Here's my (belated) analysis of winners and losers in Tuesday night's mayoral debate. My ups and downs just indicate whether I think the candidate helped or hurt his chances. They aren't necessarily related to my overall view of who's winning or which candidate I personally prefer.
David Bovee (up): His candidacy is going nowhere, so anything he did outside of swinging an ax or throwing up on another candidate probably would have helped him. He sounded less versed than some of the others, but rational and mainstream. He probably should come up with a better description of his career than "retired."
Larry Brewster (down): Brewster came across as the apologist for the current council and staff, and that's a tough job. I don't think anybody can win this election who doesn't sound as if he could make things better. Brewster seemed to promise more of the same.
Al Garver (up): Impressive showing. He sounded remarkably well schooled on the issues, quite reasonable and quite articulate. The crowd, which was fairly large and fairly old, had obvious sympathy for his complaints about the wording of the public safety mill levy. In my experience, incumbents generally can bury challengers on the facts -- it takes a long time to get up to speed on all the stuff that government does. But Garver sounded ready to hit the ground running.
Cliff Hanson (down): Came across more as a perpetual candidate than as a committed citizen ready to take the next step in public service. He seemed to lack clear vision and goals, and he was the only candidate who sounded at all downbeat about Billings' future. While that may be rational, it's probably not good politics.
Michael Larson (up): He's not an incumbent, but he's a fairly recent council member, which puts him a tricky position. He could criticize recent council decisions without sharing the blame, but he still needed to sound as if the city did something right in the eight years he helped run it. In my view, he handled the challenge masterfully. He's well versed on the issues, thoroughly articulate, and is able to sound like he is making bold pronouncements while actually outlining positions nearly everyone would agree with. Probably the big winner of the debate.
Ron Tussing (neutral): He carries lots of baggage in this race, some helpful and some not. The Tussing supporters were by far the most visible in the crowd, and they didn't hear anything to change their minds. But I'm not sure that voters who are skeptical about his motives and diplomacy heard anything to change their minds either.
My straight news account is here.