Leonard says Smith, an East Side state legislator known for his charismatic speeches, would be better than all the other major candidates in the race (chiefly Eileen Brady and former city commissioner Charlie Hales) at delivering the three votes any given issue needs to pass the council.
"Jefferson has that skill," Leonard said in his office during a break in this morning's council meeting. "He's good at inspiring people with his speeches, but he's also great at working behind the scenes to pass his initiatives."
Smith—who, like Leonard, lives east of 82nd Avenue—has apparently been trying for some time to get Leonard on board, and Leonard has dropped private hints that he was leaning Smith's way. Leonard, who also represented the East Side in Salem, says he let loose with his endorsement after Smith asked him to get together for a meeting. It comes after Charlie Hales secured the O's backing over the weekend and released polling data showing he, and not Smith, might be gaining on Brady.
Leonard, because, of course he would, also managed to aim a familiar barb at one of his favorite foils, Tom Potter, who happened to have endorsed Brady. Echoing comments last year when he all but said he would endorse Police Chief Mike Reese for the city's top job, Leonard said, "Not every mayor here has had that ability" to win council support and actually be, you know, effective.
He also fired a shot at Hales, who left the council in the middle of his term a decade ago—giving up the seat that Leonard will hold until January, when he retires. "The reason I'm here is because Charlie Hales quit," Leonard says, suggesting that Hales had told him at the time he was too "burned out" in the face of vexing problems like how to fix up the city's permitting process.
Quoth Leonard: "I question Charlie's ability to have staying power."
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!