You should feel bad for Richardson Mayor Laura Maczka. As she detailed in an emotional speech at a City Council meeting late last month, her personal life has recently gone to shit. She and her longtime husband just divorced, she's undergoing intensive treatment for a melanoma relapse and she's had to scramble for income to keep from losing her house, all of which has been dragged onto a very public stage. Only sadists and sociopaths could find joy in the spectacle.
That said, don't feel too bad for Maczka. Not because her as yet vaguely defined "personal relationship" with a developer that won zoning concessions and undisclosed economic perks was ill-judged, nor even because her last-minute abandonment of her 2015 mayoral candidacy means Richardson's mayor will once again be picked by the council rather than by the electorate. Rather, you should reserve some of your sympathy because ... well, karma.
Some context: Two years ago Maczka was running against fellow council member Amir Omar to become Richardson's first directly elected mayor, at least in modern times. The race turned nasty, though at first it was garden-variety political nastiness. Omar pandered to the NIMBY vote by twisting Maczka's position on development and apartments. Maczka accused Omar of being beholden to unions because, a bit of research would indicate, he was backed by Richardson's police and firefighters.
Then came The Mailer. At first glance, The Mailer seemed an unremarkable piece of campaign flotsam, indistinguishable from any of the other glossy ads that jam mailboxes come election time. There's a picture of Maczka smiling, surrounded by her family, and an enumeration of her accomplishments and achievements. Facing Maczka is a sinister-looking picture of Omar, accompanied by a frowny face and a scathing description of his political and personal failings. The sharpest dagger came near the end:
In 2009, Mr. Omar ran for council and raised over $24,000. During that same year he was over $10,000 in arrears on his child support payments for his then three-year-old son.
The clear implication is that Omar is a dead-beat dad, which isn't true. At all. The "in arrears" language was pulled from some boilerplate language from a divorce settlement with his ex-wife, who signed an affidavit during the campaign swearing that, actually, Omar had never been behind on his child-support payments.
Maczka's campaign didn't put out The Mailer, not technically. It was the work of the Richardson Coalition, a political action committee formed several years earlier by the city's business elite to get their preferred candidates into City Hall. But saying Maczka wasn't involved in the mailer is like saying a presidential candidate isn't involved in the attack ad put out by the SuperPAC run by his brother-in-law, except it's slightly more disingenuous. Maczka and the coalition shared a campaign consultant. The coalition showed her The Mailer before it ran. And Richardson's political establishment just isn't that big -- far too small for there to be any believable daylight between the coalition and their preferred candidate.
All of which is prelude to the following video, in which Omar and Maczka are asked about The Mailer at a League of Women Voters forum:
Fast-forward to about 3:45 for Maczka's smug response:
The reality is, when you choose to run for public office -- and this is a choice that I have made -- you recognize that there are going to be certain questions that are going to be asked of you that an average citizen does not have to answer. And I committed and pledged that I would honestly answer any questions -- even the difficult ones -- that might be asked of me, because it's the collective body of work that you bring into the office. And I will also say that I committed then and now that nothing from my past would reflect poorly on this community or the office I intend to serve. I have honored that pledge.
Jump forward to the April 28 council meeting, and Maczka doesn't seem nearly so sanguine about discussing a politician's private life:
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She chastizes her critics in the audience, asking them to imagine the "public humiliation" of having the struggles of her personal life made the subject of gossip, rumor and attacks on Facebook, blogs and Internet comment sections. After running through a timeline of her tenure as mayor, she chides her critics some more:
The last year of my life on a personal level has been brutal. I've gone through a divorce, and throughout the process, Mike and I were committed and are committed to putting the kids first and in the center, which is why we didn't go out to Facebook share or candidly publicly discuss the details of the divorce. And I think what people tend to forget, even now, is that there are three kids in the middle of all of this.
Omar has kids, too. One of them, in grade school at the time, was named in documents Maczka says she insisted the coalition post online. Of course, Omar didn't have the foresight to seal his divorce records. Maczka's, filed last year in Dallas County's 330th District Court, are locked down tight.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.