Mr. Rose beat Mr. Baddourah in the 2010 election to replace Kit Smith, and Moe took notes. He is now applying everything he learned. If anything characterized the Rose approach, it was that he resolved that no one would outwork him. In keeping with that, Mr. Baddourah is away from his restaurant this afternoon, going door-to-door in the unseasonable heat. He’s made it his No. 1 priority to knock on the door of every district resident expected to vote, and he’s “pretty much done all of them now.”
It’s been an adventure. One voter hurled racial epithets at the Lebanese-American. Another came to the door with a gun in his hand. After Moe persuaded him that he posed no danger, the man relaxed and “was very nice after that.” The man was just that worried about crime, says Moe.
His one concern at this point is that he’s “a little behind on fund-raising” — not that you could tell, judging by the profusion of his yard signs in the district. He got a very early jump on that — considering that conventionally, campaigns don’t trot out the signs until about three weeks out — creating an early impression of being in the lead. And indeed, of the candidates I’ve interviewed thus far, Mr. Baddourah seems most likely to make it at least into a runoff.
As for the issues, he believes the man with the gun had a point: “Crime is No. 1.”
Beyond that, “Infrastructure is a huge concern.” He tells of asking a woman what concerns she had in her neighborhood. When she couldn’t think of anything, her 8-year-old child piped up, “What about the brown water, Mama?” He says taking care of infrastructure should crowd out other priorities: “I don’t care how many parks you want — if you can’t take care of the simple services,” businesses are not going to want to locate in the city.
More than once in an interview he recited the litany of “Police, fire, services” — and by services, he meant fundamental infrastructure. Such as keeping the drinking water from turning brown. He said that preventing flooding in the Five Points area would be the sort of basic infrastructure need he would advocate. When I asked if the city could afford it, he said, “Do we have any choice?” He complained about $360,000 being spent on a fence along Blossom in Maxcy Gregg Park. “Can I have half of that” for a retaining pond to keep the creek from overflowing there, he asked?
He says water and sewer infrastructure would be in better shape if tap fees hadn’t been misspent for 10 years on other items. “This is the kind of thing that makes me want to run,” to inject accountability for such funds.
Personally, he says that as a businessman and family man, “I connect with people. I feel their pain.” Mr. Baddourah has lived in Columbia for 32 years, having come here when he was 16 because he “didn’t think Beirut was stable enough” — quite an understatement, given what was happening there at that time. He had one connection in the community — his uncle, who owned Andy’s Deli. He worked to learn the language and the customs. He built a business, married and has a son.
He found Columbia warm and welcoming from the start. He has traveled the world since then, but he’s never been back to Lebanon. “Columbia is my home.”