The 2010 Columbus mayor's race has begun.
Mayor Jim Wetherington is to hold a 2 p.m. news conference today in the Government Center to announce he will not seek re-election. At 2:30, at-large Councilor Wayne Anthony will hold a news conference in the same building to announce he will run for mayor.
Meanwhile, other potential candidates are lining up support and waiting for what they believe is the right time to announce.
Wetherington, who unseated former Mayor Bob Poydasheff in 2006, sent an e-mail Wednesday afternoon to news outlets after word of his news conference began to leak out.
“Mayor Jim Wetherington has announced today that he does not intend to seek a second term as Mayor of Columbus in the 2010 election,” the message read.
Prior to Wetherington’s e-mail, Anthony had informed reporters he would hold a news conference to announce he was running. Anthony, who calls Wetherington “an extraordinary mayor,” said his plan was not to upstage the mayor.
“I anticipated doing this in September,” Anthony said.
He said he wanted to be the first candidate in the race.
“It is important people know I am serious about seeking this office,” he said.
Two other potential mayoral candidates — Councilor Skip Henderson and MidTown Inc. Executive Director Teresa Tomlinson — said they will not make formal announcements at this time.
“I want to take the opportunity to congratulate him on many years of service to this community,” Tomlinson said of Wetherington. “He should be allowed to bask in his good work.”
Henderson, a four-term councilor who, like Anthony, is elected citywide, agreed.
“I certainly wouldn’t schedule a news conference on the day the mayor makes an announcement,” Henderson said. “I am not sure that is something I would have done. Wayne is a good guy, and I am sure he is just anxious and wants to get his name out there.”
Anthony, a two-term councilor, said he had been waiting for Wetherington’s formal announcement to make public his intentions. In July, Wetherington indicated he would not seek re-election.
“In deference and respect to the mayor, I have delayed my announcement until the appropriate time,” Anthony said.
But to make an announcement the same day as Wetherington is poor form, said former Mayor and Wetherington supporter Frank Martin.
“In one sense, that is disappointing to me,” Martin said. “This should be Jim’s day as mayor. For someone to jump into the same news cycle and use that as a springboard, I think is opportunistic. Jim deserved his day and his announcement. I think that was unnecessary.”
Why not wait a day?
It is all about timing, Anthony said: “Friday is not a good day because most people don’t watch TV news on Friday. If I would have waited a week or two, there is a chance someone else would have announced.”
Tomlinson, an attorney who has lived in Columbus the past 16 years and never sought elected office, said she was “seriously considering” a run for the city’s top elected office, but has not scheduled an announcement. She said she has been discussing the possibility with people in the community.
“I have been asking people a lot of questions,” she said.
Henderson is taking the same tack.
“In the next couple of weeks I will be having some type of discussion about it,” Henderson said.
The wide-open mayor’s office will generate a lot of political speculation and rumors.
After Anthony’s announcement Wednesday, local news Web site RichardHyattColumbus.com reported that former City Manager Carmen Cavezza, now the director of Columbus State University’s Cunningham Center for Leadership Development, “might be cajoled into entering the race.”
Cavezza, a retired Army general and former Fort Benning commander, shot that rumor down.
“Why would I want to do something like that?” he asked. “Who’s setting up the ambush? I am not considering it. Is that clear enough?” Martin said whoever runs will have a tough act to follow.
“Jim has done an excellent job,” he said. “The 1 percent sales tax for public safety that he led will be the signature of his mayorship and his legacy. It is a permanent solution and one we needed because of the tax structure in this county.”
Had Wetherington sought a second term, he would have been unbeatable, Martin said: “I don’t think anybody could have beaten him. And not only that, I think he would have run unopposed. I really do.”