Of course it's a publicity stunt. But that leads to my point...so what? Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut riding on the front of the snow plow during the 1978 blizzard was a publicity stunt as was his wearing his Racers (a former Indy hockey team) stocking cap during his many media appearances during that crisis.
Hudnut's publicity stunts were designed to show support for the residents of Indianapolis during a difficult time. He helped lift spirits and unite the community. The PR move sent the message that Mayor Hudnut put the welfare of the people at the top of his priority list.
People forget that Hudnut narrowly won the election in 1975 over Paul Cantwell, amassing just 52% of the vote. After the 1978 blizzard and those publicity stunts, Hudnut's popularity soared. In 1979, he won with 74% of the vote.
The Democrats publicity stunt was certainly not as well orchestrated as Hudnut's. (Someone should have told Melina Kennedy to dress like she was actually going to do some work.) Nonetheless, it highlights a perception that Ballard, though elected as a common man, has long been seduced by power, that his priorities are pleasing the elites of the city over doing what is best for the working men and women of Indianapolis. The contrast of evening news broadcasts of Melina Kennedy shoveling snow, however unbelievably, against the background of Ballard hobnobbing with elites at the Super Bowl, is one that won't be forgotten.
A publicity stunt? Absolutely. Did it work? Almost certainly.