|Mayor Greg Ballard with Council District 1 Challenger Susan Blair|
To the Marion County GOP's good fortune, two well-qualified candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. In District 1, Republican challenger Susan Blair will face a former University of Indianapolis student of mine, Councilor Jose Evans. Blair has been President of the Pike Township Resident Association for 10 years and a resident of Pike for 33 years.
In District 2, the Republican Challenger Anthony Simmons opposes Counselor Angela Mansfield. Simmons has worked as operations director for Todd Rokita's Secretary of State campaign, and worked in the Secretary of State's Office before taking a position in the Attorney General's Office as a consumer mediator. Simmons has been president of the Pike Township GOP, a position yours truly held in the 1990s.
District 1, which is the northern 2/3 of Pike, was originally a narrowly GOP district electing Republican Isaac Randolph in 2003. By the 2010 election though the Republican baseline had decreased to about 40%. District 2, which is a small sliver of Pike but is mostly made up of northwestern Washington Township, is even more Democratic. The 2010 Republican baseline numbers are only 36%. Mayor Ballard could easily roll to re-election in 2011 and there is still no way he comes close to winning Districts 1 and 2.
It is Campaign Strategy 101 that Blair and Simmons show independence from the Mayor and get people who are voting for Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy to cross over and vote for them. The most effective thing they could do in that regard is distance themselves from the Mayor, running as "independent-minded Republicans" who pledge not to rubber-stamp the Mayor's agenda, regardless of party. That well-known campaign strategy is exactly why Democratic members of Congress who are in Republican-leaning districts distanced themselves from Obama in 2010, and the reason why Republican members of congress in Democratic-leaning districts distanced themselves from Bush in 2006.
The advantage of being challengers is that Blair and Simmons haven't had to sign onto highly unpopular Ballard policies such as the $33.5 million taxpayer gift to the Pacer and the 50 year parking meter deal. Unlike incumbent Republicans who are going to find their campaigns bombarded with negative mail tying them to unpopular votes for Ballard's corporate welfare schemes, 100 plus tax/fee increases and misplaced priorities, Blair and Simmons have the chance to avoid that by distancing themselves from the Ballard record.
|Council District 2 Challenger Anthony Simmons|
Reportedly the Ballard folks have told the Republican council challenger candidates they have polled and the best strategy for those challenger candidates to win their districts is to run as supporters of Ballard and his agenda. Most of the Republican council challengers have assumed they're being told the truth about the polling (they're not) and are now dutifully using their precious campaign resources to assist the Mayor's re-election rather than focusing on their own campaigns. Those challengers are encouraging volunteers to staff phone banks that almost exclusively being used to promote the Mayor, with only a comment thrown in at the end about the local Republican challenger.
Of the 12 districts where Republican challengers are taking on Democratic incumbents, in only one, District 19 (where Republican Jeff Miller is facing Councilor Dane Mahern), do the Republicans have a (small) majority baseline.
Now let's go back to the numbers in Districts 1 and 2. Blair has a 40% Republican base in District 1; Simmons' Republican baseline in District 2 is 36%. How are they going to win their districts if their vote is a subset of Ballard's? The answer is they won't win without substantial cross-over voting that a Ballard-centered campaign is not pursuing.
It is inexcusable that good, hard working Republican challenger candidates, most of whom have never been candidates before, are being exploited by the Ballard people to pursue a strategy which they know perfectly well dooms any chance the challengers' have of winning. Blair, Simmons and the rest of the challengers need to kick the Ballard people out of their campaigns and run their races as independent-minded Republicans who are willing to stand up for policies that are in the best interests of the public, even if that means going against a Mayor of their own party. To do otherwise is to forfeit any chance of winning on Election Day.