Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mud flies at political party

Ketchum mayor, challenger pelted together

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum mayoral candidate Dan Stein, left, joins incumbent Mayor Ed Simon on the mud slinging, firing line Friday at the "political circus" organized by Stein. Express photos by Rebecca Meany Mayoral candidate Mickey Garcia, never at a loss for new costume attire, speaks out Friday on issues confronting Ketchum. Express photos by Rebecca Meany

It's not uncommon at a party to hear the toast, "Here's mud in your eye"—unless the party is politically motivated and features real mud.

One Ketchum mayoral candidate is taking the often-dirty business of politics and using it as a tool to unite.

"I threw this party to provide a fun environment for people to interact, to meet and network, and to get involved in the community together," candidate Dan Stein said Friday. "Politics is such a dirty word. (I wanted) to create some kind of momentum to see that you can do beautiful things together. That's my main initiative with this party."

Stein—who donned a tiger outfit early in the evening before changing to a T-shirt and shorts for the mud-hurling portion of the party—said he grew tired of community divisions and voter apathy.

"A lot of young professionals ... want to do things but find it difficult to connect with the old guard," he said. "They're looking for mentors; they're looking to establish themselves. They're entrepreneurs that need access to other successful business people to increase the fertility of the business environment, especially for newer entrants."

Incumbent Mayor Ed Simon and candidate Mickey Garcia attended the party in occasion-appropriate attire.

Cocktails, food and fire-eating performers kept attendees busy.

But only Simon joined Stein outside for the main event, submitting to the gleeful efforts of children who got to play in the mud with the expressed approval of adults.

"I came here to sling some mud," Simon said. "I think the purpose is to lighten the atmosphere. And how could I say no?"

Stein is a newcomer to politics, and said his friends have been supportive of and interested in his undertaking.

Some who felt sidelined by the current political process said they might reconsider their stance, if only for Stein.

"I'm an utter cynic when it comes to politics," said David Koskoff, a Ketchum chef who was minding the eats at the party. "I don't think we live in a democracy. Look at the last two elections. Sadly, but truly, I don't think Americans are interested in democracy. They're interested in their security and their creature comforts."

"Dan might motivate me to vote," he said. If he won, "That would be a coup."

Ketchum resident April Ellinwood, who works at a downtown jewelry store, said she always votes in national-level elections but has had a harder time involving herself locally.

"It's probably my own failure of participation," she said. "You get wrapped up in your own life. I'd like to be more involved in the community."

She recently took the initiative by attending the Ketchum Downtown Merchants' Association meeting.

"For the first time I felt like I had a voice," she said.

Ketchum mayoral candidate Garcia has been an active participant in local politics for a decade. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Ketchum four years ago and City Council two years ago. He frequently attends council and planning meetings throughout the valley.

"I think there's a bunch of people who think they're liberal but are actually reactionary," he said from underneath a tall, furry hat. "I base that on the idea of victimization. We, or they, the longtime residents, are the victims, and the perpetrators are the developers. When you assume the role of the victim ... it gets you nowhere."

Ketchum resident Jonathan Guidry decided to attend Stein's party after seeing a flyer around town.

"I thought it would be interesting to meet people," he said.

His interest in politics arises "sometimes," he said. "If I feel there's something worth voting for or something with an impact. I prefer local politics over something that I have no control over."

He prefers candidates who are open and flexible.

"It's important to respond to things as they come up instead of planning everything, (because) things change quickly," he said.

He's undecided in his choice for mayor.

"I'll wait until the last moment, when I walk into the booth," he said. "That's the deciding moment."

Regardless of whether Stein gets elected, the host would not likely see failure in defeat.

"(It's important) to get those 50-year-olds together with us because they were just like us 30 years ago," Stein said. "I'm using politics to get everyone together."

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