Friday, July 31, 2009

Senate District 30: How The Wheels Came Off The GOP Party Establishment

After talking to some Senate District 30 insiders, I put together this summary of the behind closed door maneuvering.

According to my sources, John Ruckleshaus and Ryan Vaughn badly miscounted the vote. Ruckleshaus told people he believed he had 40 votes. (Remember there were 99 total votes.) Vaughn thought all he needed was 5 more votes for a first ballot victory.

No surprise there. What should turn some heads, is that Central Committee cut a deal with the fourth candidate, Chris Douglas, to get him out of the race, promising him Vaughn's seat on the council after Vaughn won. In return, Douglas was supposed to back Vaughn, giving him many of the 15-20 votes Douglas told Central Committee he had lined up. It seemed like a good deal to the Vaughn people as they believed he only needed 5 more votes.

The only problem is that Douglas did not have anywhere near 15-20 votes. Instead his support was in the single digits and not large single digits. Vaughn had also vastly over counted his support. Douglas' dropping out meant that Ruckleshaus would be dropped after the first ballot leaving it a two person race - Scott Schneider versus Vaughn. Scott and his father, Bill Schneider, who like Scott is a former councilor, are seasoned political pros and know northside GOP politics better than just about anyone. They estimated 50 votes on the first ballot and received 49. They also knew that votes for Ruckleshaus, who was also viewed as an alternative to the establishment candidate Vaughn, would go straight to Scott. And that's exactly what happened as now State Senator Scott Schneider won every Ruckleshaus vote on the second ballot putting him over the top for a 61-38 win.

One could hardly overestimate the rejection the precinct committeemen in SD 30 gave to the party leadership last week. Outside of the mummy dummies who were placed into the district earlier this year, Vaughn captured very few votes of elected and appointed working PCs. While the mummy dummy vote can generally give the selected candidate a 20 to 25% head start, party insiders, like GOP Chairman Tom John and Hamilton County resident and Center Area Chairman David Brooks, thought they could put Vaughn over the 50% mark by the usual arm-twisting, veiled and actual threats, and backroom deals for support that accompany virtually every slating and vacancy caucus. In their attempt to do so, they enlisted the support of almost every establishment Marion County GOP Republican. The PCs in SD 30, however, were not having any of the political games. Instead they voted for the outsider, Scott Schneider. Their vote was not just a rejection of Vaughn and an endorsement of Schneider. It was also evidence that a new day is dawning in the party and that the rank and file is no longer going to put up with the games played by party insiders.

What I find most disconcerting about the above account is the backroom deal cut between Chris Douglas and Central Committee. Again, the deal was that Douglas would drop out and throw his support to Ryan Vaughn to put him over the top. In return, the Central Committee promised Douglas Ryan Vaughn's seat on the council.

While deals like this are cut in every caucus, in this case Central Committee simply did not have the authority to fulfill the promise the Committee was making. Vaughn's seat would also be filled by a party caucus of PCs. To promise the seat without the authority to deliver it means they believed they could manipulate the PC vote so Douglas would win. The back room deal drips of arrogance and utter disdain for GOP party workers.

One would think the slapdown of the party insiders would have caused them to reconsider their strong arm tactics. Then came the Friday Night massacre last week when two ward chairman, Eric Smith and Liz Karlson, Schneider supporters who dared to stick out their necks, were canned. I have sent an open letter to GOP Chairman demanding that they be reinstated and that Brooks, who allegedly did the firing even though he had no actual authority to do so, be terminated. Chairman John still has not replied to the letter. If he plans to continue with the SD 30 tactics, then he also needs to consider resigning. Chairman John can choose to continue to play the politics of old that were soundly rejected in SD 30 or he can help usher in a new era in the GOP organization, one that is more democratic (small "d") and has a stronger grass roots, with the rank and file party workers having real political power. Time will tell which path he takes.

Note: For correction regarding Chris Douglas see: My Apologies to Chris Douglas, Candidate in Senate District 30 (Thursday, August 6, 2009)


Advance Indiana said...

Paul, I asked Chris about that rumor in early May. He laughed and said he had heard it as well. He said nobody had approached him with such an offer. I also heard that Derek Redelman, a Chamber of Commerce lobbyist, had already laid claim to the seat. He was actively campaigning for Vaughn before and the night of the caucus. That may have been why the Chamber put out a statement saying they weren't supporting any of the candidates at the caucus. I didn't see Douglas campaigning for Vaughn in any open way at the caucus, and when he was given the opportunity to speak at the beginning of the caucus, he didn't use that opportunity to promote Vaughn.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I don't think the deal was cut until near the very end so that would explain not confirming the rumor in May.

Redelman was campaigning for Vaughn? Well I lost all respect for him.