Now, I'm actually not a big fan of debates. Truth doesn't much matter in a debate. You don't win by telling the truth (just ask Ron Paul), you win by having the most skill at debating. Debating is a very specialized skill, and has nothing to do with honesty. Personally, I'd rather see the candidates all submit specific multi-page position papers a couple of months before the election and be forced to defend them to a committee of fact-checkers and people who ask tough questions. But whatever.
On the other hand, the skills used in a political debate are some of the same skills that are valuable in a mayor. So it's not like it's totally pointless for deciding who'd be the best mayor. It's just totally pointless if you're trying to use it to examine the issues. It's about communication skills and creating the right perception, not good ideas. Communication skills and creating the right perception are important in a mayor though, so let's examine the boring debate!
Rather than pretend like the issues have relevance in this format, I'll just go through the candidates alphabetically by last name and give my perceptions from this debate:
Remember when James Stockdale was in the vice-presidential debates as Ross Perot's running mate? He seemed like a confused old man who was totally out of his element. That's who Ron Dionne brought to mind last night.
Don't get me wrong, Dionne seems like he's probably a pretty nice guy. He's been a truck driver in the past, and I bet he's fun to hang out with on a long trip.
But he didn't bring anything to the debate. He didn't really seem like he belonged there, or knew anything. And he kept getting confused about things. I expected him to bolt for the door at one point.
If there was an overall "loser" in the debate, it was probably Dionne.
It's an old cultural bias that liars are "shifty-eyed". I don't know if that's true, but Ted may just be the most shifty-eyed person I've ever seen! Not only did he not look into the camera once during the entire debate, he actually went so far as to swivel back and forth in his chair!
Presumably he was talking to the tiny audience in the studio, but it came across really badly to anyone watching on tv.
I also think he believes that when you become mayor of Fitchburg you somehow become omnipotent and can do things like tell judges what to do. He did specify that he wouldn't be literally boxing with them (seriously!), but it's generally a bad idea to tell judges how to do their job. Anyway, my understanding is that they're not appointed by the mayor and I doubt they give two shits about what he has to say.
One fun thing he did say was pointed out over at Fitchburg Follies. It dealt specifically with a Prop 2 1/2 override for school budget stuff, and the quote is:
"I would be out there trying to sell the right decision, whatever the right decision would be."Way to be informed!
He also thought that all it takes to manage a $95 million budget is "common sense." Oh my.
Of course, all that is getting dangerously close to an issue and as I said issues are meaningless in this format.
Anyway, DeSalvatore sucks on camera and came across really badly. Maybe a little bit better than Dionne, but he still ran third. Which I guess leaves two potential winners! Who will it be?
Nope, not the winner (I bet you can't guess who was!).
He never really seemed very comfortable on camera. All hunched-up and weird. Also, he attacked Lisa Wong out of the blue a few times, making himself the only candidate to really stoop to that.
A friend pointed out to me that Donnelly's the only one of the four candidates with the funds and likelihood to have done opinion polling. Does attacking Wong (and nobody else) mean that he fears her the most? Beats me, but it's possible! He certainly didn't seem too concerned about Ted.
He also spent a lot of time basically saying he'd have other people do his job, trying to put the blame for things the city council did on other people, and taking credit for things that Wong did. Weird.
He did at least look at the camera and basically act like somebody who might be a sort of bargain-basement mayor. Though it would require the town giving up a bit of dignity.
Overall, he just came across as sort of a dick though.
Yeah, she won. Easily.
While Donnelly gave the impression that he might be mayor-ish, Wong gave the impression that she already has the mayor thing in the bag. She was good on camera, articulate, and actually made an attempt to present specific solutions to things.
Really, she was head and shoulders above the other three. Also, she's clearly much smarter and better-informed than the other three, which is pretty sad when you consider two of them are city councilors. She did manage not to come across as a snooty smart person though, which is probably good.
So yeah, Wong won.
And that's that for my mayoral debate wrap-up thing.
On a related matter, I notice there are two polls going on that ask who won the debate. One is over at Save Fitchburg, where the insane legions of Ted supporters have showed up to vote for him and pretend he didn't look like a cat watching a string during the whole thing. Still, he's just three votes ahead of Wong at this point (the others candidates are way down).
The other--much better--poll is at Hello Fitchburg. It's a better representation, I'd argue, since the DeSalvatore groupies don't generally try to stuff that one.
Why not go take both? Let your voice be heard!
[Update 9/18/07: Hey, there's even a third one at Fitchburg's Voice. It matches pretty well with the Hello Fitchburg one, and of course the Save Fitchburg one is still just gibberish that has DeSalvatore winning.]