Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ed Treacy's Failed Campaign Strategy Nearly Costs Democrats Control of the Indianapolis City-County Council

In reviewing last night's Indianapolis election results, it becomes evident how badly Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy's electoral strategy failed, a fumble that nearly cost the Democrats control of the council.  While the Democrats have a majority on the council now with 16 of the 29 seats, a better strategy could have resulted in an easy 19 seats, possibly more.

I should at the outset say I don't assume Treacy had control over the Melina Kennedy's mayoral strategy.  But if he did, I would point out that strategy suffered from the same failure noted below. 

Marion County Democratic
Chairman Ed Treacy
For three years, I've been screaming on this blog about Republican councilors voting for sweetheart insider deals that make the Mayor's friends wealthy at the expense of the taxpayers.  You had the Pacer $33.5 million giveaway, the CIB tax increases, the 50 year ACS parking meter contract, the $100 million North of South deal, the Broad Ripple parking garage financed by taxpayers and given away to Keystone, etc.   Near the end of the term, you had Republicans voting to not review Council President Ryan Vaughn's secret signing of a nearly quarter of a million dollar redistricting contract for his political supporter and Republican hatchet man, David Brooks, a payment that clearly did not have to be made since redistricting could not be done under the law until 2012.

Treacy did not have to distort those Republican councilors' message.  All he had to do was dump direct mail into the districts attacking their votes on those insider, corporate welfare deals, and the Republican councilors would have had no defense.  Game, set and match.  

Unbelievably Treacy chose to steer clear of those winning issues. He raised issues like school consolidation (which the council had no control over) and in the case of Christine Scales, her ownership of a vacation home in Florida.  Treacy had plenty of ammunition to use against the Republicans but he chose not to use it. Why?  Undoubtedly because both parties like the insider deals, corporate welfare and campaign contributions that come with it.  At least, I have to give Treacy credit for not being a hypocrite on the subject.

Ponder this, however.  The Democrats receive a lot of money from the Simons family.  But is taking that money really worth it if you leave on the table the single most explosive issue that could have taken down this Mayor and several GOP councilors - the $33.5 million giveaway to the Pacers, just about the exact same time the library cut back hours and days due to a lack of funding?

The scope of the failure of Treacy's election strategy cannot be exaggerated.  In addition to losing the big prize, the Mayor's office, three Republican councilors - Janice McHenry, Mike McQuillen and Scales - won re-election in Democratic-leaning districts.  Also, despite the fact Republican incumbents were in competitive seats all over the county and the Democrats had only one incumbent (Dane Mahern) in a competitive district and thus could concentrate their resources on his defense, Treacy still lost that district.

It is true that the Democrats ousted Republican councilor Susie Day in Beech Grove. But according to the most recent finance report, the winner Frank Mascari only showed $700 raised in 2011, money he put into the campaign himself.  A couple weeks ago, I remarked that it was strange that Treacy wasn't funding that winnable race which I speculate had to do with concerns over how "controllable" Mascari would be if elected.  It is hard to give Treacy any credit for that win.

Okay, but what about the at-large wins?  Frankly those are baseline races.  While campaigns can affect the margins a point or two, they pretty much reflect turnout.  Give the Democrats had a 10% baseline advantage in 2010, a good Republican year, it is clear that Treacy's at-large wins were not nearly as large as they should have been.  The Democrats should be able to put a monkey in as county chairman, and still win low-profile, county-wide races such as the at-large council seats.

Traditionally after elections, people assign blame and heads roll.  I have respect for Treacy's ability to turn out Democratic voters.  But his electoral strategy which ignored Republican councilors rubberstamping Ballard's insider deals and corporate welfare, apparently because he wanted to engage in those same practices if he regained power, nearly cost the Democrats the council majority.

The Democrats can pat themselves on the back for winning that majority.  In reality, the poor result on Election Night shows that they should instead be asking for Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy's resignation.


Nicolas Martin said...

On Monday you declared that "the 2011 Indianapolis municipal election is over. The insiders won and the people lost." So why are the tactical machinations of the political hacks important? If the Democrats had won more seats, would the insiders have suffered and the people not lost? Of course not; the marginal difference might have been that different insiders would have more pull, but the invariable harm would still result.

George Washington's farewell address:

The alternate domination of one faction [party] over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Not everyone in the party is on the take on these deals. Many oppose them. There is plenty of popular support against all these insider deals that enrich the wealthy at the expense of the average working men and women. The leadership of the parties won't be isolated from that popular backlash forever. The Democrats and Republicans both have populist movements taking place in their party that is threatening the establishment power structure.

Nicolas Martin said...

You have a touching and bottomless political naiveté, but wise people focus on the results of government, not the alleged good intentions of politicians.

The perspicacious observer agrees with Mencken that "every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.” Very rarely does a decent person enter the disreputable venue of politics, and after doing so he does not whisper his discontent while remaining a team player with the gangsters whose uniform he shares. (A "good" politician is like Joe Paterno, who followed the rules of the institution, but not the dictates of morality.)

There are few humans more pitiable than those who think that the age old evils of politics can be reformed or abolished. Politics begins with an original sin -- theft -- and after that almost all decisions come down to how to divide the loot.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I'm sorry NM, but there is obviously a lot of public opposition to corporate giveaways If you haven't noticed it your current residence is a cave. It's all over the news.

Pete Boggs said...

There's nothing progressive about evil as strategy.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Being a victim of Ed Treacy's dirty tricks strategies, i appreciate this analysis.

Bob Cardwell said...

As usual, a great analysis!