Suttle campaign falters after homeless controversy

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January 14th, 2011

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Mayor Jim Suttle hopes to hit the reset button on his anti-recall campaign, which took a hit this week (Photo courtesy Mayor's Office)

Omaha, NE – Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle is trying to hit the reset button on his anti-recall campaign, after a controversy broke out this week over supporters busing homeless people to the polls.

The controversy is over a move this week by Forward Omaha, a supporter group of Mayor Suttle. The group reportedly bused homeless people to the election office on Wednesday, so they could cast their ballots in the recall. But they did that the same day they paid them $5 to attend a training session about canvassing neighborhoods to get out the vote. Paying someone to vote is illegal, and though Suttle contends that’s not what happened, mixing the two activities, he said, was a mistake.

“We are not going to repeat Wednesday. We are not going to co-mix things that should be totally separated.”

Today, Suttle demoted the leader of Forward Omaha, and replaced him with David Dover, a campaign staffer in his successful 2009 bid for Mayor. Suttle and Dover have until the recall vote on January 25th to put this incident behind them and reset the message. Suttle said his campaign will leave no impressions of improper conduct.

“For the next 12 days, I’m going to take a more hands on approach, with David, to coordinate everything that we have active out there. We have a lot of groups working for us. Now we’re going to have a single point of accountability and responsibility, so we do not repeat the incidences of Wednesday.”

Asked whether the incident was comparable to other messaging missteps that recall supporters have alleged of Suttle’s office and cited as reasons to back his ouster, Suttle said the question was fair but incorrect. The recall effort began an hour after he was elected, he said, and was instigated by his losing opponent, Hal Daub.

“So it’s been hovering in the weeds here, so to speak, waiting for a moment to actually, officially put it into gear. It has nothing to do with communications,” he said, “it has everything to do with politics.”

Suttle added, “We have six very wealthy individuals who have bankrolled this and decided we’re going to add a fifth quarter to a football game that I won fair and square 18 months ago.”

Daub has denied any connection to the recall effort. Voters will have the final say January 25th.

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