Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tribune-Star Doesn't Like Burke's Dirty Play

The Terre Haute Tribune-Star weighs in today on defeated Mayor Kevin Burke's decision to challenge the legality of Republican Duke Bennett's election upset by invoking the Hatch Act. An excellent point the newspaper makes is that when Bennett ran for the office four years ago against Burke, he held the exact same position with the Hamilton Center as he did when the Republicans nominated him to run against Burke this year. Yet, Burke only waives the Hatch Act issue after Bennett defeats him. The editorial reads, in part:

But we do have an overriding question about his Hatch Act strategy: Why now?

We fear there is no good answer. If there is, we’d like to hear it. But Burke’s not talking, at least not yet.

The fact is, Bennett held the same job when he won the Republican mayoral primary and lost the general election to Burke in 2003. He held the same job when he won the Republican primary last spring. He held the same job last summer when general election campaigns were being organized and planned.

If Burke had questions about Bennett’s eligibility, he had ample opportunity to seek answers or challenge the candidacy before now. Waiting until after Bennett actually won the election strikes us as poor judgment and not in the best interests of the community.

The election defeat was undoubtedly a bitter pill for Burke to swallow, given the closeness of the race and overall nastiness exhibited in the waning days of the campaign by some diverse segments of the community supporting his opponent.

Still, pulling out the Hatch Act and waving it at Bennett now does absolutely nothing to change that. It is unlikely a recount will change the outcome, but what if a lawsuit challenging Bennett’s eligibility were to succeed? What if Burke were declared the winner by default? Where would that leave us?

Terre Haute is a split community, but an ever-so-slight majority appears to have elected Burke’s opponent as mayor. If Burke was to somehow retain the job due to a legal technicality, we suspect he would always be perceived as having seized the office illegitimately.

Such an outcome for the 2007 mayoral race is undignified and unhealthy for the community.

We urge Burke to reconsider his Hatch Act strategy and accept the results of the pending recount as final.

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