Tom Richards has a decision to make. And my hunch is that it’s one of the toughest he has faced in a long time.
Having lost the Democratic primary to Lovely Warren, does he try hold on to the office of mayor and run in the November general election? He’s still on the ballot, on the Working Families and Independence lines. In that respect, then, he’s still in the race. But should he conduct a serious campaign? Or should he say that the people in his party have spoken, and he’s supporting Warren?
I think there are compelling reasons why Richards should keep campaigning.
First of all, I think he’s done an excellent job, and I think the city will be better off with him as mayor for the next four years.
But regardless of that, it’s unsettling for most of the city’s voters to have no voice on something as important as selecting the person who leads this city. Only 23 percent of registered Democrats showed up at the polls. And Democrats are only 64 percent of the city’s registered voters. The 11,386 Republicans, 5,456 smaller-party voters, and 19,013 voters who are not registered in any political party had no voice in this at all.
(Let me hasten to add, by the way, that I wish Richards’ supporters would stop saying that he lost because voters thought he was a shoo-in and it was a hot day and they didn’t think they needed to vote. That’s demeaning to Warren and her team, who conducted a terrific campaign and won fair and square.)
Richards, though, has a lot to wrestle with. My assumption is that he won’t be able to have the help of the Democratic Party in the next phase of the campaign; the party’s responsibility is to help elect the Democrats their voters have nominated. In the case of the mayor’s race, that’s Lovely Warren.
If Richards continues to run, he’ll have to raise more money. He’ll have to figure out why Warren’s message resonated and his did not.
From a personal standpoint, he’ll have to decide whether the strain of the campaign, and the possibility that he’ll lose, is worth it.
But I’d bet that something else is weighing on Richards’ mind: if he runs and wins, will he have done more harm to the city than good?
The issue of race was kept at bay, mostly, in the primary campaign. But a lot of Warren’s support is in predominantly black neighborhoods, and a lot of Richards’ is from whites. Early indications are that voter turnout in black neighborhoods was much higher than in the white neighborhoods. If Richards decides to continue his campaign, the risk is huge that it will generate considerable racial tension. That would be very harmful for Richards and his administration. And it would be very harmful for the city.
I think he could overcome it. But it wouldn’t be easy.
I don’t envy Richards his decision. I very much wanted him to win. I also want what is best for the city. And I’m conflicted about whether a continued campaign is what’s best.