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This Stuff Writes Itself!

UPDATE: As of Monday, 5/21, there will be at least one Town Hall/Debate event featuring both mayoral finalists.

Sunday, June 3, 2018, 4:30PM, on the Trenton Campus of Mercer County Community College.

More details to come.

Hooray!

NOTE: Below is a piece from May 29, 2014. I’ve had to do a remarkably minimal amount of editing to update this this year. Events don’t usually parallel themselves so closely, but hey! This is Trenton, where if something is worth doing once, it’s worth doing over, and over, and over again.

Even if all we end up doing is picking mistakes.

To make it easy to follow where I’ve made edits, I have put the updated text in Bold Red. Just in case you really can’t follow what I’m saying here.

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Would you be ready to marry someone after a courtship consisting of only a half-dozen speed-dates? I wouldn’t!

Yet, Trenton mayoral candidate Paul Perez is ready to call the caterer and get measured for his tux. He’s done debating opponents for this current election, and thinks he’s done all he has to in order to tie the knot with the City of Trenton.

He apparently believes that there is a quota for such appearances, and that he’s reached it.  His campaign must believe – with some justification, it has to be said – that he is a strong favorite to win the June 12 runoff election against Reed Gusciora, and that at this point any further public debates or forums can only provide opportunities to make public mistakes. Better that he limits any further appearances to small papal-type audiences, where he can tailor his message to each person he speaks with, and can be less concerned with communicating a consistent and coherent public message that he would be held accountable for.

His campaign strategy seems to be geared toward mistake avoidance, just planning on coasting from now until June 12. This lack of activity extends to his campaign website and Twitter feed. The candidate has messaged only once since May 8’s election,  only to announce his first place finish on May 8. This seems to me to be a “Rose Garden strategy” for someone who isn’t even an incumbent!

To me, Mr. Perez misses two important considerations. First, his finishing first on May 8, a result that he apparently felt entitled him to state on the record that “Reed has no business standing in my way right now.  He should just go back to the House (sic) and pass some bills that will help our city.”

He neglects to note that his finish in this election came from a total turnout of only 22.80% of the city’s registered voters, a more miserable number than even 2014’s small voter turnout of only 26.93% of registered Trenton voters. The runoff is likely to bring out a number smaller than that.

Mr. Perez is OK with that? In his position I think I’d want to campaign harder and more publicly in order to get the vote out, to engage more voters to show up at the polls. If the June 12 turnout is anything like this month’s, then the new Mayor of Trenton will be elected with only something like 14% or 15% of Trenton’s voters. It will be hard to govern like that. The new guy will find it difficult to claim any kind of mandate, or to be treated seriously by anyone with the State or New Jersey with pitiful election numbers like that. But apparently that’s not bothering Mr. Perez. He’s content with the effort he’s made so far, figuring that should be just enough to get him over the top.

A second relevant factor to look at is the example of how Kathy McBride fared at the mayoral polls in 2014. Her campaign strategy specifically avoided appearances at public candidate forums, because as reported in the Trenton Times, “she also has declined to participate in the forums because the people who will pull the lever for her do not attend candidate forums. She said she is pulling her support from the people in the community who know her personally and have seen her around.” [Emphasis mine - KM] Then again, she has just won an At-Large City Council set this month with very little public campaigning and no town hall appearances. What do we conclude from this? That Trenton’s voters, as fickle and hard to figure as they are, appear to have different, higher standards for their mayoral picks than their Council preferences.

A candidate or his campaign manager shouldn’t have to ponder very long about how well that kind of strategy paid off. McBride’s deliberate choice to avoid candidate forums had to have contributed to her sixth-place finish out of the field of six.  Perez’s stance of disengagement from further public debate is a poor choice to have made.

His new emphasis on individual meetings with voters hearkens back to two other recent examples that I doubt Mr. Perez wants to be associated with, but it is inevitable.

Remember that long ago time in the Fall of 2012 when He Who Will Not Be Named embarked on a series of weekly “Ask the Mayor” sessions? Remember how, after only three of those meetings – held in a City Hall conference room and open to the press and all citizens – abruptly ended after the fourth scheduled event “erupted in protest this morning and drew police involvement after Mack barred the press and unexpectedly required residents with questions to meet with him one-on-one ?”

I’m sure Tony Mack also figured that individual meetings were a better venue to talk about HIS plan to “reduce crime, improve schools, create jobs and restore ethics to City Hall!”

And in 2014, Eric Jackson basically campaigned for the runoff the same way he ended up governing, in seclusion except for occasional photo opportunities. He figured, correctly as it turned out, that he could coast on his May result and hide from the voters. He won, and we were stuck with him for the last four years. History does seem to be repeating itself in Trenton this month.

Are these associations with Kathy McBride and Tony Mack and Eric Jackson the kinds of examples that Mr. Perez really wants for his campaign? I can’t think of any possible reason why, but they are inescapable after this latest announcement.

He really should re-consider his decision to avoid further debates and public joint appearances with Mr. Gusciora.

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