Chuck told me "you gotta back a Windom boy!" And he told everyone he knew to vote for Bert. If I heard him say it once, I heard it a thousand times. And that means something, because Chuck knows everybody and everybody knows Chuck. (Someday I'll talk Chuck into switching to Republican, but no time soon. So far, I've got him in the Michajliw camp so he's on his way.)
With such profound popularity in their hometown, you can understand why a defeat at the county-wide polls scalds the Dunn family. They spent a lot of money, they all worked their tails off and the loss was a high voltage shock to a family accustomed to winning. He made some mistakes, mostly pretty standard newbie stuff. I figured he learned some important political lessons and would live to fight another day. I just didn't think that day would come so soon.
Last month, Dunn announced he would continue to run for sheriff on the Law and Order ballot line he petitioned to create. That night, incumbent Republican Sheriff Tim Howard slept better than he had in months, Erie County Republican chairman Nick Langworthy raised his glass to rank amateurs and Bert Dunn became the barker at a carnival sideshow.
Sitting in a recent dinner meeting in Washington, my iPhone buzzed up a text from a local pol. "Bert Dunn just walked into a Shooters Committee on Public Education candidate's night. Guys' got balls." I had heard he might soldier on, but I didn't think he really would. I put my phone back on the table, shaking my head. My tablemates were curious about the interruption. When I explained the text, one experienced presidential campaign hand summed it up: "So this guy's rich and new, right?"
Experienced political operatives know running on just one line - not even a major party line, but one you created yourself - is akin to Don Quixote tilting at windmills without a horse. Or a lance. Or armor. It's simple mathematics: Bert Dunn cannot win. No matter how much money they spend, the Dunns cannot overcome the laws of physics and magically overtake the candidates of two long-established parties. He'll finish in a distant third. They are pissing their money away.
What Dunn will certainly do is peel away just enough of the Democrat Party vote in the general election to assure victory for Howard. Dick Dobson, the Democrat nominee who defeated party favorite Dunn fair and square in September, needs every vote he can get to beat Howard, who maintains a comfortable lead.
Perhaps that's exactly what the Dunns want to do - shove it up the Erie County Democrat Committee's backside. It sure seems so on Facebook, where Dunn's mother Mary is going to town. She's not happy that Democrat Chairman Jeremy Zellner and the party machine is lining up behind Dobson, as has been done with few exceptions since the days of Ebenezer Johnson. And she's pulling no punches. Nor is Renee Dunn, clearly a relative, who commented comparing Dobson to a stinking dead dog. Mrs. Dunn agreed:
After a sign party this week, Mary Dunn was quick to post that the place was packed and everybody else is a jerk:
The Dunn camp's allegations that Dobson was somehow awash in illegal campaign cash has been proven false, of course. But when the grapes go sour, you go with what you know. Later that same day, Mrs. Dunn made it abundantly clear that her family, founders of the remarkably profitable Bert's Bike and Sports, was "successful" and anybody who thought their sour grapes campaign was wrong was a "loser."
I'm pretty sure how badly that "we're rich, they're not" sentiment will play in Erie County, but Mrs. Dunn isn't holding back. Is it some kind of comical reverse class warfare, driving a wedge between the haves and have nots to attract Erie County's wealthy voters? I guess it shouldn't be a surprise, considering Dunn won the Democrat Party nomination by first scoffing at Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo.