Monday, September 03, 2007

Will Sumrall and Cole Be Bonellied?

I know you are confused by the title. I expect you to be. The term "Bonellied" means the party whose candidate is running will get very little, if any, financial support in his race for office.

John M. Bonelli ran on the Republican ticket for mayor of Jackson in 1989. He had no money and no name recognition. Plus, he didn't stand a snowball's chance in Key West, Florida in August of winning. No Republican had ever been elected as mayor of Jackson. No matter who won the Democratic runoff primary between State Rep. Kane Ditto and incumbent Dale Danks, Bonelli was doomed to lose. The demographics showed the city was becoming majority black and Ditto, who eventually won, would be the last white mayor of Jackson. No Republican stood a chance of winning.

I followed Bonelli's campaign in the newspapers. He actually had a good, solid platform and some really good ideas on how to arrest the economic decline of Jackson. In fact, I thought his ideas were far better than any of the Democratic candidates. If I had lived in Jackson, I definitely would have voted for him.

Right after the runoff primary, there was a newspaper article in the CLARION-LEDGER as to how much support Bonelli would get from the state GOP. The answer the state GOP gave was very simple: Very little to none. The state GOP was not interested in giving financial support for a candidate running under its banner for the top post of the biggest city in Mississippi. The GOP thought he stood absolutely no chance, so why waste the bucks. So they let Bonelli twist slowly, slowly in the wind. What a noble and brave party.

I remember driving up Ridgewood Road going to work a week or so before the election. I saw a lot of Ditto signs in an area that would normally be strongly Republican. Right at the intersection of Ridgewood Road and Old Canton Road as you are headed north, I saw a crudely constructed "Bonelli for Mayor" sign. It was written on a big sheet of white paper stuck with a black magic marker nailed to a stick of wood. That was the only sign for Bonelli that I saw. Imagine: One crudely constructed Bonelli sign in a large sea of Ditto signs in a strongly Republican neighborhood.

Needless to say, Bonelli was routed. He received about ten percent of the vote against Ditto. He even got creamed in the strongly Republican areas. But I admired Bonelli for having the guts to run for mayor when nobody else was willing to run under the Republican banner. Bonelli was not a "kook" candidate. He was a very good candidate with well-thought out ideas on how to improve Jackson. Didn't he deserve better?

What bothered me is the GOP did not even have the decency to put up much, if any, money to help Bonelli. He deserved a lot more support. And what does that say to other Republican candidates in strongly Democratic races? They may lose, but giving them money will plant the seeds for future campaigns that will pay off in the years to come. So why run under the GOP banner if you know the state party will let you twist slowly, slowly in the wind in a race they consider hopeless.

So now it is eighteen years later. Democrats Ricky Cole and Mike Sumrall are not wealthy candidates who can independently finance their campaigns. They are excellent candidates running for State Agriculture Commissioner and State Auditor, respectively. They are going to need help from the state Democratic Party. And it can't be just a few thousand dollars. They are running against well-financed candidates, one of them being Dr. Moo (Lester Spell). Perhaps State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Dowdy can ask his trial lawyer friends put up some huge bucks for Cole and Sumrall. They are going to need it.

Will the state Democratic Party come through for Cole and Sumrall, or will they be Bonellied?

No comments: