Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Akron, debating the need for a debate

THE SECOND AND FINAL (!) debate of the Akron mayoral campaign was a gentle sparring match that left some of us wondering why anybody went to the trouble. Maybe the earlier clash between Mayor Plusquellic and challenger Mike Williams in the Democratic primary convinced most people that the mayor was assured a seventh term when they count the general election ballots on Nov. 8. To the chagrin of Republicans, the mayor is usually decided by the winner of the Democratic primary.

On this occasion Plusquellic is sort of challenged by Republican Jennifer Hensal, an Akron West Sider who practices law in Medina and is said to be hopeful of being appointed to some judgeship when the planets line up for her. In her opening remarks, she advised the Martin Center audience of more than 200 on what a good mayor ought to be doing to lead the city. It was an opening for Plusquellic to respond that his opponent had just described him for what he is already doing.

Later, the mayor accused Hensal of not being a serious candidate while declaring that he is.
Otherwise, the conversation brought up public safety, finances and other matters that came up in the party primary. The real contrast was how both candidates approached the hottest issue on the November ballot: the SB 5 repeal. Plusquellic clearly asserted that he wasn't pleased with the way the anti-public union law was scripted. I wasn't clear on Hensal's response and engaged in one of the shortest post-debate interviews in my years that included too many post-debate interviews.
Q. Inasmuch as SB 5 is a Republican initiative, how do you plan to vote on it?

Hensal: (Without hesitating.) "Oh, I will vote [yes] for it."
Why did I have to ask?

(By the way the event was a nice try - but only a nice try - by the Akron Press Club, the League of Women Voters and the Bliss Institute to promote democracy in action. But it's true that after all of the nonsense spurting from the Republican presidential debates in the candidates' long year's journey into night, the respectful Akron mayoral thing was a much-needed relief.)

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