Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Throw the Ball, Mayor

This forum provides the opportunity to offer unsolicited political advice. As someone who has been active in local politics siince 1986, been a candidate myself, worked on numerous campaigns, been through several campaign schools and taught political science for 20 years, I feel I know political strategy. Then again, no one is paying me for my advice, so I could be wrong.

Today's advice is directed to Mayor Greg Ballard. Now I've been accused by some of being against the mayor because of litigation I have filed of late. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am thrilled with having Mayor Ballard to preside over the city. Like the Mayor, my father was a Marine. Mayor Ballard has accomplished so much in life. This city is fortunate to have someone with his experience as mayor.

Having said that, many of my fellow Republicans, including me, believe the Mayor has gotten off track. Going into office, the Mayor surrounded himself with advisors from previous Republican administrations. On paper that was a good move. But for the reasons I state below, it was a mistake not to look for "new blood" political advisors.

Mayor, to be honest, 2007 was made possible because a popular incumbent Democrat mayor decided to commit political suicide by jacking up local income taxes a month before election, and just after a huge citizen uprising over property taxes. So to take what happened in 2007 as the rule, rather than the exception, is not a good approach to figuring a way to win in 2011.

Mayor, many of your closest advisors last reached their most grand and lofty status (hopefully that hint is obvious) as political advisors in local politics in 1995 when Steve Goldsmith won his last mayoral election. By 2011 that will have been 16 years ago. In 1995, the Republican base in the county was probably 56%. Now it's about 45%. By 2011, it could be 43%.

Since we're nearing football season, let's use a political analogy. The strategy of the middle 1990s was for the Marion County Republicans to just run the ball and overpower the defense. They didn't take chances by putting the ball in the air. The strategy worked well with a 56% Republican majority. But just running the ball with a 43% base will assure that the Democrats are back in power in 2011. Mayor, you have to pass. Throw the short screen, the slant across the middle, the post pattern. Mix in a run every now and then. But, Mayor, you have to abandon the outdated advice you are getting to stick to the running game. Think West Coast offense.

Winning politics when there is a minority base vote requires a candidate to skew the political equation. You have to mix things up, be creative, take chances. It's all about identifing political constituencies and assembling a majority coalition.

Marion County went almost overnight from being a strong majority Republican county to one where the Democrats dominate. When you looked around for political advisors, Mayor, you probably did not realize that there were very few who had the experience and knowledge to navigate the new political terrain. Mayor, don't be afraid to turn away from the advisors of previous Republican Mayors and listen to new people who are willing to suggest you new ideas and new strategies. Take a chance. Throw the ball, Mayor.

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