"I have a question," she says, settling into her chair, giving me a little time to brace myself.
"Is it just that nobody wants to be mayor?"
OK. My therapist is a smart lady, a Ph.D. married to a Ph.D. with a couple of kids in private schools. I understand that she doesn't read every single story in this paper (though she hears plenty about it), so she didn't remember Joe Miller's piece on the implosion of Paul Danaher's campaign ("The Fall of Paul," November 28, 2002). She subscribes to the Star (we've discussed this) but frequently has more important things to do than read it, so the plastic-covered rolls pile up and then go to be recycled. She didn't see the February 4 Star story in which political reporter Steve Kraske and City Hall writer Lynn Horsley analyzed why the mayoral race had drawn such pathetic challengers. (They put it more diplomatically, calling Stan Glazer, Mary De Shon and Anne Wedow inexperienced.)
They concluded that, among other things, new campaign fund-raising limits gave the mayor -- a rich woman even without contributions -- a big financial edge. They noted that former Mayor Emanuel Cleaver had hosted a fund-raiser for Barnes last summer, signaling that she'd have his support. Besides, wanna-be mayors know they have to wait only four years until term limits knock Barnes out.
That's not such a long time to wait for folks who are politically ambitious. But four years is a long time to sit around being depressed, and my therapist appears bummed by the fact that no one good seems to want to be mayor of the city where she lives. She seems to be taking this personally. It's hard not to.
February is a gray, bitter time in Kansas City anyway, and for the February 25 primary our only choices were a Queen Mayor whose own fans complain about her; a bankrupt comedy-club impresario and failed restaurateur who once sued his son (a junior comedy king and admitted coke dealer); a well-meaning math dweeb -- excuse me, "efficiency consultant" -- who had to claim bankruptcy herself after maxing out her credit cards; and a burly gal whose one claim to fame was that she successfully sued the fire department for sexual harassment.
This was a campaign that apparently drove liquor-store magnate Ed "Gomer" Moody, himself a mayoral long shot in years past, to want to drown his sorrows. "It's unfortunate that Kansas City can't attract more qualified people to run for mayor," he lamented in a February 23 letter to the Star.
This was a campaign that saw Glazer stumping on jewels like "More people know about Rodeo Drive in California than our beautiful Plaza."
This was a campaign for which the sexiest debate question was How do you feel about trash bags?
This was a campaign in which the most powerful slogan was "No New Arena!"
When you think about it, what does that really say about our city?
I'm writing this on a Monday morning. By the time this issue of the Pitch comes out Wednesday morning, Kansas City voters will have decided which two finalists they want to stay in the race for another sad four weeks.
No matter how it turns out, we'll have a humiliating month.
If Barnes wins, we'll be subjected to an unseemly charade in which Her Haughtiness tries to pretend her opponent is worthy and the media goes along with it. The whole thing will just be weird.
But if the voters who turn out are Barnes haters, plus the Glazer camp, plus De Shon's write-in pals from the '99 race and all the macho members of Local 42 who secretly want to thank Wedow for forcing them to be accommodating -- and that combination somehow knocks Barnes out? Then folks who derive their self-esteem from living somewhere halfway cool will have to move to Wyandotte County for the next four years.
Me? Knowing what every armchair psychologist knows about having a good laugh, and knowing that it's impossible to waste a vote in the March 25 general election, I'm hereby officially endorsing Brooksider Maureen Lawlor. Mo, as her friends call her, was raised on the mean streets of Lee's Summit. Regular St. Patrick's Day paradegoers might recognize her as the one wearing crepe-paper bows and leading an entourage of revelers who've spent the morning eating Mexican food at her house. The fabulously irascible and extremely short Maria Shriver look-alike has entered the race at the last minute, De Shon-style.
"Inspired late last night by too much beer and too little interest in the current crop of candidates," she wrote to her supporters in a February 20 e-mail, "I've decided to mount a write-in campaign for mayor of Kansas City."
Her argument was compelling. "Kansas City is actually run by the city manager, so the mayor has essentially the same duties that Mayor McCheese has in McDonaldland. I enjoy a delicious burger, therefore I feel more or less qualified and quite confident that I could handle a large pair of prop scissors as well as anyone else," she contended.
"But what makes a mediocrity like me stand out in this crowd of other mediocrities? Well, I believe that I run zero risk of assassination, therefore I can save the city over $100,000 a year by eliminating the round-the-clock security that the city currently provides to the mayor ... I own my own car and am already licensed and insured, saving at least another 50 large right there!"
Despite her lack of experience, she demonstrated an acute political savvy. "To ensure that I'm pandering adequately to the single-issue KC voters," she wrote, "I'm pleased to go 'on the record' advocating the return of the free trash bags."
I haven't heard how hungover she is after Tuesday's primary, but presumably she's still in the running. That's M-A-U-R-E-E-N L-A-W-L-O-R.
Either that, or I can give you the name of a good therapist.