Today, let's look at the five main reasons Ballard will win his re-election bid. (Don't worry if you're a Ballard foe: My column Friday will look at the five main reasons Ballard won't be re-elected.)
Nuts and bolts. From his first day in office, Ballard has focused on the little things -- potholes, sidewalk repairs and code violations. His administration dramatically improved the Mayor's Action Center hotline. That might sound like a minor point, but the hotline takes tens of thousands of calls each year and now is an example of a government office that competently and efficiently serves taxpayers.
Meanwhile, it's hard to drive around town these days without seeing a newly paved street or rebuilt sidewalk, and such infrastructure work will pick up even more as new revenue arrives from recent deals. Actually, those deals -- the parking meter lease and water company sale -- were the most controversial of Ballard's term. But they also were devised to raise money for infrastructure. Even critics of the transactions have to admit Ballard addressed basic city needs with them.
An apolitical man. Perhaps Ballard is not fully apolitical, but he's as close to it as anyone who has held a major political office. He's refused to get caught up in partisan debates, and he's declined to let political considerations scare him from making the controversial decisions that a mayor has to make. Rigid partisanship at the local level is a turnoff for voters -- local government is about the basics, not ideology -- and Ballard has won fans by steering clear of that.
He showed up. You know the adage about success largely being a product of simply showing up? Well, Ballard proved that in 2007. And since then, he's played the role of mayor with never-ending energy, showing up everywhere. Neighborhood festivals, community meetings, parades. You name it, and he's likely in attendance.
Last month, Ballard and his wife went to the evening screening of a movie about World War II veterans. No more than 40 people were in the room. But Ballard stayed for two hours, shaking hands and talking with the audience. Attending such events, often away from the spotlight, builds up significant amounts of good will.
Strong team. Even the most adamant Democratic critics agree that Ballard has wisely selected, for the most part, high-level staff. That includes top aides Michael Huber, who guided the major infrastructure transactions, and Robert Vane, who deftly crafted the mayor's message. He recently left the office but will be involved with the campaign.
Ballard, elected as the ultimate outsider, needed to prove he could effectively run the city. That means plowing the streets, setting a vision and looking for creative ways to tackle problems. It also means putting the right people in the right places.
Underestimated. It boggles my mind to hear some Democrats continuing to underestimate Ballard. He's improved as a communicator and a fundraiser while holding on to his average-guy image. He has a record to sell and accomplishments to tout. All of that will make him hard to beat.
There is so much wrong with that analysis, but I will hold off further comment until I see his column Friday.