BY DAN CAMPANA
Nearly five hours of Aurora's mayoral candidates talking.
Take a deep breath.
So, what's next?
With the three public gatherings involving Mayor Tom Weisner, Alderman Richard Irvin and Alderman Stephanie Kifowit in the books, it's a natural time for voters and the campaigns to survey the landscape.
Weisner recap: Despite the flak he's getting for not attending any more forums, Weisner has to be happy that he endured the three he did participate in. To say he played defense might be an understatement about his overall performance. Flustered at times, the mayor hit his key points every night: Crime rate, unemployment, downtown, bond rating and a reminder the work isn't done.
Wednesday night's event at Wesley United Methodist Church featured a more relaxed looking and sounding mayor, who was probably happy he didn't get pinned between his opponents again. Even with wide-ranging questions that broke the script of other forums, Weisner didn't miss many chances to hammer home his record.
The 19-day forecast? Weisner said he prefers smaller settings, such as coffee conversations. He's got 19 days to grab some joe and chat with voters. Does he need to do much else?
Irvin recap: He never strayed from his core mission of making his story an Aurora story, one that will repeat itself for others should he become mayor. Irvin has received mixed reactions to that, and some voters might be waiting for him put it all together into full context.
Irvin played these forums by gut. He pounced on Weisner's mildly infamous comment about "failing businesses," made bombastic statements about Aurora's "new crime wave" and generally stayed loose and conversational in stuffy settings.
What he didn't do was dig in deep to explain why his ideas will work. He didn't tell you why Kifowit's plans aren't right for Aurora. He didn't tell you how Weisner's leadership style has hurt Aurora. Irvin hinted at these areas, but never jumped in for voters to take notice.
The 19-day forecast? This has been a tamer race compared to the Irvin-Weisner slugfest of 2005, but Irvin's attacks remain squarely against the mayor. So, what's left up his sleeve for the stretch run? Readers who joined me for live blogs during the forums suggested the candidates need to get more specific and talk more to the voters directly. That might be right where Irvin needs to go.
Kifowit recap: Focused, even-tempered and prepared. Kifowit has probably surprised a lot of people by what could be seen as an effective approach in these gatherings. As with Irvin, there's no clear indication of whether that's gotten voters to jump on her bandwagon.
The most interesting part of the Kifowit playbook, at least from this sideline analyst's perspective, was how she essentially ignored Irvin. Rarely did she address what Richard had to say specifically, choosing instead to take on Weisner in a direct "my plan is better than what he's done for four years" kind of fashion.
The 19-day forecast? Kifowit will keep plugging away like she has for the last year, talking to every voter she can, anywhere she can. Kifowit has done well to climb out from the underdog label she has in this race. It's hard to imagine her changing course much with less than three weeks left to go.
Odds and Ends
-- Two Aurora police officers were on hand for Wednesday's forum in case some unruly folks showed up. It's not clear who asked for the police or who the suspected troublemakers might have been. The night was pleasant and quiet.
-- With the election less than a month away, candidates are required to report any donations of greater than $500 shortly after they are received. Only Weisner has submitted any such reports. Since March 11, he's taken in a total of $8,500 from three donors.