Johnny Doc Won the Mayor’s Race, Says Former Candidate Nelson Diaz

In a fascinating post-mortem with Al Dia, Diaz analyzes the campaign, but glosses over his own failings.

Former Democratic mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz has a fascinating interview with Sabrina Vourvoulias at Al Dia. Read her story here.

The most immediately newsworthy bits are his comments on John Dougherty, who Diaz blames for thwarting his campaign:

“…He got the Supreme Court, with his brother. He got city council. He worked out a deal with the Northwest, for Cherelle Parker and for (Derek) Green. So he’s got two more people he has some control over, and he will have the mayor’s office now.”

“So the question is, who won?” he continues.

“I think the guy who really won is Dougherty, who essentially is the controlling figure. And he’s part of the party, he’s the treasurer of the party, and so that’s the machine.”

But just as interesting are Diaz’s reflections on how and why he lost the race so badly. He is clearly frustrated that, despite his incredible resume and extensive skill set, he was nonetheless not taken all that seriously as a candidate by either the press or a lot of the political establishment. Again, Al Dia:

From the beginning of his run, no matter how impressive his position papers, his qualifications or his storied history of public service, Diaz was told he had no chance of success.

“The press always said how qualified I was, how capable I was, but always said that I couldn’t win,” Diaz says. “They would say, ‘if lightning strikes is the only way you are going to win.’”

In Chestnut Hill, the community where he’s lived for the past decade or so and where he’s been a part of the Democratic ward system, he says was told “We want to beat Williams at all costs and you can’t do it.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because the papers say you can’t do it,” was the response.

There’s some truth to this, but only some. Speaking only for myself, I would love to have taken Diaz more seriously as a candidate. Indeed, I looked for reasons to take him more seriously. His credentials are impeccable. His accomplishments are real and noteworthy. There are a lot of reasons to think Diaz would have made for a strong mayor.

But you have to get elected first, and while Diaz is impressive as an executive and attorney, he was a pretty awful candidate. He’s lived a fascinating life, but he wasn’t able to tell his story in a compelling way. He had solid policy proposals, but they weren’t novel or innovative enough to differentiate him from the crowd. At debates and in interviews, Diaz’s answers meandered. A lot.

Fair or not, Diaz started the race with less money and less establishment support than Anthony Williams or Kenney. To overcome that, he needed to run a perfect campaign. He needed to be just as appealing a candidate as he is a civic leader. He didn’t come close, and I don’t think Diaz can fairly pin that on the press, the party or Dougherty.

Political junkies will also be interested in Diaz’s read on Doc’s politicking in the city’s Latino-dominated wards, where mayoral politics intersected with the hard-fought campaign between incumbent 7th District Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and her farcical, completely unfit challenger, Manny Morales (Dougherty was backing Morales in that one). Check out the Al Dia story for the details on that.