Defining Moment: Politicians Put On The Spot When Disaster Strikes

By Jeff Neumeyer

November 1, 2011 Updated Nov 1, 2011 at 6:27 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The final days of an election can produce plenty of stress for candidates.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry is dealing with the added tension of a major public safety event right before voters head to the polls.

The Momper Insulation warehouse fire happened nine days before the upcoming Fort Wayne Mayoral contest.

We often hear about the importance of making a good first impression, but last impressions can’t be discounted either, especially in a competitive race.

Coverage of how the emergency is handled will likely carry into the final days of the campaign.

Whether it’s responding to a flood or some other challenge, figure that the voting public will keep score.

Andy Downs from the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics says the incumbent in Chicago's 1979 mayor's race learned the hard way about performing in crunch time.

Andy Downs/Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics: " Two massive snow storms came through, buried the city in snow. Garbage wasn't collected, streets weren't open, public transportation was down, and Jane Byrne became the mayor because the incumbent mayor just wasn't getting the job done, people thought."

Downs reminds that Bluffton Mayor Ted Ellis and former Fort Wayne Mayor Graham Richard dealt with floods not far from election time, and emerged winners.

Former mayor Paul Helmke was in charge when the giant tire fire went down in the late 1990's.

Election Day is set for Tuesday, November 8th.

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