George Bush the 1st, while mulling his "wimpy" label, once said, "People say I'm indecisive, but I don't know about that." Gerald Ford once remarked that "indecision is often worse than wrong action."
So, what can we make of Mayor "10Things" Murphy and his announcement last Friday that, yes, he will indeed return to the campaign rigors as he runs for re-election next year?
Well, for the business leaders who worked behind the scenes, the reason was pure, unadulterated fear. Fear that a new mayor, quite possibly a-yikes!-Democrat, might have second thoughts about numerous contracts between the city and said business types that will likely be rejiggered in light of the city's woeful budget pinch.
Let's not forget: most of these business folks were big Ron Roberts fans in the last election, and ever since Murphy grabbed hold of the mayoral gavel, he's had quite good aim at these folks' fingers as they tried to slip them into the city's cookie jar. Most of that work has been delegated to his main knuckle cracker, Chief of Staff John Kern, but even Murphy has been known to review campaign contributor lists-both his own and Roberts'-before making committee appointments.
So, when the business community watched Murphy go from candidate to can't-didate, it knew the time was right to make amends. Enter Councilman Jim Madaffer, mayoral lapdog supreme and representative from Murphy's old council district. Madaffer, along with previous district rep Judy McCarty, dragged out the pom-poms and kicked off their "Draft Murphy" campaign, which began as a lame website of fuzzy encouragement and culminated last week with a lame rally in front of City Hall while hundreds of soon-to-be new citizens filed past on their way to a naturalization ceremony next door.
These poor new citizens. There they were, no doubt excited about their chance to participate in the mother of all democracies, and before them stands a bunch of business suits toting "Run Dick Run" placards, pleading with their new best buddy, who is nowhere in sight, to re-enter a race that he had found too distasteful to contemplate only two weeks earlier.
No wonder local labor organizers and other Murphy opponents gathered for the rally, intent on persuading Murphy not to change his mind again. The labor crowd was seething, and political operatives like Larry Remer-Roberts's consultant and instigator of the anti-Murphy getsomeonewhowantsthejob.com website-were busting smiles. While big business would prefer continuity and predictability, labor and the Remers of the world would love nothing more than a free-for-all, head-banging mayoral campaign for 2004.
Jerry Butkiewicz, who tries to be low key as the town's top labor leader, spent much of his time at the rally hushing his troop's acid comments and pacing back and forth like a field general. But when City Attorney Casey Gwinn slid over to the podium to beg Mayor 10Things to reconsider running (and, in effect, falling on the sword of his own political dreams), Butkiewicz couldn't contain himself.
"How much do we owe [Roque] de la Fuente?" the labor boss bellowed during Gwinn's coo fest, a reference to the controversial Otay Mesa developer who still awaits an estimated $100 million legal payout from the city.
Butkiewicz would later lean into the cameras and make clear that he has no beef with the mayor, only with a mayor who doesn't (or didn't) want to be mayor. The city's anemic pension system, the Chargers and Padres negotiations and the city's budget problems cry out for a mayor with "a fire in the belly," labor's big bopper would say. He even invoked the war in Iraq, noting that young men and women were fighting and dying in the name of democracy.
The "Run Dick Run" boosters would note that five of the six Democrats who sit on the City Council had offered their encouragement to Murphy, although two of them-Toni Atkins and Michael Zucchet-offered such a lukewarm promise to "respect your decision" that the net effect may be negligible.
Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Ralphie Inzunza, another Democrat endeared to Murphy, seemed so nervous about losing his labor support that he continually bounced back and forth from extolling his belief in the mayor and in labor. "This is not a time for personal egos," Inzunza said.
"Yeah, right," shouted a sign-toting labor demonstrator.
Which brings us back to the mayor. Murphy on Friday said he was humbled by the outpouring of support. "People have convinced me that I owe it to San Diego to finish what I started," he said. Two weeks prior, he said, his decision not to run again was "in the best interest of the city."
The real reason? The campaign itinerary-the bread-and-butter for campaign fund-raisers who typically take a cut of the money brought in (said to be 15 percent for the mayor's current money-raiser)-panicked Murphy, who is said to be as enamored with public appearances and speaking as he is with a root canal.
According to insiders, Madaffer has told people that he will insist that Murphy take a long vacation in Hawaii. "So, go to Hawaii, and rest assured you will be re-elected without speaking to people or even being in town," one insider said. "Truly unbelievable."