When politicians don’t want to answer a question, especially not those that involve them losing, they’ll often decline to indulge in hypotheticals.
That caveat hasn’t been present for Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham in his effort to retain his title in the Nov. 8 race against Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith.
Mr. Graham has warned anyone who will listen — reporters, TV and radio shows and voters — that if his opponent wins, a seat will open up on City Council. The mayor is a voting member of the five-person body; Mr. Smith’s term will last another two years, so if Mr. Graham wins, the makeup of the body will remain the same.
“His seat would be filled by politicians and not the people. ... That’s the law ... but is it right?” Mr. Graham wrote on his campaign blog.
Mr. Smith, of course, says that a City Council appointment is neither problematic nor unprecedented. An appointee would fill the seat until November 2012, when an election would be held to fill out the last year of the four-year term.
“Not one person on the campaign trail has brought that up as an issue. It is a democratic process, because those are the rules. Other than him, nobody has brought it up,” Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Smith also chided Mr. Graham for suggesting that it is up to him to appoint his successor. It is, in fact, up to the five-member City Council to vote on a replacement if a seat becomes vacant.
Asked whether it was fair to say that Mr. Smith can “effectively name his successor,” Mr. Graham said: “I don’t know if I said that.”
At a Sept. 14 news conference, Mr. Graham said, according to prepared remarks: “A win for him brings a crucial change, as he will effectively name his successor to council. Inquiring minds should ask who that person will be.”
Reminded of the remarks, Mr. Graham said: “If he was the new mayor, he would have a tremendous amount of influence, in terms of the deference to the new mayor.”
Mr. Smith has told inquiring minds, and reporters, that he doesn’t have a candidate in mind, and to do so would be inappropriate.
“I haven’t even thought about anybody,” Mr. Smith said. “That’s not any one person’s choice. It’s the choice of council.”
Despite the hubbub, though, Mr. Graham said he's not worried about what he considers an unwanted scenario.
"I don’t worry about it because I’m going to win anyway," Mr. Graham said.