Saturday, January 29, 2011

Predicting an 18-11 Democratic Majority on Indianapolis City-County Council Following 2011 Election (Updated for 2003 Election Results)

I've been looking at my crystal ball for what results we can expect to see on November 8, 2011. The Council is currently controlled by Republicans 15-13 with one Libertarian councilor.

I expect that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard will get about 43% of the vote for re-election, with Melina Kennedy at 55%. The Libertarian will get the balance.

Republicans in 2007 won three of the four at-large seats. I don't buy the notion that those seats will always go whichever way the Mayor's race goes. Unlike the Mayor's race, the at-large positions are usually baseline votes. That spells trouble for Republicans. I fully expect that the Democrats will easily sweep all four seats. Republican at-large councilors Barb Malone and Angel Rivera have shown zero independence while in office. There is nothing to suggest they have any cross-over appeal to Democrats that would help them piece together a majority.

Although most of the close races in 2007 were Democrats prevailing over Republicans, I don't see Republicans beating any incumbent Democrats. It is just not going to be a good year for Republicans.

Currently the 25 district seats are held by Republicans 13-12. Even if the Republicans held every district, if the GOP loses the four at-large seats, the Democrats are in the majority 16-13. I expect though that the Democrats will also pick up two districts. Although she's shown some independence from the Ballard agenda which should help her, Christine Scales is still in a tough district. In 2007 she won 51.3% to 48.7%.

The next most vulnerable Republican is Mike McQuillen who upset incumbent councilor Sherron Franklin 57.8% to 42.2% in 2007. McQuillen foolishly has made no attempt to show independence in that swing district. The D's will undoubtedly hammer him with his unpopular votes for the Ballard agenda. I expect the D's to win back his seat in 2011.

Also, expect Janice McHenry (60.3% winning percentage) and Marilyn Pfisterer (61.2%), two west side Republicans, to face a barrage of direct mail linking them to unpopular votes for the Ballard administration, such as the vote to give the Pacers millions of dollars, the CIB tax increase, and the ACS parking meter contract. McHenry at least has started showing some sign of independence with her vote against Public Safety Director Frank Straub.

I also expect the Democrats to take a run at Council President Ryan Vaughn (64.7%). While his Broad Ripple-area district is probably outside the range of a successful challenge, if the Democrats put money behind a Vaughn challenge, the Republicans will undoubtedly answer by spending scarce resources to protect the consummate political insider, neglecting more competitive races.

At the end of Election Day, November 8, 2011, the Democrats will control the Indianapolis City-County Council by an 18-11 margin. Bet the farm.

UPDATE: The comments of Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana encouraged me to go back another municipal elections. Usually you don't want to go back too far when making comparison because of population and demographic shifts. But I would agree with him that Marion County certainly hasn't become more Republican since the 2003 municipal election.

After looking at the 2003 numbers more closely, I discovered that the prediction that the Republicans will only lose two of the district seats and all four at-large positions is actually a conservative prediction. Below is the R-D vote percents of districts currently held by Republicans where the R candidate received less than 55% in 2003. I have also included the raw vote spread and the current Republican occupant of the council seat:

District 3 54-42, 1073 vote spread (Vaughn)
District 4 52-48, 361 votes (Scales)
District 6 50-47, 171 votes (McHenry)
District 12 48.34-48.55, 13 votes (McQuillen)
District 13 54-41, 597 votes (Lutz)
District 14 52-48, 186 votes (Pfisterer)
District 20 51-47, 196 votes (Day)

Since the 2007 election was such an aberration, it is arguably better to look at 2003 for a model even though it is eigh years old. Again, even if the Democrats lose all these races they have a 16-13 majority if they, as expected, capture all four at-large positions in 2007. The 2003 model shows they are just 553 votes away from capturing four districts currently held by McHenry, Pfisterer and Day's and McQuillen, whose district actually went to the Democrats in 2011. That would make a 20-9 spread. Most observers believe Scales' district is closer now than it was in 2003, which would give them a shot at another seat. Then Lutz and Vaughn's seat is not outside the range of a strong challenge. While I don't believe a 23-6 Democratic majority will happen, I think my 18-11 Democratic majority prediction is very much on the low end of expectations.


Advance Indiana said...

Susie Day is probably one of the most vulnerable Republican councilors, Paul. Bob Lutz could be as well if the Dems fielded a strong candidate against him.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I'll take a look at the numbers again to see how close those districts are. Susie Day is running for mayor of Beech Grove so I don't think she'll be on the ballot.

Nicolas Martin said...

It’s disconcerting to find a quote from Selassie at the top of the page. He was, after all, an autocrat, not the Martin Luther King of Ethiopia. Here is a charming photo of the emperor being welcomed to Haiti by none other than Papa Doc:

Gandhi, appropriately, supplied a much less self-serving and more satisfying quote:

"The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.” -- M. Gandhi

Pete Boggs said...

There's a Pelosi like denial thing going on with county republicans who got their butts kicked last year when most the country was swept by the wave. There's no sense of urgency that much needs to be done which should concern candidates. 2011 won't be like 2007, or does anyone get that? It should also be said that policy does matter.

Advance Indiana said...

Paul, I thought Day decided against running for Beech Grove mayor and opted for a re-election run.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I took a new look at the numbers. Susie Day only had about 54% of the vote. I need to add her to the list of districts that will be targeted.

I wasn't aware Day has scrapped her bid for BG mayor. I doubt it would matter in terms of the D's targetting that district. At only 54% they'll definitely target regardless of whether Day is running or not. She's not exactly Ms. Charisma.

I looked at Lutz's las trace. He had like 68% of the vote. Probably outside the range of a successful challenge.

Paul K. Ogden said...


There's no denying it's a terrific quote even though the person who made it apparently didn't practice what he preached.

Advance Indiana said...

Lutz' predecessor got 53% of the vote back in 2003. That would indicate the district may be more competitive than some think. I can't imagine it has become more Republican over the last several years. Isn't most of that district in Wayne Township, which has been trending Democratic? I think the 2003 races are a better benchmark to look at than the 2007 election.

Bill said...

Paul, How do you see Vop Osili fitting into the mix. I would have thought that he would have won for an at large position.They already had a good candidate in the 15th. Thats a throw away anyway.

Interesting that that Brooks put himself in charge of Center, when he knows that it will go D.
I think that that Osili will realy help Melina with the black vote.If I remember correctly, he got a ton of votes in Marion County in the last election.

Pete Boggs said...

Their candidates & the republican party apparatus will do well where the Tea Party (grass roots is welcome, as seen in the last election.

Marion County has grass roots, small government activists, they're just not welcome within either of the local parties. 2010 election connection? Ever wonder why more people don't get involved or vote?

Paul K. Ogden said...


I would agree that running for At-Large made more sense for Vop Osili. But the D's should sweep all four at-larges anyway, but they're bound to be more competitive than the district Osili will represent.

As far as Brooks being in charge of Center Township...that has NOTHING to do with winning general elections. Center Township is not that important to Rs in general elections.

Rather Center Township is extremely important for the R's when it comes to slating contests. Center is filled with PC slots that are usually vacant and can be filled with "mummy dummies" before slating so that the chairman controls who is slated. Center Township is the perfect place for Brooks if Kyle Walker's interest is controlling the slating process instead of rebuilding the party. It's obvious his interest is autocratic control.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I'll have to look back at the 2003 results. You may well be right.

I wouldn't be surprised too if Vaughn's district doesn't end up to be a lot closer than what it was in 2007.

Ben said...

Paul, Is Cardwell safe?

Pete Boggs said...

Voting to get around caps, whatever they are, won't help Cardwell, whom I respect but am disappointed in his support for any tax or increase.