Race to city hall 

Door-to-door in the mayor's race

Childers challenges Kadas' organized campaign with informal canvassing

The single easiest way to distinguish between the two men wanting to be Missoula's mayor for the next four years may be to take a look at their campaigns' bank accounts. One is endorsed by quite a few groups around town, and is running a well-financed and disciplined campaign. The other cites his core supporters as being individuals, and is running a more casual operation, financed on a shoe string.

When it comes to the issues though, the two tend to agree more than they disagree: both are Democrats, both are have a keen financial sense, both stress the importance of planning for the explosive population growth Missoula has been absorbing.

Harboring a $12,000 war chest is Mike Kadas, a 14-year veteran of the state legislature who was appointed mayor a little more than a year ago after Dan Kemmis announced his resignation. Opposing Kadas with only $1,400 -- most of it out of his own pocket -- is Ed Childers, who has been overseeing the city of Missoula's finances as its treasurer for the last 12 years.

"It's not that I've raised a lot of money, Ed has just raised very little," Kadas says, pointing out that in the last mayoral race Kemmis raised in upwards of $23,000.

But with the fund-raising practices of national campaigns steeped in the muck of scandal, Childers figures it's more honest to run a bare bones campaign. "I'm not going to buy the mayor's [job]," he says.

One recent Thursday evening, Kadas and a group of six volunteers gathered in an upper Rattlesnake home to meet before spreading campaign literature to the surrounding neighborhood. They've been working like this every Thursday and Saturday since the beginning of October and plan on doing so until election day.

The goal is to drop a brochure'nearly 10,000 in all -- on the doorstep of every house, apartment and domicile in the city that even vaguely looks like a residence. One person, Kadas says, can do about 150 houses in a three hour period.

While Kadas is out walking the streets, he introduces himself to everyone he meets. Although most seem to know who he is already, it's a fact he can't get used to. "It's amazing how many people know who I am. Since becoming mayor more people know who I am than when I was a state legislator."

Rather than trying to reach every single voter, Childers says he prefers instead to use yard signs. While Kadas speaks briefly with many people, Childers thinks nothing of spending hours talking to a single voter. If anything, Childers says, he enjoys talking to people too much.

"It's more fun to talk to people in depth. I'll start talking to someone and it'll be 4 o'clock, and the next thing I know it's 7," he says. He is counting on a domino effect -- each voter he spends time with will talk to others, he says, and eventually a constituency is built.

If Childers loses the election, he may be out of a job altogether. His term as treasurer is up in January. Last spring, the city council voted to make the treasurer's job an appointed, rather than elected, position. And Kadas says his first inclination is to designate the city's finance officer as treasurer, effectively eliminating Childer's job.

"Whenever there is a po-tential savings of that magnitude, we have an obligation to look at it," says Kadas.

Although Childers agrees that combining the two offices will work and likely save money, he isn't so sure about Kadas' claim that jobs will be found for everyone involved in the shuffle. "The mayor's office made sure to say that no one would lose their job," says Childers, "But I was out of a job from the beginning of this."

Photos by Jeff Powers

Missoula treasurer Ed Childers (right) attempts this election to unseat current Mayor Mike Kadas.

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