Monday, August 10, 2009

The Political Impact of Tonight's CIB Tax Increase Vote; Which Republican Councilors Might Be In Trouble

As I have argued all along, today's CIB bailout/tax increase vote will likely have political repercussions. The Indianapolis Star today and Abdul in his blog Indiana Barrister have argued that there will be no political consequences because it is a "visitor" tax that is being voted on. That's wishful thinking. Let's examine why the vote will have an impact:

1) Voters do not parse differences between different types of taxes. When it comes to whether a politician is for or against tax increases, they get lumped together in terms of voters' perception.

2) Voters see the tax increases as being for subsidizing professional sports, not for the convention business. The public overwhelmingly believes the tax increases are going to end up in the pockets of billionaire professional sports owners. While we can quibble whether the perception is accurate (and the new $15 million Pacer giveaway suggest that it is), when voters step into the voting booth what controls is the voters' perception.

3) Voters like to punish politicians for broken promises. Republicans are seen as going back on no tax increase pledges. Even if particular Republicans did not make a formal pledge, the perception is out there that they all did.

The question thus becomes how much of a political impact such a tax increase vote could have on Republicans' fortune at the polls. My estimate is 5% at the bottom end, 10% at the top end if a Democratic challenger has the resources to hammer the issue home to voters. A 5% shift is a 10% swing. For example, a 55-45 split becomes 50-50. A 10% shift is a 20% swing in the vote. A 60-40 split becomes 50-50 under a 10% swing.

I believe anyone with less than a 20% win in 2007 (a good Republican year) could be in trouble in 2011, which is likely to be a bad Republican year.

The most vulnerable Republicans are the two at-large councilors elected in 2011, Keith Smith and Barbara Malone. Even without the CIB vote, the odds of their re-election was extremely poor. A vote for the CIB tax increase will certainly finish off their council political careers.

According to the 2007 election results, the most endangered Republican councilor from a district is Christine Scales who represents District 4. She won 51.3% to 48.7%. Scales has, wisely, come out publicly against the CIB tax increases. Still she might still end up at least partially stained by association if the Republicans' vote virtually lock-step for the tax increases.

The next on the Democrats' hit list has to be Councilor Mike McQuillen from District 12, in the Lawrence Township area. McQuillen won 57.8% to 42.2 over incumbent councilor Sherron Franklin in 2007. Democrats wll very likely get that seat back if McQuillen votes for the CIB tax increase.

Two possibly vulnerable Republicans on the westside include Janice Shattuck McHenry and Marilyn Pfisterer. In 2007, Councilor Shattuck McHenry won 60.3% to 39.7% whicle Pfisterer won 61.2% to 38.8%. If both have aggressive, well-funded opponents, their vote today might make their re-election problematic. I know Janice from previous campaigns and she is probably the hardest door-to-door campaigner I have ever witnessed. She might be able to survive a tax increase vote just because of that personal contact with voters that she establishes through her hard door-to door campaigning.

To summarize, the most vulnerable Republicans councilors are in order:

1. Kent Smith
2. Barbara Malone
3. Christine Scales
4. Mike McQuillen
5. Janice Shattuck McHenry
6. Marilyn Pfisterer

Of those top six targets, I know of only Christine Scales who has publicly indicated she won't vote for the CIB bailout proposal. For the rest of the Republicans, local Democrats will be salivating if those vulnerable Republicans vote in favor of the CIB tax increases.


Freedom Fighter said...

Greg Ballard and his Country Club GOP; Bob Grand, Joe Loftus etc. should be abandoned with their CIB give aways to the Simmons.

Paul K. Ogden said...

The irony is that the Simons are the state's biggest contributor to Democrats. Republicans are going to vote for a tax increase to give $15 million annually to the Simons who are then going to put that money in the pockets of their Democratic opponents.

Downtown Indy said...

If Kent Smith votes for the bailout, he will have completed his transition to the dark side.

Kent was there everywhere prior to the 2007 election, talking us all up at the CCB or other rallying points.

He firmly attached himself to the Ballard campaign, even appearing in advertising alongside Greg.

I hope he remembers his electorate and his pre-election stance on taxes.

Unknown said...

District 12 was in D hands for one term not because it is a swing district, but because the incumbent did not campaign vigorously for reelection. And Sherron Franklin, despite voting no on Peterson's tax increases and being the councillor who proposed the compromise to investigate Monroe Gray, only mustered 42%. District 12 is not really a swing district, much like nobody declares Indiana a swing state becuase it votes for a Democrat once every 40 years.

Sir Hailstone said...

To add to Dan's comment - as I recall in 2003, there was a big anti-GOP backlash in Lawrence against former mayor Tom Schneider. As a result Lawrence had a Democrat mayor and a Democrat rep on the CCC, and as I recall a Democrat majority on their city council.

Kent Smith, on the other hand, was spoon fed to voters by MCRCC. He'll vote exactly as You-Know-Who will tell him to vote. Malone got lucky, and there is still murmuring she might jump ship over to the D's.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Dan, I have to disagree. The D in District 12 got 42% of the vote in a good Republican year. That makes it a swing district. Throw in McQuillen voting for the CIB tax increases and you have a race that is likely to be a top target for a pickup in 2011.

I agree with Sir Hailstone that 2003 was a good Democrat year in the Lawrence area because of the reasons he cites.

Downtown Indy said...

Norman Cox just reported on WRTV news that 'the $47M deficit has ballooned to $60M' which is attributed to shortfall in the existing hotel/beverage tax.

If ever there was a CLEAR INDICATOR that yet another tax is NOT the answer, this is it.

If the CCC pegs the 'fix' onto raising the tax tonight, they'll be back to raise it again in a year or two or three.

It's an immutable law of politics - the current taxes are never enough.

Indy Booster said...

I am obliged to parrot your own words back to you Paul:

1. The 2011 election is 27 months away. That is an eternity in politics.
2. The smart money is on history, which usually repeats itself. [The historical trend is that incumbents get reelected.]

I would add my own comment:

3. You do not have to be perfect to get reelected, you simply have to be better than your opponent.