State Rep. Chris Caruso, who lost the Democratic mayoral primary last year because of a flawed campaign strategy, says his buddy in the legislature Bob Keeley went down Tuesday because of Mayor Bill Finch’s political revenge.
Oh, yes, overtaxed city voters were pining for the polls to vote Keeley out because hizzoner was supporting Auden Grogins. Keeley supported Caruso for mayor last year.
Mourning the loss of Keeley’s seniority to the media, I don’t recall that the Great Caruso was worried about Keeley’s status when he challenged and defeated Keeley in a primary many years ago after Keeley had been in office eight years.
If Caruso was so concerned about Keeley’s seniority, why didn’t Caruso, who had a relatively easy primary, unleash his people to help Keeley on primary day? (In fact, Caruso swiped some workers from Keeley’s own district.) If Caruso was so concerned why didn’t he recommend Keeley use Sue Katz, one of the finest direct-mail consultants on the planet, to handle his message? If Caruso, who hired Katz for this election cycle, had used Katz in his mayoral campaign Caruso would be mayor. Katz would have made sure Caruso talked about something other than his myopic corruption message.
Keeley lost for the same reason as Caruso: a flawed campaign strategy. In fact, everything had to break just about right for Grogins to win, including the leap of faith that Keeley missteps could open the door.
Keeley enjoyed all the luxuries of incumbency, a powerful bonding committee position, free taxpayer-paid mailings, a speaker of the house pitching all that he did for his community, the support of a reinvigorated Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa (although I’m not sure how much Mario, in the end, weighed in for Keeley).
I paid a lot of attention to the Keeley-Grogins race because I saw how hard Grogins was working. She began door knocking the Central precinct, Keeley’s home turf, in April. A lot of people, including me, had told Grogins that Keeley would be hard to beat. The blonde banshee went about her business talking to voters anyway. “I’m killing myself knocking on doors,” she’d say.
Eventually, all the pieces for a Grogins win came together: a hard-working candidate, an effective direct-mail campaign by media strategist Matt Fitch, a surgical campaign operation that identified pockets of voters that could make a difference. Jewish voters on the West Side, unaccustomed to voting in recent legislative primaries, roared to the polls for Auden’s Exodus.
To illustrate how choosy voters can be, most campaign operatives supporting Keeley were supporting state senate candidate Marilyn Moore. Moore beat her opponent Anthony Musto, the primary winner, by roughly two to one at Central. Keeley managed a small win at Central while Grogins won by larger margins in Black Rock School and Longfellow where District Leader Danny Roach ran an effective primary day operation. Finch was smart not to insert himself in the primary in areas hard hit by the recent tax increase. Instead, he helped Grogins on primary day in rental areas where he has standing, the West End, urging voters to the polls. It helped.
All of this, coupled with Keeley’s lack of message and an organizational breakdown primary day led to Grogins’ victory. Keeley’s never been a surgical campaigner. He just throws everything against the wall to see what sticks.
Keeley has shown a lot of class in his public response to his loss. He’s not pointing fingers as Caruso so often does.
Food for thought: Keeley has a line on the November ballot per endorsement from the Working Families Party. Some supporters are encouraging him to take it. Keeley has scheduled some rest and relaxation before he makes a decision. His chances would be slim in November, but you never know … Keeley likes to have fun.
Hey, I’m hearing that Cougar Rodgerson may be wrestling tonight at Baldwin Plaza. Check this out: www .u-c-e-r.com/fall/8-14-08.jpg