Sunday, August 23, 2009

IBJ Discusses Democratic Challengers to Mayor Ballard's Re-Election; Mayor Ballard's Coming Primary Opposition

Saturday's Indianapolis Business Journal outlines the potential Democratic challengers to a Ballard second term. The field includes an impressive array of well-connected candidates including former Sectetary of State Joe Hogsett, Melina Kennedy, Woody Myers, Kip Tew, Councilor Jose Evans and Brian Williams.

I found these two comments particularly interesting and worth commenting on.

But not everyone can run. If the wide field of Democrats is able to unite behind a “strong, well-organized, well-financed” candidate, that person should present a formidable challenge to Mayor Ballard, said Hogsett, a partner at Bingham McHale and a former Indiana secretary of state and chief of staff for then-Gov. Evan Bayh. "
Hogsett is being extremely kind in his assessment of what is needed to defeat Mayor Ballard in a re-election effort. Mayor Ballard comes into the election with about a 45% base Republican vote. He has gone out of his way to alienate Republicans by backing off on virtually all of his campaign promises and snubbing his die hard supporters who backed the Mayor when he was seen as having no chance against Peterson. Last time I checked, you can't get to 50% when you start at 45% and start subtracting. It would not take a strong Democrat candidate to beat Ballard. It would merely take a Democrat who is able to fog a mirror.

Now let's move on to the comment of a former law school classmate of mine, Kip Tew.
“It feels like we’re drifting,” said Tew, 47, who most recently headed the Obama campaign in Indiana. “The last time the city voted for an outsider, we see where it’s gotten us. I think [Ballard] is a nice guy, but there’s no real vision for what he wants to do.”
Tew is a smart guy and knows better. Ballard is in no way an "outsider." He might have been elected as an outsider, but from Election Night on he's turned his administration over to insiders. He not only is now a certifiable insider, he, probably more so than any Mayor before him, has simply turned over his administration to those seeking to profit off of taxpayers. Contrary to Tew's claim, Mayor Ballard does have a "vision" and that "vision" is to continue full steam ahead with the country club politics which has dominated this city for the past few decades, regardless of which party controlled the Mayor's Office or the Council.

Although the reporter, Corey Schouten, mentions the names of potential Republican candidates - Mark Miles and Murray Clark - who might run if Ballard doesn't seek re-election, what is missing from the story is that almost certainly Ballard, because of his alienation of the reformers and populists in his Republican base, will have an opponent in the 2011 Republican primary. It is something that I am considering, although a final decision doesn't have to be made until several months into 2010. There may well be others who are fed up by Ballard, who are interested in running. I can't speak for others, but if it is me, I will certainly make it known to the Republican electorate how Mayor Ballard turned his back on so many of his campaign supporters, has broken campaign promise after campaign promise, abandoned ethics reforms, and turned over his administration to self-interested insiders who are busy stuffing their pockets with taxpayer money.

The first step in a successful campaign is that you consolidate your base. Ballard has so deeply alienated so many mainstream Republicans, reconciliation is out of the question. In order to win a general election, he has to get about 90% of the normal Republican-leaning voters in Marion County to vote for him. Right now, he would not even come close to getting 90% of the Republican vote. In fact, any name on a ballot in the GOP primary against Ballard would most likely get a sizable 30% or more protest vote. A credible candidate could close the gap even more. With the Mayor being able to solicit campaign contributions from contractors doing business with the city, which Mayor Ballard has a history of doing, it would be tough to come up with enough financial backing to get to 50% against a sitting Mayor in a primary. But one of the advantages of modern technology is that low budget candidates now have ways of communicating with possible supporters that is much cheaper than running TV or radio ads, or doing expensive direct mail.

I think Schouten did a good job with the article, as he was concentrating on the Democratic side of the equation. But one should not forget the preliminary round taking place in May of 2011. There are a lot of angry Republicans out are eager to cast a vote against Mayor Ballard and in favor of a Republican, who unlike Ballard, is truly against continuing country club politics in Indianapolis. The Marion County GOP deserve to have a leader who will live by his words. Mayor Ballard has proven that he is not that leader.

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