In national politics, the “October Surprise” is some headline-grabbing revelation about a candidate in a high-profile race in the month before an election. The news, usually negative, is expected to change the outcome of the political contest. Locally, the post-Labor Day “reveal” of People for Portsmouth PAC endorsed candidates and the just-announced Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Steering Committee PAC endorsements could be considered in the same category . . . almost. In the cases of our hometown PACs, many of the candidates getting the nods from the “powers that be” in the African- and European-American elites were totally predictable (marked TP below). Some were reasonably predictable (RP). Others were complete shockers (CS). Asterisks (*) denote special cases. See if you agree.
- Mayor — Kenneth Wright (TP)
The mayor is completely beholden to MLKjrLSC. If he is reelected, it will be solely due to the ability of the PAC to hold sway over its followers.
- City Council — Paul Battle (TP), Lisa Lucas-Burke (*), Nathan Clark (CS)
What makes Lisa Lucas-Burke a special case is that she appeared unlikely to receive this endorsement due to her mother’s support for John Rowe as mayor. Senator Lucas’s power in the African-American community, however, appears to have dissuaded the MLKjrSLC leadership from giving Lisa the political cold shoulder.
Nathan Clarke is a complete surprise as an endorsed candidate in that he supports John Rowe for mayor and has no known ties to any MLKjrLSC leaders. His selection allows the PAC to claim they are not one-sided in their political endorsements. His presence as one European American among four hopefuls is an inadequate demonstration of even handedness.
- School Board — Lakeesha Klu Atkinson (*), De’Andre Barnes (TP), Keith Nance (TP), Angelia Smoak Allen (*), Costella Williams (TP)
Lakeesha Klu Atkinson and Angelia Smoak Allen are special cases because they do not blindly follow the MLKjrLSC “party line”, yet have garnered endorsements.
Keith Nance, the only European-American endorsed for school board, has a record of going along to get along.
- Mayor — John Rowe (TP)
As the favored candidate of PfP insiders, John Rowe may even have been recruited by the leadership to run for mayor. He has also maintained a positive relationship with Sheriff Watson, the “silent partner” in PfP, whose proxy, Lee Cherry, is an influential board member.
- City Council — Lisa Lucas-Burke (RP), Elizabeth Psimas (TP), Nathan Clark (TP)
The presence of Lisa Lucas-Burke on the mayoral/council ticket allows PfP to claim it has sought deserving candidates irrespective of race, but with one African American out of four choices, this lineup is also lacking in even handedness.
- School Board — Lakeesha Klu Atkinson (CS), Sarah Duncan HInds (RP), Ted Lamb (RP), Angelia Smoak Allen (*), no fifth endorsement (CS)
Unlike its counterpart, PfP did achieve racial balance in its school board selections. The two incumbents have good track records, and the two challengers have promise.
Endorsements come, and endorsements go. Ultimately, the voters will decide in accordance with their lights. May our citizens do good research and select candidates who will serve the greater good.