Saturday, November 06, 2004

Angel in Sydnor's Corner

What was very surprising about the results of the recent attempt to recall Ann Sydnor as Ward 1 representative on the Portsmouth City Council was the narrow margin of her victory. It could not have been narrower – a single vote. Out of the 1345 votes cast, 672 were for and 673 against her recall. The percentage by which she avoided recall (assuming the numbers don't change in a recount) was a remarkably narrow .03%. But that was not the only surprising thing, because her margin of victory was about as narrow as her political and financial advantages over her challenger, Tim Loper, were wide.

Sydnor has many years of experience as a council member; Loper has none. She waged an active campaign; if Loper waged anything more than a token campaign, I saw no sign of it. Speaking of signs, hers appeared throughout the ward, and they were commercially produced; Loper’s very few homemade signs (I saw three) were limited to the Front Street area. Sydnor had the support of most of the local political establishment, everyone from former Mayor Bauer and the Republican lawyer John Thatcher, to Lee Scott, a leader of the movement to recall Mayor Bauer. When the campaign expenditures of Sydnor and Loper are made public, I expect they will show that the disparity in dollars were as great as the disparity in signs. And yet her margin of victory was only 3/100ths of one percent.

In my few contacts with Ann Sydnor, who is my council representative, I have found her savvy and helpful. When Timothy Angel was running against her for the Ward 1 council seat and spoke to me about the need of new blood on the City Council, I was not persuaded to vote against her. Then in this recall election. Angel himself emerged as her strong supporter and treasurer of the Keep Sydnor Committee. So even her opponent in the last several council races was on her side in this one, and yet her margin of victory was only one vote out of 1345 cast.

In her campaign, Sydnor argued experience is her strong suit. But the issue to Sydnor’s critics is not her experience but her integrity, which they claim she lacks. They say her role on the City Council in general and her part in the Marting’s purchase in particular show that she is not to be trusted. In a campaign letter to Ward 1 residents, Angel implicitly defended Sydnor’s votes on the City Council, including her vote in favor of the Marting’s purchase, by saying, “She has made decisions based on the information she had at the time and voted how she felt was in the best interest of Portsmouth.” According to Angel, Sydnor, at worst, had been misled on the Marting’s purchase. But given her experience and savvy, shouldn’t she have been the one person on the Council who should not have been misled? Shouldn’t she have known the Marting’s deal smelled to heaven? Wouldn’t her nose alone have told her that?

One of the positive things about Portsmouth politics is that party affiliation, gender, and sexual orientation are not all that important. The people who get in bed with each other politically don’t let things like that get in their way. The alliance between Sydnor and Angel strikes me as a marriage of political convenience. Sydnor has said that she does not plan to run for City Council again when her term is up next year. It would not surprise me if Angel did run, with Sydnor’s blessing. After all, if he had not voted for her, she would not have achieved her razor-thin margin of victory. He literally was the Angel in her corner.