When the Observer asked local politicos to guess the results of the August 3 Democratic primary, Lesko responded that her phone survey of 100 local residents showed her beating incumbent John Hieftje by a 60-40 margin. If her poll was accurate, that would have translated into 7,192 of the 11,987 votes cast–yet at the end of the day, just 1,869 people voted for the blogger and city hall critic.
Hieftje, who got 10,058 votes, calls the results a repudiation of Lesko politically. For over a year she’d excoriated local politicians on her blog, A2Politico, most famously saying that she’d vote for Satan before supporting Hieftje again. “The opposition’s central argument was the sky is falling; the city is in bad shape and grossly mismanaged if not corrupt,” the mayor says. “But the sky is not falling, nor is city government mismanaged or corrupt–and voters understood this.”
Though Lesko moderated her tone as election day neared, she still polled barely half the 30 percent that one city hall insider says a candidate gets just for running. Two candidates who ran with Lesko as an informal slate got about that: Fourth Ward challenger Jack Eaton got 31 percent to incumbent Margie Teall’s 69 percent, while Fifth Ward challenger Lou Glorie got 28 percent to Carsten Hohnke’s 72 percent. The only challenger to do well was the First Ward’s Sumi Kailasapathy, who got 45 percent of the vote to Sandi Smith’s 55 percent–and she put the biggest distance between herself and Lesko both thematically and operationally.
Lesko didn’t reply to an email asking why she lost, but the candidates who ran with her did. In Eaton’s view, “a majority of voters decided that electing any of the challengers posed a greater threat to the city than the growing municipal debt, the crumbling infrastructure, the unfunded retiree liability, the diminishing public safety staffing, and the structural budget problems.”
Glorie blames herself, not her message. “My campaign was not well run,” says the self-managed candidate, “and I attribute the lopsided results to that.” Kailasapathy referred questions to her website, where she wrote, “I may have lost the election, but the issues that we raised such as the unfunded pension liabilities need to be addressed in the future.”
Two days after the election, Lesko announced she was more or less giving up blogging. “A2Politico will continue on, but with a new format” she wrote, “A trio of writers will take over the blog. All will post anonymously. I’ll have the option of posting, if I like, but will do so only sporadically.”