Let’s face it. Deveron Gibbons is moving on to the general election. The brothers, as Mark Winn likes to think of them, account for about 18 percent of the vote. So long as the walk-around-money flows, Gibbons is gonna take 80% of that vote. With that block, all Deveron needs is 1 in 10 non-black voters to break his way. Desai and Co. can easily take care of that. Like I said, Gibbons is in.
Now look at the race from the bottom up. Congemi, Eldridge, Helm and Warren together pick up about 7%, Bennett and Williams each grab 10%. That leaves you, Ford and Wagman divvying up the remaining 50%.
For the last month of so, you’ve been in a comfortable second place. A couple of key endorsements and an aggressive signage effort have kept you there. But now it seems like you’ve run out of gas. And Wagman’s money and energy might siphon off enough Old NE voters from you, not for him to win, but for you to fall behind Ford. Then, it’s Kathleen vs. Deveron in the primary and this city begins to look like the West Bank.
Bill, you’ve meandered through this race from the beginning. You announced you were running then took six weeks before you gave an announcement speech. And then it was weeks after that before you really hit the campaign trail because your boy Jack Hebert was in Tallahassee for the legislative session. Remember, Hebert is not on your side. He picked you because I was managing Bill Dudley’s campaign in 2003 and he wanted to stick it to me. Hebert may like you, but he never believed in you. Nor does he know St. Pete well enough for you to really rely on him.
Jack can accept losing this race because he’ll still have the Feather Sound Country Club to drink his Dewars at. And you seem to have the same attitude: that even if you lose, you can return to white-shoe lawyering and everything will be alright.
Okay, okay, you rolled out the Foster Formula. But it’s been laying out there like a dead fish. First recommendation, have copies of the Foster Formula at every voter forum. Insist voters take a copy with them as they leave. You should also be walking around with one so you can literally wave it around when you speak.
Because other than the Foster Formula, your message is getting drowned out. Saying you “will sweat the small stuff” is becoming the cliche of this campaign. It’s also very William Bratton circa 1994. Second recommendation: sharpen your message. You are no longer running against Gibbons, Bennett or Wagman. You are running against Ford for the non-black, non-Democrat vote. So get your ass west of 34th Street and don’t come back to the Old Northeast until October.
Third, it’s time to have a come-to-Jesus discussion with Rick Baker. If he’s going to endorse you, it’s time for him to get off the dime. Waiting until the last minute, as I’ve heard the plan is, will not allow for enough time for the weight of Baker’s endorsement to sink in. You need Baker to endorse you and then see the multiplier effects, like some of the Chamber crowd coming on board. You need time to do a mail-piece to GOP voters with a picture of you and Baker. Keep in mind, the Times is 60-40 going with Wagman: the editorial on panhandling last week was them laying the groundwork for a Wagman recommendation.
Finally, spend some coin. What’s this shit I hear about some low-ball TV buy? Wagman is gonna pull a Ross Perot the last week of the campaign, and while you cannot compete with Wag’s wallet, $20K will keep you in the game. What the hell do you have Hebert around, if not for his skill at producing decent TV on a limited budget.
Bill, do you know how much shit I’ve taken for backing your Republican ass? It’s time for you to make me look good. Because, buddy, if you don’t get a sense of urgency real soon, you’re gonna end up being the Larry Williams (the 2001 version) of this race.