New mayor well equipped to lead city in new direction

May 9, 2009 

Nobody likes a naysayer, a critic, an obstructionist. You know the guy who is always trying to put a damper on things, slow down progress, refusing to get with the program. Nobody likes that guy.

We saw this principle at work in recent years with two well-known politicians. Constituents of former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota sent him packing because they viewed him as resisting anything President George W. Bush was proposing. The same was true for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Remember how unpopular Gingrich was back in the mid-'90s, when he was viewed as someone always trying to block whatever President Clinton was pushing?

These two politicians fell to the principle in politics that reads, it is better to be for something than against something.

Anchorage Mayor-elect Dan Sullivan seems to have transcended that rule.

For most of Sullivan's time on the Assembly he was for the most part the only real adversary Mark Begich ever had. Begich was popular with the media and voters. Sullivan was his constant nemesis. The majority of what Begich pushed for, Sullivan opposed. Even if it meant being the only no vote on the 11 member Anchorage Assembly.

But unlike Daschle and Gingrich, somehow with all that obstruction, Sullivan was able to avoid being perceived as "the bad guy."

How did he do it?

I believe it is because Dan is genuinely a nice guy.

Look how graceful and above-board Sullivan was during the mayor's race, despite the slimy campaign Eric Croft ran against him. Croft began the runoff race on live television telling a Channel 2 news reporter the race for mayor was between a former prosecutor and a bar owner.

A cheap shot for sure. Sullivan let it go. Most politicians would have made a big deal of the childish remark. That's not how Sullivan rolls.

Then Croft tried to trick voters into believing Sullivan wanted a 14 percent sales tax. Eric Croft, a man who once voted for a state income tax and then pushed for the natural gas reserves tax, had the audacity to accuse Dan Sullivan of pushing a 14 percent sales tax.

Sullivan could have hemmed and hawed, given the absurdity of the accusation, and stooped to Croft's level. But instead he once again remained cool, levelheaded and resisted the "you are a bigger taxer than I am" battle.

Then Croft took his campaign lower than anyone ever imagined. Playing off his original charge that you shouldn't vote for Sullivan because he's a bar owner, Croft covertly tried to tie the DUI of one of Sullivan's employees to Dan. Croft wouldn't come clean on launching the sleazy attack, but he did admit his campaign volunteer who shopped the story to the media may have gotten the idea from him.

Most politicians would overreact and take such a foolish attack personally. Not Dan Sullivan. He took it in stride, and for the most part ignored it. No sound bites of "woe is me." The strategy led to a victory in what is by Anchorage election standards a landslide.

Do nice guys finish last? Not this nice guy.

Sullivan seems to have a gift of not taking attacks personally. You'll never hear Dan Sullivan calling his critics "haters" or complaining about unfair treatment from the media. No, that's not Sullivan's style.

It will be fun watching such a cool customer try to bring change to Anchorage. Not the "give everybody free money and let our grandkids pay for it" change our president is offering up. The kind of change Sullivan will try to bring will involve real resistance from unions, environmentalists and their allies in the media.

If ever there was a man equipped to change the direction of Anchorage, it is Dan Sullivan.

The mayor-elect of course has had a good teacher. His father, George, has the same even temperament as Dan. Both are known as mild mannered, kind, not easily rattled.

Dan Sullivan is not just a nice guy. He stands on principle, doesn't pander and is a fighter.

He'll give liberals hell over the next six years, all while wearing a gentle smile second only to his father's.


Dan Fagan hosts a radio talk show on AM 750 KFQD

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