Friday, March 13, 2009

Mayor Greg Ballard Alienates his 2007 Campaign Workers

In today's editorial pages, Russ Pulliam offers a take on a possible second term for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. He points to the importance of the crime issue for Ballard's re-election effort. While Pulliam's observations are correct, deeper into his column is a quote from Rep. Mike Murphy R-Indianapolis that I find interesting:
From a political standpoint, state Rep. Mike Murphy thinks Ballard is well positioned. "I'd see the nomination to be his if he wants it," Murphy, a former county Republican chairman, said. "He's just getting started to implement his vision. He has very effectively developed a base, which is the grass roots."
Now I have to tell you, I've always liked Mike Murphy. The Republican Party certainly misses his leadership as county chairman. But on this issue, Rep. Murphy could not have it more wrong.

What I would like to do is see the Indianapolis Star go out and talk to the people who actually worked on Mayor Ballard's 2007 campaign. Find out how they feel about the Mayor's performance in office. Not surprisingly, through the summer months of 2007, Mayor Ballard's had only a small team supporting his efforts. They were a loyal, intelligent group of supporters who persisted in attacking Mayor Peterson and promoting their man, Greg Ballard.

I've talked to about every one of those Ballard supporters. To say they are "disappointed" with the Mayor Ballard would be a gross understatement. They are furious. Many took time off of work and devoted months of their life to working for Ballard when few thought he had any chance. Ballard repaid these populist, anti-tax volunteers by immediately turning his back on them and embracing the elite wing of the Republican party that had little to do with his election, besides throwing a few thousand dollars into his campaign coffers.

Why are Ballard's former supporters angry? Well, they supported a candidate who ran on an ethics platform, who immediately upon election turned his back on ethics reform upon election and appointed people with major conflicts of interest to key commissions. Ballard ran against higher taxes and is now having his lobbyists urge the legislature for higher taxes to bail out the CIB, which refuses to ask for concessions from the Colts and has already agreed to give the Pacers $15 million more. Pacers. Mayor Ballard has attacked gunowners, the most loyal Republican constituency there is. Mayor Ballard has turned over the keys to the 25th floor to a local law firm and has engaged in fundraising from contractors and awarding contracts in a way that looks and smells like "pay to play." With regard to the RCA Dome auction and the Pan Am giveaways, Mayor Ballard had a chance to condemn something done by former Mayor Peterson's people as he was going out of office. Instead he fell on the sword for former Mayor Peterson and, with regard to Pan Am, is using city legal resources to fight taxpayers trying to recover for the city the $6 million that should have been paid pursuant to a 22 year old contract. In short, Mayor Ballard was elected on a populist platform, the only way he could have become elected during a time when the Republican base is shrinking dramatically and then immediately sold out his populist roots.

I don't know if Rep. Murphy is just engaging in spin or is serious. I would hope that he is not so isolated that he does not see what virtually every objective political observer is seeing - that Mayor Ballard has not been a strong leader, appears to be in a job well over his head, and is being taken advantage by advisers who do not have his best interests at heart. But most importantly, Mayor Ballard's direction and tactics since the election have alienated most of his former supporters, his grass roots. Outside of the corporate elites he has courted since his election, Mayor Ballard's support among Republican party workers is as shallow as any elected Republican I've ever seen.

One of the most important things candidates learn, sometimes the hard way, is that "you dance with the one who brung ya." That means you never turn your back on those people who helped you get elected. The consequences of doing that are generally fatal for a political career. That is a lesson that Mayor Ballard will learn on election night 2011.

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