Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker Sticks Foot in Mouth, Declares Republicans Will Gain Seats on the Council

Over on the Indy Democrat blog, Jon Easter does a nice job of comparing the declaration by  Marion County Chairman Kyle Walker that Republicans will pick up seats on the Council in 2011 versus the political realities of the map.  While it's true that Walker as County Chairman can't be negative about the party's prospects this year, politics is an expectations game and you don't build up expectations when you're going into a bad election cycle.  By doing so, Walker has put his reputation (and hopefully) his job on the line pending the results of the fall election. If Republicans lose the Mayor's Office and several council seats, he should resign.  He's turned out to be nothing more than Tom John II, someone who has no interest in rebuilding the grass roots of the party organization.

Marion County Republican Chairman
Kyle Walker
While Easter does a good job summarizing the races, he actually is far too conservative in his analysis.  First, the at-larges.  Those are baseline races.  Unless there is some freakish turnout like 2007, the D's should easily prevail in those races even if Ballard somehow pulls out a win.  That alone puts the D's up 16-13.

Then you have I believe three districts which Democrats may actually have a majority baseline in which are held by Republicans, Districts 4 (Scales), 6 (McHenry) and 12 (McQuillen).   Scales is the only Republican who has been wise enough to stake out a more independent (and popular) position on issues than simply rubberstamping the Mayor's proposals.  Stil it will be tough for her given her well-funded opponent. 

I don't agree with Easter that McHenry is a bad candidate.  She's a ferocious door-to-door campaigner and a very likable person.  But she drank the Mayor's Kool-Aid on the issue after issue and seems oblivious to the impact that will have on her re-election chances.  All the D's have to do in her district, is use direct mail to remind voters of McHenry's CIB tax increase vote, the vote to give the Pacers $33.5 million and McHenry's support of the 50 year parking meter contract.  McHenry did vote against Public Safety Director Frank Straub, but that only helps her with the law enforcement officials, not something that's going to help her overcome her support of the Mayor's unpopular agenda.  Plus I hear the Democratic baseline in her district is now close to 60%.

McQuillen has been even more of a rubberstamp than McHenry. His district is now, I believe, majority Democrat.  Again, all it takes is a well-funded direct mail campaign reminding voters of McQuillen's unpopular votes to unseat him.

But the fact is the D's are well within firing range on several other districts.  Fully five other districts have at least a 40% Democratic base:   Districts 3 (Ryan Vaughn), 13 (Bob Lutz.), 14 (Marilyn Pfisterer), 20 (Susie Day), and 21 (Ben Hunter).  In a good Democratic year aided by direct mail targeting those individuals for their unpopular, pro-Ballard votes, they could fall to strong Democratic challengers.   The D's appear to be making a credible challenge to Vaughn.  Even though Vaughn's district is only marginally competitive, at the very least a strong challenger will require the Republicans to divert resources to protect the President of the Council.

Only five districts appear to be solidly Republican territory: Districts 5 (Virginia Cain), 22 (Bob Cockrum who isn't running for re-election), 23 (Jeff Cardwell), 24 (Jack Sandlin) and 25 (Aaron Freeman).  But even one of those isn't safe as Libertarian at-large councilor Ed Coleman has announced he will challenge Sandlin. Lest anyone think that is a fool's quest, remember that Perry Township voters threw Trustee Sandlin out of office in a Republican primary just a few years ago.

Meanwhile the Republicans only appear to have any shot at two districts with Democratic incumbents, Districts 17 (Mary Moriarity-Adams) and 19 (Dane Mahern).  That's it.

Assuming the R's can hold onto the Sandlin seat, my guess is the Council will be at least 18-11 in favor of the Democrats after the election.  It could actually be far worse.

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