The Ashton Hayward campaign deliberately slowed down in September, spending more time at neighborhood meetings, attending youth sports events and walking door-to-door. Meanwhile his opponent, incumbent Mike Wiggins, has achieved a series of visible “victories” – endorsements of Bare and Mack, raising more campaign funds in September.
Over the next three weeks, Hayward will need to energize his supporters. He will need to do well in the series of debates slated before the election. Wiggins is a masterful campaigner and has shown that he wants this office. Hayward and his supporters must match that energy level.
Last year, Pensacola voters showed that they wanted change in city government when they approved the new city charter, 55-45 percent. In the mayoral primary, 62 percent of the voters wanted someone other than Mike Wiggins to be mayor.
But now the race is down to two candidates. Many of the established older leaders in both the white and black communities are backing Wiggins. The current system has worked well for them for decades. While they may complain about city government, they prefer that things stay the same. Wiggins is one of them.
Bare ran on a Save Our City platform – anti-Community Maritime Park, anti-Chamber. His brand of change was definitely against status quo – both in City Hall and in the business community. It got him 1,765 votes. He has left that platform behind and is now endorsing Wiggins.
Mack ran as the outsider and tried to tap into the disenfranchised voters among women and minorities. It worked in 2008 when she ran against incumbent Jack Nobles. It got her 2,054 votes in the primary. She appears to be trying to convince Wiggins to listen to those she calls the “forgotten” and believes that he will do so.
The voters rejected the change that Bare and Mack offered.
Hayward has to convince the voters that he is the change the voters want. He must show them that city government will be better under his leadership. He is of a completely different generation than Wiggins and he will have to show that he and his generation are ready to take charge of the city.
For a city that floundered much of the past two decades, it would seem Hayward would have an easy path toward election. However, this is Pensacola. Change comes hard in Pensacola….or not at all. People love to complain, but will circle the wagons around the status quo and tear apart whoever challenges it.
Hayward must make Wiggins run on his record and the record of the city council for the past 16 years. He will not beat Wiggins in a “who is the nicest person” race.
Wiggins’ campaign slogan has been from “Good to Great.” Hayward will have to go on the offensive and show the “good” hasn’t really been so good for much of this community.
If the voters are happy with the present city government, then Wiggins will win, but if the voters still want change, Ashton can win….but only if he can show them that he is the change that they sought in the charter vote last year and in the August 24 primary.