So, it turns out that in addition to a call to civic duty and concern about city finances, some Coralville residents, at least, got a more tangible prompt to file as candidates in that city’s election.
The Gazette’s intrepid Gregg Hennigan did some digging and discovered that, this past summer, Polk County Republican and political operative Don McDowell was busy recruiting candidates for Coralville’s City Council election. McDowell was joined by an intern with the Coralville-based Citizens for Responsible Growth and Taxation — which has been pushing for
the city to rein in TIF spending for more than a year.
Is that news? Maybe not. Groups recruit candidates all the time. Most people, passionate as they might be about their community, benefit from a gentle nudge.
Even the word “operative” sounds a little more ominous than it maybe ought to. Political animals commonly cross district borders to offer advice and expertise. McDowell’s ties to big, capital-city “Rs” doesn’t necessarily signal big capital-city interference. But it does change my impression of the race, which I shared last week.
I wrote then that challengers’ consistent hammering on the city for its debt and financial practices indicated that incumbents had some explaining to do.
Turns out those candidates’ similar sentiments might have an even more common cause.
Is there a groundswell of anti-TIF sentiment in the city or will all these challengers be scrapping over a smallish cluster of voters? We’ll find out soon enough.
But there is one potential cause for concern.
One candidate told Hennigan that McDowell offered to kick in $20,000 to her campaign fund — an amount that would have exceeded the total spent by all candidates in a more modest city election. McDowell said she must have misunderstood.
Again, if true, it wouldn’t be illegal, or even all that unusual, for campaign funding to come from outside the city limits. But the figure this candidate quoted — that’s different.
High-dollar, scorched-earth political campaigns might be common at the federal level, and not unheard of for state office. But they’ve been thankfully rare in local contests. We need candidates to keep it that way.
There are plenty of ideas and issues to discuss between now and Election Day.
So run hard, Coralville candidates, but keep it clean.
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