By Jeff Parrott
March 12, 2011
SOUTH BEND -- The city's mayoral candidates weren't going to let cold, windy weather keep them from attending today's St. Patrick's Day parade, the largest public event of the May 3 primary election season.
Candidate Ryan Dvorak noted he kept somewhat warm because he was moving around so much to shake as many hands as possible.
He welcomed the chance to get out among the people. Dvorak and other Statehouse Democrats have been in Urbana, Ill., boycotting the Republican-controlled General Assembly over labor and education issues.
But Dvorak came out of exile for the weekend, primarily to attend his pregnant wife's ultrasound appointment Friday, but also to make the parade and do some other campaigning.
"It's always important to get out and see people and say hi," Dvorak said. "It's a fun event for South Bend. People like to see you out there, say hi and ask you a thing or two."
Democratic candidate Mike Hamann said the brief encounters he had with people along the parade route didn't allow for much substantive talk about issues. It was more about making jokes when he could, such as telling people that if elected, he would make sure the weather was warmer for St. Patrick's Day, he said.
"They want to see that you have some sort of personality and energy level," Hamann said. "Those are the kinds of things that this kind of event is about. It's important for image. That's what you want to communicate."
Hamann said he was "energized" by the size of the crowds on such a blustery day.
"It was important to me to see that people in this city love their traditions," Hamann said. "It was pretty invigorating."
Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg, who was followed around by a boy holding a sign that read "MEET PETE," said the chance to meet voters in person is important in this race.
"I think meeting someone one-on-one is very important, especially when you're running for mayor," Buttigieg said. "This is not a very ideological or partisan election, so I think a lot of voters need to have a feel for whether you're going to be any good at (interacting with people). It's also a good chance for me to do some listening."
Hamann, Dvorak and Buttigieg walked with supporters who were saying cheers and holding campaign signs. They had registered as entries in the parade, but the candidates themselves spent most of their time shaking hands with spectators along the route.
Democratic candidate Barrett Berry, however, took a different tack. He had no group registered and spent the entire time walking the sidewalks, talking with people and handing out campaign fliers.
"Were running a unique race, something the city hasn't seen before, but one thing we're utilizing is the old-fashioned press the flesh and look them in the eye," Berry said. "I loved it today. It was cold but I loved it today."
Berry said he found that people wanted to talk about issues, especially jobs, education and abandoned houses.
"People are very opinionated right now," Berry said. "One lady shared with me for 10 minutes, which is like an hour on a parade route, because you want to meet as many people as possible."
None of the three Republican mayoral candidates, Wayne Curry, Will Taylor or Bill Davis, had entries registered in the parade, and a reporter saw none of them working the crowd.
Parade watcher Dan Ernsberger, who said he is an undecided voter, said each one of the candidates stopped to shake his hand. He was glad they did.
"It gives the public a chance to see them face to face, speak with them a little bit," Ernsberger said. "I let them know that we'll be listening to them."