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Forum editorial: Walaker paddles to third term

The lore and legend (and fact) of Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker’s flood-fighting campaigns helped win the day for him on Tuesday. The two-term mayor used his well-earned reputation as a champion for his city to convince a solid majority of voters that he was ready for a third term. It might have seemed he was paddling upstream this time, but it’s clear the current was with him from the beginning.

It was a spirited campaign that pitted Walaker against two-term City Commissioner Brad Wimmer, whose “fit” theme did not gain enough traction to put the older and less energetic-appearing mayor to the skids.

Walaker voters apparently bought into the “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” mantra that animated his more vocal supporters. Indeed, Wimmer, who is a city commissioner and former park commissioner, had a tough time making the case that the city under Walaker’s leadership was going in the wrong direction. After all, Wimmer was on board when all that progress was made, his critics noted.

The choice, therefore, turned primarily on image and style, since both men agreed on just about every city policy, protocol and program. Walaker’s public persona proved to be a comfort zone for many Fargoans, in large part because he is identified with saving the city from two record floods, although he is the first to concede he didn’t do it alone.

The other factor at work in the campaign was the “it-doesn’t-seem-right” sentiment among a lot of voters. It didn’t seem right to them to turn out a successful mayor. It didn’t seem right to penalize the mayor because he’s been eligible for senior citizen discounts for 15 years. It didn’t seem right for Wimmer to portray himself as physically fit in unkind contrast to clearly less physically fit Walaker.

No matter the motivations, the voters have spoken. Mayor Walaker will remain Mayor Walaker for another four years, during which time he will pursue relentlessly final approvals for the project he views as most important to the city’s future: the Fargo-Moorhead diversion. In that regard, he’s in sync with a majority of Fargo residents.

We wish him well. His first two terms have been successful, and there is no reason to conclude a third term will be anything less.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.