Saturday, April 16, 2011

No, the Indianapolis Council At-Large Districts Don't Follow the Result of the Mayor's Race

I keep hearing it suggested that the four Indianapolis at-large council districts will almost certainly follow the result in the Mayor's race and that they were designed that way.

Republican Councilor Angel
Rivera is seeking re-election as
 an at-large member of the council
Pure nonsense. 

First, the at-large races were expected designed to be Republican seats when Unigov was crafted in the early 1970s.  Marion County was heavily Republican then.  Even if the Democrats were able to elect a mayor (they did win a few county races back then, albeit rarely), that wouldn't have changed the fact that the at-large seats would have certainly been Republican.  Here's why.

The Mayor's race is a high profile affair. When people go to vote for Mayor they know the candidates.  When people vote for at-large representative on the council, few voters know the candidates, and instead default to what party they typically favor.  That's exactly why when you measure a party's baseline numbers, you look at low profile elections.

Marion County has become Democratic by a fairly substantial. margin  While Republicans can still win a high profile race like Mayor, for Republicans to win the baseline at-large races in a typical election year would be next to impossible.  It happened for 3 of the 4 seats in 2007 because it was an extremely odd election where Democrats stayed home and Republicans showed up.  As a result the Marion County baseline shifted in favor of Republicans for one election...I'm pretty sure the last election for a long time.  Even in 2010, a glorious year for Republicans, the Democratic baseline in Marion County was far ahead of the Republican baseline.

Even if Ballard were to by some miracle win the election, the at-large seats will almost certainly go Democratic in 2011.  Ballard won in 2007 running slightly ahead of the Republican majority baseline.  In 2011, he'd have to win running well ahead of the Democratic baseline.  While a Republican mayoral candidate can pull that off, it's extremely unlikely someone in an at-large seat could jump over the strong Democratic county baseliine to win.


Jon E. Easter said...

2007 was a weird election. Throw that one out. Wait...that's the only time the At-Larges didn't completely follow the Mayor's results. Since Republicans won 3/ could say that it kind of did.

So, is it 100 percent, no. But, you can't throw out over 30 years of data that says otherwise.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Your wrong about the 1999 at-large races, Paul. The Rs lost. The candidates were Toby McClamroch, Marilyn Moores, Carlton Curry and I believe Jackie Cissell.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Yeah, AI, I think you're right. The Rs still had the council. That's where I got confused.

I still say the at-larges are a baseline race...not one that automatically follows the Mayor's office.

Paul K. Ogden said...


That's because the Mayor's races were reflecting the majority party baseline in the wasn't that the at-large's were simply following the Mayor's race results. If Democrats would have won one of those Unigov races where there was a heavy R majority, I assure you they wouldn't have won the at-larges.

Gary R. Welsh said...

2007 is the only year all 4 races didn't follow the mayor's race. There are two reasons for that. The biggest reason is the failure of the county party to back 3 of the 4 slated candidates. People were urged to vote only for Kent Smith and skip the other 3. The second reason is that you had the McGuires (husband and wife)campaigning at a level Libertarians hadn't achieved before in those races and they drew a higher percentage than the Libertarians normally get in the at-large race.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I took out the paragraph with the misinformationon about the 1999 race. The Democrats probably did have a majority baseline in the county by then (albeit small) which would have been reflected in the at-large races.

People are looking at the coinciding of two things and assuming one is causing the other.
In the 40 years of Unigov, the candidate who has won the mayor's office has always been from the party that had the majority in the county. 2007 was the only exception to that and it was a very unusual election that is not likely to be repeated.

A Republican Mayoral candidate could overcome the majority baseline in the county, just as a Demcoratic Mayoral candidate in the 1980s could have. But the at-large seats will almost certainly follow the baseline.