Eleven years after his quixotic campaign for mayor of Springfield, Simon Powell has died.
Simon’s 1999 bid wasn’t successful, but it certainly caught plenty of attention in political circles. After all, it’s not every day a dog runs for mayor.
Simon’s campaign was handled by his human companions, Karen and Bob Powell, a pair of Springfield community activists known for their irreverent and often humorous approach to fighting City Hall. The Powells were the cofounders of the grassroots group CANE, which had its roots as Citizens Against Needle Exchange but later morphed into the more broadly focused Citizens Action Network. Much of CANE’s energy was focused on trying to stop the excesses of the Albano administration, such as Mayor Mike’s half-baked—and, it later came out in court, dishonest—plan to build a minor-league ballpark in the North End.
While detractors—namely, the Albano gang and its enablers at the Springfield Republican—sniffed that the Powells and their allies were destructive “nay-sayers,” CANE, in fact, offered a place where residents who were frustrated by the status quo and tired of being ignored by the insider circles could voice their concerns and fight for change. The Powells’ decision to run their dog for mayor highlighted the absurdity of a political establishment that was happy to re-elect Albano despite the many reasons to question his administration’s judgment and ethics—reasons that were spelled out all too clearly in the rash of federal public corruption indictments and convictions that followed soon enough.
Veteran Springfield pundit Tom Devine eulogized Simon last week on his blog, writing, “In the darkest hours of Springfield’s decline, when the forces of corruption were at their peak, local historians will long remember that it was Simon Powell who carried the banner of good government when no human standard-bearer could be found.”
And, it should be noted, a not insignificant portion of the Springfield electorate responded to Simon’s call; Devine reports that Simon received more than 600 write-in votes. For the sake of comparison, when Chris Asselin—the former Springfield state rep who went on the serve time in federal prison for public corruption—took a stab at reclaiming his old seat this fall, he received only 570 votes in the Democratic primary.