By Jim Sack
Well, John Crawford. He offered his support to me when I fought the changes to Calhoun Street, so our last contact was as allies. I also was a strong supporter of a downtown ballpark, so he voted as I probably would have, and I loath smoking, so I have only a few qualms about his effort to force health on us. Additionally, the chats I had with him during his tenure on council informed me that he was very astute, well educated, deeply caring about Fort Wayne and tough.
So, after council the other night I heard that he had formed an exploratory committee for the purpose of raising funds. There was no indication whether the campaign would be for the nomination for mayor or a run at council seat. John Crawford lives northeast, in Tom Smith’s district, if I am correct. That is a non-starter. Smith has no baggage and is no push-over. Mr. Smith has not done anything untoward a la Matt Kelty that would sully his reputation and leave good, honest voters distrustful or open to change. I just doubt he would take on an incumbent fellow Republican in the primary.
Would Mr. Crawford run at-large again? Tough. If he runs at large he has to get through the Republican primary, which he could do, then appear on the fall ballot as the third Republican. Then, he would have to knock off one of the incumbents, John Shoaff, Liz Brown or Marty Bender, to regain his old seat. Tough, but John is a spectacularly good fund raiser. Mrs. Brown is probably the most vulnerable. Her personality is caustic, not especially good trait for the glad-handing expected at each front porch on the campaign trail. He could win, but does he want to be one of nine?
That leaves mayor. Like a scad more Republicans he sees Tom Henry as vulnerable, but that is not highest hurdle, that is the primary. Can he defeat Paula Hughes? Probably. Can he defeat Nelson Peters or John McGauley. Probably. Can he defeat Mitch Harper. Very tough. Mitch is a very strong campaigner, well known, well respected and acceptable to the widest range of the Republican Party for a number of reasons: his friendly personality, his long service to the party, his genuine willingness to listen to all, and his ability to win. The ratio of Republicans to Democrats in Fort Wayne, thanks to Paul Helmke, favors the Republicans. Mayor Henry won because Matt Kelty made so many mistakes, not because there was a clamor for Democrat party leadership. There are simply more Rs in the city than Ds which gives any reputable Republican the edge. The real battle will be in the primary.
Kevin Leininger in his recent News Sentinel interview with Mr. Crawford noted that the doctor could not run a practice and serve as mayor, simultaneous, but added that Mr. Crawford did not need to work any longer, thanks to good investments. Given the recent history of the markets that alone should qualify him for some exalted position.
My guess is Mr. Crawford will bide his time, raise money and then decide next year which office he would like to hold. His success with investments might suggest an alternative path in which he might be substantially more valuable to the community: city controller.