A majority of the City Council is prepared to ask Ed Struiksma to step down as acting mayor should he decide to enter the Feb. 25 mayoral primary.
Council members Gloria McColl, Mike Gotch, Judy McCarty and Bill Cleator said Monday that Struiksma was elected deputy mayor by his colleagues with the understanding that he would not enter the mayor’s race, and that he should resign the post if he wants to seek the office. McColl and Gotch said Councilman William Jones, who could not be reached for comment Monday, shared their sentiments.
Struiksma, who has said he would announce this week whether he would enter the campaign (the filing period closes Friday), was elevated to acting mayor less than a week after his election as deputy mayor. He assumed the post when Roger Hedgecock resigned Dec. 10 just before his sentencing in Superior Court on perjury and conspiracy convictions stemming from illegal contributions to his 1983 mayoral campaign.
Struiksma refused to comment Monday. His staff referred questions to David Lewis, a political consultant who said he is “assisting in (Struiksma’s) decision.” Lewis, who said he has conducted recent polls to determine whether Struiksma would be a viable candidate, said statements by Struiksma’s colleagues “would not be a factor in his decision” to enter the race.
According to council members, before Struiksma’s promise not to enter the primary, McColl, who said months ago that she had no plans to run for mayor, had been the choice of the majority of the council to be deputy mayor. The deputy mayor is running the city until Hedgecock’s successor can be elected, and could be in charge until the June 3 runoff, should no candidate receive more than 50% of the primary vote.
Cleator currently is the only council member who is a candidate in the primary, but others have said there were increasing signs that Struiksma would enter the race. Both Cleator and Struiksma are conservative Republicans with strong ties to the city’s pro-development forces, and Cleator, other council members said, was instrumental in securing the deputy mayor’s job for Struiksma.
When asked whether Struiksma had promised not to enter the mayoral campaign before his election as deputy mayor, Cleator said, “That was my impression. I’m somewhat puzzled by his current feelings, but nothing surprises me in politics anymore.” Asked whether Struiksma’s promise would be a campaign issue should the deputy mayor enter the race, Cleator said, “It already is.”
“There’s no doubt about it--Gloria had the votes to become deputy mayor before this deal came down,” Gotch said. “She would not have given up a chance to be acting mayor had there not been a clear understanding between Ed Struiksma and Bill Cleator regarding the mayor’s race. But there are certainly signs that Ed is moving seriously in the direction of being a candidate.”
Cleator, who would be the Republican front-runner should Struiksma remain on the sidelines, stands to lose the most should the acting mayor enter the race, but other Republican council members also were angered by Struiksma’s flirtation with a mayoral campaign. (Former Councilwoman Maureen O’Connor is the most prominent Democrat to take out nominating papers.)
“There was a very strong feeling among all the council members that the deputy mayor should not be a candidate for mayor,” said McColl, who normally is reticent about behind-the-scenes political dealings. “I don’t know that we can legally remove him, but, if he runs for mayor, the only honorable thing for him to do is to step down as acting mayor.”
“When I voted for Ed (as deputy mayor), it was with the clear understanding that he would not enter the race,” McCarty said. “But one things leads to another, and apparently he likes the power of his new job. About 10 seconds into his first speech to the council, I said to myself, ‘My God, he’s going to run after all.’ ”