How Team Goodman pulled a win out of the hat

Mayor Carolyn Goodman and select City Council incumbents proved there wasn’t much air in the anti-soccer ball, after all.

It was probably a wise decision not to celebrate their easy victories with shouts of “goooooal!” That would have been rubbing it in. And as we’ve learned, pouring salt into abrasions is former Mayor Oscar Goodman’s obsession.

But no one in Carolyn Goodman’s camp was shouting two weeks before Election Day. And campaign co-managers Tom Letizia and Bradley Mayer were feeling downright grim.

With early voting under way, reliable polling had the mayor’s race tied at 47 percent each for Goodman and City Councilman Stavros Anthony. The conservative councilman was riding a wave of voters from Sun City and elsewhere who were angered by Goodman’s unabashed support for a $200 million soccer stadium development at Symphony Park.

Although rarely demonstrative in six years on the council, Anthony had a single issue which threatened to dump the incumbent and stifle the Goodman family mayoral dynasty. The fact the development foundered and failed late last year was only gradually dampening the ire of some taxpayers.

“This was a tougher one than anybody ever thought,” Letizia said Wednesday from his Levy Productions office, its walls plastered with baseball memorabilia. “Two things could have happened. We could have lost, or maybe the most likely scenario is we’d go into a runoff.”

Instead, Goodman’s campaign became more aggressive. Letizia shelved the positive ads and cut a new commercial that depicted Anthony in an unflattering brown fedora. The theme: “No vision. No ideas. No accomplishments.” The campaign spent $100,000 on television and added a late mailer.

In the final week, Goodman took advantage of her organized labor connections, especially inside the laborers and culinary unions, in a door-knocking marathon Anthony couldn’t match.

And, you know, mailers included a photo of the Man in the Brown Hat.

“We found a photo of him in a crazy hat, unshaven, and we ran the hell out of it,” Letizia said, inadvertently offering a lesson in real political science — it ain’t science. “The hat made the commercial. We defined Stavros Anthony before he could define himself.”

Former Mayor Oscar Goodman pinch hit with a bruising letter to voters taking full responsibility for the stadium plan that ended up costing taxpayers $3.1 million to explore. (And enjoyed Anthony’s approval, the former mayor was happy to write.)

Letizia was quick to admit a big fundraising advantage almost always improves a campaign’s collective I.Q. Goodman raised nearly $1 million in a matter of weeks and personally maintained a positive message while her defenders did their thing. The result was a blowout, 55 percent to 42 percent, that could have turned out quite differently.

Anthony had a great issue but was slow to appreciate that running for mayor is a different ballgame. The first time I’d ever seen him smile was on his campaign billboard. And he didn’t seem to fully appreciate he was running for the mayor of over-the-top Las Vegas, not Pocatello.

Now that the election is finished, will Goodman try to pump life into a new stadium plan?

I hope not. It would be a mistake to downplay taxpayer anger — although it’s remains unclear just how ticked off voters were — or simply write off the emotion as a product of the spoilsports at the Review-Journal. Of course, the last time I checked, Goodman wasn’t accepting much advice from the local newspaper.

The election surely generated several audible sighs beyond the incumbent and challenger. One came from City Attorney Brad Jerbic, whose job was jeopardized by a successful Anthony candidacy. Another emanated from Councilman Bob Beers, who led the chant of fiscal responsibility and perhaps hoped the issue would help his own political future.

“It was a sweet victory,” Letizia said. A baseball fan, he talks of going “five-for-five” in Goodman campaigns. “A lot of people thought we were going to lose this race. Friends of mine said, ‘You’re going to lose this race.’ ”

Those friends were almost right.

Now the most most entertaining show in town will take place at the next City Council meeting, where current Mayor Pro-Tem Anthony figures to be hatless.

City Hall politics — catch it.

It’s not the big leagues, pal, but it’s still more interesting than soccer.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith

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