Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why Party Labels Matter: A Look at the Party Affiliations of Pike Township School Board Candidates

I've been trying to convince my Libertarian friends that, like it or not, party labels matter - a whole lot. Let's take the party affiliations of the top six finishers of the Pike Township School Board race.

Regina Randolph - Republican
John Brown - Republican
Yvette White - Democrat
Eric Huffine - Republican
Allison Maguire - Libertarian
Paul Ogden - Republican

I'm not 100% sure of the party affiliation of Brown, White and Randolph, but I'm about 80% confident they are accurate from what I can gather.

Let's now pretend that the Pike School Board race would have been partisan and the above candidates ran with party labels. There is only four or five precincts in the southern end of Pike that are in IPS, not nearly enough votes to throw off the numbers in the heavily-Democratic township. Even though the Republican turnout in Pike Township was better relative to Democrats than in the past recent primaries, the Democrats still enjoyed about a 16% margin in primary turnout on Tuesday. In the general election, this margin increases with the large number of African-American voters who don't participate in the Democratic primary but vote Democratic in the Fall.

The lower profile the race, the more likely people defer to their party leanings. School board is a low profile race. Bottom line, if Randolph, Brown, Huffine, and Ogden ran for school board with their Republican party labels, they would have been near the bottom of the 13 person field looking up instead of the other way around. And with all due respect to Allison Maguire who ran on some strong issues and worked hard, her Libertarian label probably would have put her lower than the Republicans.

It's a fact of political life that party labels matter.

UPDATE: I've been told that Regina Randolph is actually a Democrat and that John Brown's family is very liberal (which might explain his big spending ways.) Still my point is still that if school board were partisan, Republicans and Libertarians would not have a chance in heavily Democratic Pike Township. Party labels matter.


Cato said...

We need to have party affiliation removed from the ballot.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Cato, in most cities in the U.S., municipal races are non-partisan. Indiana is ain a minority.

One bad thing though about non-partisan elections is that it gives incumbents a bigger advantage than they otherwise would have.

Kate said...

Party affiliations are not nearly as important in these sorts of races. Personally, I voted based on the interviews all 13 candidates gave to the Indianapolis Star, and though I'm a registered Democrat, I voted for Randolph and Huffine. That would not have changed if I knew their affiliations. I read the interviews and then judged whether or not the candidates truly had the needs of the children of Pike Township in mind.

I did not vote for candidates who appeared to have very selfish interests, particularly those who were incredibly closed-minded about raising taxes. Mr. Ogden, without supplementing the state's meager contribution to schools, how can we continue to pay the amazing teachers and support staff this township is privileged with? How will we be able to continue the tradition of excellence with academic options such as the International Baccalaureate degree program? How will we continue to diversify the experiences of the children in the community by providing opportunities such as our award-winning performing arts programs?

Also, the entire Brown family is quite liberal.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Unfortunately you are the exception in terms of an informed voter. Very few voters sit down and do the research you did. That's why pushing people in these lower profile races at the polls helps more than in higher profile races. Most voters who go to the polls do not know their school board candidates, certainly not well.

There is a ton of data pointing to party affiliations being much more important in low profile races. That's why Republcians don't win congressional races in Massachusetts and don't win most state wide races, but occasionally have a chance to win a Senate seat or Governor in Massachusetts. That's because in those higher profile races voters know the candidates better and they don't follow the partisan line as closely.

That's alwo why political scientists measure partisan base line vote in areas by looking at low profile races instead of high profile races. In low profile races, where most voters don't know the candidates, people vote their party.

As far as your comment about taxes, you're making exactly the point Ogden-Maguire were trying to make. There is only so much tax money to go around. So let's put the money into the classrooms instead of knocking down buildings (that don't need to be knocked down) and builing new schools. You keep raising taxes for new buildings, there won't be any money left if we need to raise them for the very worthwhile programs you bring up.

Thanks for the tip on Brown. Someone had told me he was a Republican.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I would add on the referendum, regardless of whether you or for it or against it, there is no justification whatsoever for the dishonest way the school board wrote that question. Voters need to have the issue proesented to them honestly when they vote on a referendum.

varangianguard said...

I would imagine that the IPS precincts were not allowed to vote for Pike Township School Board positions. They should be voting for IPS School Board positions.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Yes, that's right. The 4 or 5 precincts in Pike that are IPS can't vote in the Pike School Board. I thought that was clear in what I was saying.

american patriot said...

California sends out a sample ballot to each voter listing every proposition, including the entire wording of the proposal. Groups are allowed to submit statements to support or reject, and rebuttal statements to the other group's statement as well. It adds cost to the election, but at least the voters have the ability to be fully informed. We need to push our legislators to do this next term.