Mush, the Machine, and Mud

Walker Worthy’s first campaign for Mayor of Trenton in 2014 was notable for three things.

First, a rather mushy policy platform centering on an economic development plan for the City featuring the idea of a Trenton-based gambling casino. The less said about this plan, the better.

Second, an extremely close and somewhat inappropriate self-identification with the Mercer County Democratic Party, which gave him his boost in local politics and his long tenure at the County Clerk’s office. It was somewhat inappropriate in that Trenton’a elections are supposed to be non-partisan. And also kind of irrelevant. Trenton is such an overwhelmingly Democratic town, that specifically drawing attention to yourself as a Dem is actually pretty silly. Seen from one perspective, in was kind of cute in a junior high school, I’m-in-love-and-I-want-the-world-to-know-it kind of way, but also kind of embarrassing.

In the absence of any relevant local Trenton experience, ideas and general enthusiasm within his own candidacy, he transfused as much as he could from the local Party. To this person, at least, the result of his efforts to identify with the County Democrats made him look all the shallower as a potential Trenton mayor.

But, itt didn’t stop Mr. Worthy then, and doesn’t now (more on that below).


The third item Walker Worthy’s campaign four years ago was known for was a rather pathetic, late attempt to smear Eric Jackson. Mr. Jackson, then the leading candidate and eventual winner of that mayoral campaign (even though he is not a candidate for re-election this year, retiring after his only four-year term), was accused by Mr. Worthy of severe personal financial difficulties potentially compromising his potential term in office. This city had just seen the previous elected mayor, Tony Mack, convicted in Federal court of corruption charges including bribery. Mack’s fall from grace was at least in part caused by desperate personal finances which left him vulnerable to taking easy money under the table, which ended up coming from a federal sting operation.

Whatever Mr. Worthy’s intention in flinging that kind of mud on Eric Jackson – of whom it must be said, although his administration was a clear failure, no accusations were ever made against him of personal impropriety or of any misconduct driven by any adverse personal finances – it came across as a last-minute move of desperation on the part of a candidate who offered little on his own.

Despite the extreme shallowness of his ideas, his reliance on County connections, and his resort to dirty politics, Walker Worthy came in third in 2014. With the vacuum created by the withdrawal of Eric Jackson from this year’s election, Worthy got back in to the race, hoping to be more successful this time.

So far, we are seeing what looks like a rerun of his last campaign. First, where most people get past their junior high years and infatuations over the course of four years, Mr. Worthy is out of the gate once more wrapping himself in the embrace of the Mercer Democratic Party. As discussed in this space a short while ago, Worthy’s first argument for his candidacy is based on the depth of “relationships” he has with key people in county and state government, connections that will help Trenton make a better case directly to decision-makers who can send more resources to this poor town. As I wrote in that piece, I am not persuaded that a Walker candidacy built on the strength of his relationships being his leading attribute is that strong.

He’s continued to play up his “Democratic” credentials, for better and for worse. He tried, unsuccessfully, to include his party affiliation on his official ballot entry, a practice prohibited under State law.

He’s announced a big fundraising event, sponsored by prominent County Democratic figures – held outside the city of Trenton. This only reinforces the image he had 4 years ago as someone with no Trenton credentials, no Trenton credibility and no real feel for the town he seeks to govern.

He’s been quoted in the Trentonian as defending the Mercer Democrats, actually using the “M” word: “The Democratic machine did some really good things in Mercer County.”

Hey, first rule of Democratic Machine: you do not talk about Democratic Machine!!!

I mean, really! One uses words like “the Committee,” “the Organization,” or better yet, “the Party.” Machine?!?! You don’t use that word when you are on the inside! That reinforces all kinds of negative connotations, and frankly reveals the person using the word as politically inept and tone-deaf.

And now, so far by-passing the Policy and Ideas stuff, he’s gone right to mud-flinging. He name-checked the current mayor and two of his current opponents yesterday with criticism for their role in the recent Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) “debacle,” in which the City lost out on a potentially significant amount of state funding for local street and other transportation infrastructure, because the City failed to apply for the grant.

Hey, as I’ve written here, there is certainly plenty of blame to go around in connection with the TTF screw-up. Lord knows. Since Walker Worthy has been utterly silent on municipal issues and problems – from the end of his last campaign four years ago to the day he announced this current one – it strikes me, at least, that coming out of the block to immediately blame others instead of offering any solutions is kind of small and petty.

I tend to agree with Mark Matzen, identified in the Trentonian as the campaign manager for Councilman Duncan Harrison, one of the two other candidates blamed by Worthy, when he said to the paper, “It is sad that Mr. Worthy stooped so low to name calling when what we need are bold ideas to move our city forward. It’s a sign of a desperate campaign that seems to be going nowhere.”

I’m not quite ready to write off Walker Worthy’s campaign just quite yet. However, so far all he has done is wrap himself up with the party “machine” – remember, his word! – and throw mud at his opponents.

He has an opportunity now to become competitive, if he starts to present serious ideas, proposals and policies that would have a chance to help this city out of its mess.

But the window on that kind of opportunity is closing fast. If, after the Machine and the Mud we’ve seen so far, all he offers is more Mush, I think he’ll be done.

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