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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A few early thoughts on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's challengers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 1:48 PM

I'll have a full blog post up by day's end about City Controller Michael Lamb's mayoral campaign announcement this morning at Brookline's Cannon Coffee. As my fistfuls of Twitter followers know, Lamb had tough words for both incumbent Mayor Luke Ravenstahl ("an absentee mayor") and fellow challenger Bill Peduto ("a councilor who talks a lot but hasn't accomplished much"). Among his own accomplishments, meanwhile, Lamb touts his early support of county row-office reform and his early backing of public schools watchdog group A-Plus Schools. But he skirted reporters' repeated questions about how much money his campaign has raised, giving variations on the answer, "We have enough to communicate effectively." You don't have to be a political insider to know this translates as "we have less money than the other guys."

Which brings me to the most notable thing about this morning's event. Lamb and Peduto have so much in common -- both are wonky reform-minded guys, and in fact both ran against Bob O'Connor in 2005 -- that it's fair to ask what the difference is between them. I can't answer that question from a policy standpoint yet, but if this morning's event is any sign, the style of their campaigns, at least, will be much different.

Peduto's campaign kick-off was, first and foremost, a party. It attracted 1,000 people to a cavernous office building on the fringe of the Strip District, offered free booze, and featured a speech from Peduto that lasted about 97 seconds and had something to do with building bridges. Lamb's announcement was attended by 50 people (that's including media), was held at 10 a.m. at a neighborhood coffee shop and offered cookies from the bakery down the street. And while Lamb's speech wasn't exactly wonky -- it featured some of his dry humor plus repeated reference to his own South Hills roots -- it did touch on policy issues, especially those that had surfaced in audits his office had previously compiled.

Peduto will no doubt be bringing the wonk too -- he was already getting pretty detail-oriented with reporters in the press scrum immediately following his own campaign announcement. Still, after Peduto's speech, you felt like he was going to Disneyland. Lamb, meanwhile, made a point of noting that he was headed to Homewood.

At first blush, and at this very early stage, Lamb would seem to be odd man out here. Compared to the last time Peduto and Lamb ran, Peduto's campaign has gone upscale in a big way, thanks to years of laying groundwork and the backing of county executive Rich Fitzgerald. Lamb's campaign announcement, by contrast, felt much more like 2005 redux. But if this turns out to be a low-turnout race -- one in which Ravenstahl and Peduto use their resources to drive up each other's negatives -- I can think of worse strategies than keeping your head down and spending a lot of time in the neighborhoods.

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