|Marion County GOP Chairman|
The fact is Republican leaders in Marion County have no interest in conservative political philosophy, as epitomized by local GOP Chairman Kyle Walker calling the local homestead tax break a "taxpayer subsidy" in a press release the party issued right before the election. Rather local party leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, are motivated by the perks of power, in particular continuing with a pay-to play-culture that dominates Indianapolis politics. As a result, party leaders have tweaked rules so they, instead of elected precinct committeepersons and other party workers, exercise the real clout in the party, including picking the candidates at slating conventions. Until the Marion County GOP leadership is willing to let go of some of that power and focus on rebuilding the organization, that 80,000 vote hole is only going to get bigger. That could easily sink a Governor Mike Pence seeking a second term in 2016.
While statewide Republicans did well in house races going from holding 60 seats to holding 69 in the 100 seat legislative body, the underperformance of the Marion County GOP kept the number from being much larger. Let's look at those House seats:
HD 87: This Washington Township based district was held by Republican Cindy Noe who was opposed by Democrat Christina Hale. After the 2010 redistricting, HD 87 had a baseline of 55.1% Republican. On Election Day, Noe had 49.9% of the baseline, losing the seat by 49 votes.
HD 92: This westside district, formerly held by Republican Phil Hinkle, was redrawn to slightly improve the Republican margin which had become razor thin at the end of the last redistricting cycle. The new district (using the 2010 Marion County Recorder's Race) had a baseline of 55.4% Republican. In the race, the Republican Tim Motsinger only received 46% of the vote.
HD 97: This near southside district featured a faceoff between Republican AJ Feeney-Ruiz and Democrat Justin Moed. Feeney-Ruiz in 2011 had been a candidate for the House. While it was previously held by Democrat Mary Ann Sullivan, when the Republicans drew a map with a 52.4% Republican baseline, she decided to run (unsuccessfully) for a southside state senate district. In the biggest legislative upset of the night, Moed won with 58.2% of the vote. Feeney-Ruiz 41.8% performance fell more than 10 points behind the 52.4% baseline.
In other Marion County house races that featured head-to-head matchups between the parties, Democrats ran ahead of their baselines.
HD 86: Baseline 54.6% Democrat; incumbent Democrat Ed Delaney ran at 60.1%
HD 91: Baseline 63.7% Republican; incumbent Republican Robert Behning received 59.7% of the vote.
HD 93: Baseline 65.7% Republican; incumbent David Frizzell won 63.8% of the vote.
HD 96: Baseline 83.9% Democrat; in a three way race, Democrat Greg Porter won with 83.2% of the vote, a spread of 70.2% over his Republican rival Karl Scharnberg who received 13% of the vote. The spread on the baseline is 66.2%. Libertarian Wesley Bishop received 3.2% of the vote.
HD 99: Baseline 79.4 Democrat; incumbent Vanessa Summers ran at 83.3% despite facing the well-funded Republican Dr. David Blank.
The only house seat where I saw a Republican candidate running ahead of the 2010 baseline was House District held by House Speaker Brian Bosma. That district, which is only partially contained in Marion County, had a Republican baseline of 63.2%. Bosma received 64.4% of the vote.
While my focus has been on the Indiana House seats, I can't overlook the 7th Congressional District in Marion County. After the 2010 redistricting the district was 58.1% Democrat. (Some people tried to claim it was close to a 50-50 district after redistricting. They were wrong. It is only slightly less Democratic). Incumbent Democrat Andre Carson ran at 62.8%, far ahead of the baseline and his energetic Republican opponent, Carlos May, who is widely hailed as an excellent candidate.
These races all show a weakening of the Marion County GOP, not only the organization and the electorate. The problem is the local GOP party leaders are unwilling to give up the dictatorial power they currently wield in order to rebuild the party. For example, the county chairman appoints over 80% of the voters who attend county-wide slating. Lower level party workers (and voters) are increasingly figuring out that slating is about the chairman and his lieutenants taking the nomination of candidates away from party workers and primary voters.