Weeks before the primary election, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry has started hiring a campaign staff.
With more than half-a-million dollars banked for the campaign at the end of last year, Henry is well-equipped to hire a staff, and Justin Schall is the first aboard, as his campaign manager.
He won't be the last hire, either.
“We'll have a team in place in the next two to four weeks,” Schall said.
Schall, 38, is an Iowa native who's managed several congressional campaigns – most recently, the unsuccessful run for Congress of John Callahan, the mayor of Bethlehem, Pa., who challenged incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania for his seat in Congress.
Schall worked in the Clinton White House as an advance man. He's been in on Democratic presidential campaigns since, and he's managed at least two campaigns for Congress. Throughout his career, he's worked in off-years in mayoral races, including ones in San Jose, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; and Boston, he said.
“In between federal cycles, I've gone back and done mayoral races,” Schall said. “It's kind of a nice break after the divisiveness of federal races.”
That's not to say the race for mayor won't be fought hard, but voters in a city this size are more likely to look beyond party identification in their voting, he noted.
“As this mayor likes to say, ‘There's no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole,'” Schall said.
Schall, who is in Fort Wayne and on the campaign job now, said the mayor's strong prospects are part of what attracted him to working for Henry through the election. He cited the mayor's steady performance in the basics of city government – such as snow removal – and the unusually strong financial position of the city as key advantages the mayor will bring to the race.
“The mayor and his team at city hall have done a stellar job with city finances,” he said.
“I think it looks very promising. We're going to run a campaign like we're 10 points behind, but I like our chances,” Schall said.
Henry faces four opponents in the Democratic primary: Frederick Steinke, Tom Cook, Charles Eberhard, and D.C. “Mr. Roachclip” Roach. The challengers' campaigns are low-profile.