COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS
Long shot mayoral candidate Thomas Prentice stole the show at the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors debate on Tuesday, brushing aside questions about development regulations and parks to rail against global warming and capitalism.
Mayor Daniel Guerrero and four candidates seeking two city council seats all played their calibrated roles pretty much as expected. Guerrero and council incumbents Ryan Thomason and Shane Scott made measured, inoffensive cases for continuity; challengers Melissa Derrick and Greg Frank made measured, inoffensive cases for change.
But from his first sentence — the first most people in the room had ever heard from the relative newcomer to San Marcos — it was clear that Prentice does not consider moderation a virtue. The 60-year-old former education professor, who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, seemed to relish the opportunity to speak his version of “truth to power” in the form of a captive audience of developers, real estate agents and their sycophants.
“How many of you want you and your children to have to evacuate to balmy, temperate, sunny, palm tree-dotted Saskatchewan? This is not something that’s going to happen in a hundred or 50 years. It is not something that is going to happen in two years. It’s happening now,” Prentice said, answering moderator Monica McNabb’s first question about development regulations.
In his next breath, he pivoted to another preferred target — the capitalistic system.
“A person who is very cynical about human nature says the only reason the butcher doesn’t sell you bad meat is because its in his interest for you to come back. What kind of commie, pinko, dirty, smelly hippy Marxist said that?” Prentice asked. He paused for a dramatic moment, then answered: “The Scottish capitalist saint Adam Smith.”
A caterer behind the buffet line chuckled a little too loudly and a few people turned to see who it was. But no one seemed too bent out of shape over the candidate’s bombastic oration. In fact, more than a few people seemed delighted by the unexpected excitement.
A few minutes later — this time on a question about parks — Prentice held up a political cartoon that assailed bankers’ role in the 2008 economic collapse. Later, answering a question about the city’s comprehensive master plan, he held up a cover of the Economist that referred to “Banksters.”
“If The Economist, the most pro-capitalistic magazine in the world, is asking questions about ‘banksters’ shouldn’t we be asking questions about bankers?” Prentice asked.
For sure, San Marcos has had more than its fair share of colorful candidates in the past. But I don’t ever remember anyone so brazenly choosing incitement over electability.
Perhaps owing to our city’s tradition of anything-can-happen politics, the real estate people, and bankers, in attendance at Tuesday’s forum did not appear at all flustered by Prentice’s full-throated criticism of the American Way. They seemed to take it in stride, applauding politely after each answer as they did for all the other candidates.
But with each answer, fewer people applauded. And the glances they cast each over plates of fancy meatloaf incrementally evolved from amused by his antics to irritated by the absurdity of it all.
Therein lies Prentice’s problem.
If he intends to ignore every issue actually relevant to the office he is seeking — and use the platform of a campaign solely to pontificate on world events — the act will quickly wear thin even with those who appreciate his perspective. But if he re-calibrates, if he tracks toward the measured and inoffensive, there will be nothing to distinguish him from the crowd.
One suspects Prentice fears continued obscurity more than he fears anything else. More so, even, than rising sea levels and bourgeois butchers peddling tainted beef.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We are transcribing the full audio of the debate and expect to have it posted in a day or so. CORRECTION: This story originally said Prentice is a former political science professor. He is a former curriculum and instruction assistant professor at what was then Southwest Texas State. This story also originally said he is 52; he is 60.
This is raw audio from the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors’ debate.
The first file is opening statements from Mayor Daniel Guerrero and opponent Thomas Prentice; Place 5 council member Ryan Thomason and write-in opponent Melissa Derrick; and Place 6 council member Shane Scott and opponent Greg Frank. Then Hays County commissioners Will Conley and Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe jump in to make statements.
The second file is of San Marcos candidates answering the moderator’s prepared questions followed by their closing remarks. Part of the first question is cut off but it is repeated later in the audio for each candidate.[display_podcast]