Friday, April 28, 2006

Stephanie Dumas

For Hamilton County Commissioner

It is no secret that I have been a volunteer for Stephanie Dumas in her campaign for Hamilton County Commissioner. It's also no secret that she has won my respect and admiration.

What you may not know is why.

My interest in her campaign began when Nate Livingston (Cincinnati Black Blog) and The Dean of Cincinnati (The Cincinnati Beacon) both posted on their blogs that Stephanie was running for Hamilton County Commissioner. This was news to me because all I'd ever heard from the local mainstream press (cough*The Cincinnati Enquirer*cough) was that David Pepper would be running as the Democratic candidate against Phil Heimlich, the Republican incumbent. At first I thought they might both be mistaken since I’d heard nothing about it, but I went to the League of Women Voters Smart Voter website and Stephanie Dumas was listed as a candidate.

Nate and Jason both reiterated the same message. It looked as though Stephanie Dumas was either not going to be covered or would be given backhanded coverage by the local mainstream press and for various reasons, none of them good. The fact that Stephanie is African American and also female is unacceptable to venues like the Enquirer and their powerful cronies. The fact that the name Dumas has no political scandal or corruption attached to it made her candidacy a non-story.

Nate and Jason also pointed out that Stephanie is a qualified candidate with governmental and work experience that I feel exceeds her Democratic opponent and is the equal of the incumbent Republican opponent. The fact that she actually has experience and that this would exclude her from media coverage may leave you puzzled as it did me. The reason became clear to me, after watching this season’s crop of negative campaign ads, that a candidate's perceived shortcomings will always be trumpeted in the most repugnant, crude and base manner. A candidate who is experienced and capable but otherwise considered persona-non-grata will always be denounced or simply ignored.

What the mainstream media hasn’t said about Stephanie is far more important than their initial lack of coverage and subsequent one article hatchet job. They have had from the moment months ago when Stephanie declared her candidacy until this final week leading up to the primary election to throw dirt and sling mud however their shovels and slingshots have obviously come up empty. There are no ads, flyers or rumors purporting anything against her. I think the Enquirer and her opponents realize that Stephanie, politically, is what she maintains to be: an experienced, competent and knowledgeable candidate who is more able to do the job of a Hamilton County Commissioner.

The issues around lack of media coverage for Stephanie Dumas deeply offended my sense of fair play. Also, my political consciousness has, in the past few years, been awakened and enlightened by the current events of the day. I find that I cannot be one of the people who sit back and watch these events occur around them. I refuse to blame other people for making decisions that effect me if I have not been an active, participating citizen in those decisions.

Having empathy, time and the inclination to support a cause are a good start but I did not feel they were solely good reasons to volunteer. I feel sorry for George Bush sometimes but I’d never work on a campaign for him. So, I Googled Stephanie and came up with a few articles. Gleaning that she had previously been the Mayor of Forest Park, I called some family and friends who lived out that way and made inquiries. They all knew who she was and all had nothing but good things to say. All reports being favorable, I went ahead and emailed the Dumas campaign to find out when their next meeting would be and received a response detailing time, date and directions.

I arrived at that first campaign meeting with several aims in mind. I wanted to meet Stephanie and find out what type of person I would be supporting if I decided to volunteer. I wanted to know what message her campaign intended to convey and I especially if she intended to participate in negative campaigning against her opponents. I wanted to know what credentials made her the qualified candidate Nate and Jason believed her to be. And I wanted to know what agenda she had in mind for the office she was running for. I had no intention of staying or volunteering if I didn't like what I saw or heard.

I arrived early and there was only one other car in the parking lot. Another car pulled in immediately behind us and someone walked into the building. I thought at the time it was a campaign staffer, but it turned out to be Stephanie. Before I could get out of my car, the building alarm went off with a deafening screech. After a few minutes and a calm cell phone call by Stephanie, the problem was rectified. A small thing, but you can tell a lot about people by how they deal with small hiccups in their plans and she handled this with aplomb.

Other people began to arrive. After dealing with the alarm, she greeted everyone warmly and by first name, even me, "You must be Deborah, I'm Stephanie" before I could introduce myself. I found out later that even in a roomful of folks it was, for her, an easy process of elimination. I was the only person there she didn't already know personally.

Despite a packed agenda and roomful of busy people with lots of ideas, Stephanie made time to introduce me to everyone and talk with me personally regarding the campaign and her purpose. I liked the fact that when she spoke, it was with an unrehearsed conviction that I know from experience cannot be taught or practiced. She simply knows what she knows and wants to be of service to our community and county. Stephanie is not deterred by lack of media coverage for reasons that are so simple, yet are a good find in a political aspirant.

The reasons have to do with two other areas where Stephanie could never be maligned: honesty and personal integrity. Many people talk about it and wink at politicians who espouse it as a value.

You cannot talk to Stephanie for more than five minutes without knowing that she means it and lives it.

There is a strong sentiment among her supporters that Stephanie's habit of putting into practice what she preaches regarding open government and spending is one reason her opponents and their influential friends believe she cannot be allowed into office. It’s almost a cliché that honesty, for some politicians, must be circumvented if at all possible. It seems one person can do much to uphold honesty and I believe Stephanie Dumas to be one of those people.

Stephanie talks about corruption and wasteful spending with a trace of disgust that is genuinely disdainful of the act and people who practice it as a way of politics that cannot be avoided. She will quickly tell you that it can be avoided if, once in office, our officials honor the trust given to them by the people who elect them.

However Stephanie doesn't linger on the negatives long. It is clear that Stephanie does not believe you have to push others down to bring yourself up. She does not condone or participate in derision of her opponents. Her message is simply that she feels she can do the job better given the chance to do so and that she has the record to back it up.

Stephanie talks about what must be done with a brisk, no nonsense attitude that leaves you with the impression of someone rolling up their sleeves and doing a dirty job that must be done despite any qualms to the contrary. She never displays an attitude of hopelessness. She feels that there are problems, yes, but that they can also be fixed if only people are willing to step up to the plate. She has stepped up and would like your support.

Stephanie has all the warmth and humor that denotes the mother-sister-friend she is to many. However her laid back demeanor, while authentic, is not all there is to Stephanie Dumas. Jokes, offtopic assides or satellite issues cannot sidetrack her. Stephanie is one to bring things back into perspective; to kindly and politely but quite pointedly remind you of your main objective and quickly get things back on track. Underestimate her friendliness and humor at your own risk. Her intelligence and wit are in action behind that smile.

After talking in depth with Stephanie Dumas, I understand why David Pepper has declined every opportunity to debate her in an open forum where he would be on his own and have to think on his feet without being coached first.

Stephanie would wipe the dust with him.

She would be the last to brag about it, so I will do it for her. The Enquirer falsely attributed two similar statements to her, which they have not and will probably never retract. To make my meaning clear, yes I’m accusing the Enquirer of outright lying. She was not pleased at their mischaracterization of her as boastful and mean-spirited. If she chastises me for bragging on her behalf when she reads this I will accept it wholeheartedly because I have said nothing untrue and because she does not believe in tooting her own horn - only working hard and getting the job done.

Which, after all is what we want in those we trust to our government offices: people who practice what they preach and understand that when we elect them, we don't give them carte blanch to do as they wish and that we are trusting them with our more than our tax dollars. We are trusting them with our homes and our lives; our liberty and our future.

If you would like to support a candidate who not only understands but also will honor this important part of the social contract - then you can do no better than to vote Stephanie Dumas as the Democratic Candidate for the office of Hamilton County Commissioner.

Stephanie, it has been a privilege to volunteer for you and I wish you all success.

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