Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Democrats Flex Their Marion County- Indianapolis Muscle

Notwithstanding the 2007 mayoral election, the Democrats continue to make substantial inroads into Marion County. Republican Jon Elrod ended a very bad year by losing House District 97 on the near southside. Democrat John Barnes captured Republican Larry Buell's vacant seat (HD 89) on the eastside.

Troubling sign ahead: Republican State Representative Bob Behning (HD 91) only won re-election in his mostly Marion County district by 542 votes. As a side note, I was wrong about Republican Phil Hinkle (HD 92) who retained an almost 3,000 vote plurality on the west side. I thought that district was closing more than it did either that or it has closed and the margin is a tribute to Phil and his hard work and constituent relations.

What is most troubling is the low profile Marion County races (circuit court judge, coroner, treasurer, surveyor) are now basically 60-40 races. Just four years ago, these county races were 54-46 races in favor of the Democrats. That means a loss of 6% which increases the Democrats spread in the county by 12%, for a total of 20%. In order to recruit quality candidate to run county-wide, the local Republican Party needs to be able to assure those candidates that they will be in a competitive race with a chance of winning.

In those low profile county races you can only bump the baseline so much, maybe 5%. That would leave the GOP county-wide candidate still 5% short of victory, or a 10% spread. This election should serve as a warning to candidates for the higher profile races of Marion County Prosecutor (up in 2010) and Mayor (in 2011) that Republicans need substantial Democrat votes to win the county. It should also be a message to Marion County GOP leadership to seek out independent-minded candidates who can reach beyond the Republican base vote in the county. Isn't it better to win with a candidate who will be with party leaders on 80% of the issues rather than lose with a candidate who will simply ratify what party leaders want 100% of the time?

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