporting and third place for military reporting.

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Other CW winners are senior staff writer Stephen Dark: third place for a series and second place for religion-values reporting. Associate editor Bill Frost: first place, headline writing. Arts and entertainment editor Scott Renshaw: third place, reviews and criticism. Production manager Susan Kruithof, third place, front page design. Contributing writer Katharine Biele: first place, consumer reporting. Contributing writer Carolyn Campbell: third place, personality profile. Contributing artist John Kilbourn: second place, editorial cartoon.

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And finally, props to former CW editor Ben Fulton and former staff writer Shane Johnson, who each picked up first-place awards for cover features.

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More Mullen: Mullentown.com

 
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