I’ve spent this entire election in Taipei and the two Taipei mayoral races have been the closest and most intense all year, so I haven’t paid enough attention to the other three elections. The one I wish I had followed more closely is the race in Taichung. Recall that way back at the beginning of the year, once Jason Hu 胡志強 declared that he would run, the common wisdom was that the race was effectively over and the only question was whether Hu would win by a comfortable margin or a landslide. The DPP couldn’t even find a candidate it wanted to go to war with.
Yet here we are, two days before the election, and the DPP has an outside chance of winning. I don’t think the KMT will lose, but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility (the way that the DPP losing in Tainan or Kaohsiung is basically unthinkable right now).
Su Chia-chuan 蘇嘉全 has had a fantastic campaign. In these past six months, he has persuaded many, perhaps most people that Hu’s record over the past nine years is decidedly lackluster. He has also managed to present himself as a credible alternative, someone very good at local governance and familiar enough with Taichung to do the job.
Su’s campaign is what the KMT was hoping for from Kuo in Tainan and Huang in Kaohsiung. Neither of those two have been able to muster a serious challenge to the DPP. One way to think about this is to think back to the beginning of the year, when the parties weren’t happy with their local candidates in any of those three races. The DPP eventually decided to abandon their local candidate and parachute in a national figure. The KMT seriously considered doing the same thing in both Tainan and Kaohsiung. They did poll after poll with all kinds of different people in those two races, but they never could find an acceptable alternative. Eventually they went with the local candidates.
Isn’t this strange? We think of the KMT as being full of capable people nurtured through their system over the last few decades. Why did the DPP, not the KMT, have someone to parachute in? The KMT had one person, Eric Chu 朱立倫. They needed him for Xinbei. Where are all their other spare tires? (Think about all the other spare tires the DPP had available: they used Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 and Su Tseng-chang 蘇貞昌, discussed You Hsi-kun 游錫堃 and Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 publicly, and they could have gone to other figures such as Ye Chu-lan 葉菊蘭.)
This points to two big failures for the KMT corresponding to the two traditional sources of these parachute candidates. First, many come from successful stints as county executives. Eric Chu is one example. The KMT has lots of former county executives, but apparently only Chu performed well enough to be considered a viable candidate as a mayor of a direct municipality. Second, other parachute candidates come from the national bureaucracy. However, Ma has chosen to staff the cabinet almost entirely with technocrats, not politicians. For example, Su Chia-chuan served as Interior Minister. Ma’s Interior Minister is Jiang Yi-huah 江宜華, a NTU political scientist. The Transportation Minister is also traditionally a politician, but Ma’s Transportation Minister, Mao Chi-kuo 毛治國, is a career bureaucrat. Part of governing in a democratic society is being able to put together the political support to win office and defend your policies once you get there. You need to have some politicians along with your technocrats.
But I digress. This post was supposed to be about Su Chia-chuan and his extremely successful campaign. Even without knowing the final result, I think the DPP has to be thrilled with the way things have turned out in Taichung.
Tags: Su Chia-chuan