Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Open Letter to Tim Berry, Indiana Republican State Chairman

September 10, 2013

Tim Berry
Indiana Republican State Chairman
47 S. Meridian Street, 2nd Floor
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Dear Mr. Berry:

Congratulations on your election to the position of State Republican Chairman.  While I have not had the opportunity to get to know you, others in the GOP speak very highly of you personally and your abilities.  I have considerable optimism about the future of the Indiana Republican Party under your leadership.

It appears that your predecessor Eric Holcomb left the party in great shape.  In addition to having elected Mike Pence as governor, Republicans have supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate
Republicans' only failure statewide was the re-election of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

While the state party appears to be in good shape, there are troubling signs ahead.  Statewide Republican candidates leave Indianapolis in a bigger hole every election.  During the 2012 election, gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence lost Marion County by 80,000 votes, a deficit which nearly doomed his campaign.   By next election, the hole could be even bigger.  The Marion County GOP baseline vote has declined from 50.09% in 2000 to 38.21% in 2012.   Even in the great Republican year of 2010, the GOP baseline in Marion County dropped more than 2 points from the previous midterm election.

More troubling for drawing legislative districts, eight of the nine townships in Marion County have seen declines in the GOP baseline vote over a 12 year period. (Only the least populated township, Decatur, has seen a slight uptick.)  Some of the most significant drops in the GOP baseline are Pike 22.3%, Lawrence 21.7%, Wayne 18.8%, Washington, 14.6%, and Washington 10.8%.

The GOP electorate in Marion County is in free fall and it directly threatens the future of the Indiana Republican Party.

Undoubtedly Marion County GOP leaders will point to the election of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard in 2007 and 2011 as proof the local organization is still strong. Please don't be fooled by such claims.  Those elections were clearly aberrations, a product of an incumbent Democratic Mayor in 2007 shooting himself in the foot by increasing local income taxes by 65% months before an election and on the heels of a property tax revolt.  In 2011, Mayor Ballard was the beneficiary of a lackluster, disjointed Democratic mayoral campaign that is unlikely to be repeated. 

When I became a precinct committeeman in 1986, the Marion County GOP had one of the strongest grass roots organization in the country.  Today there is no grass roots Republican organization in Marion County to speak of.

Why the change?  In 1986, the rules were such that precinct committeemen wielded actual power in the organization.  Statutes then provided for two year terms for PCs and for county chairman, with elected PCs electing the county chairman at convention following the May primary at which the PCs were elected.  Subsequent changes to the statutes (which were later repealed and replaced by party rules) mandated four year terms for PCs and county chairmen with the county chairmen elected some 3 1/2 years after the PCs were elected. 

Worse yet the State Republican Party adopted a rule that appointed PCs, as opposed to elected ones, serve at the pleasure of the county chairman and thus can be removed whenever the chairman wants.  Another party rule provides that appointed PCs can be from anywhere in the county.  Elected PCs on the other hand have to actually live in the precinct that they represent which used to be seen as a good thing.

Those changes destroyed the elected PC system that had for years infused the party's grassroots with energy because it gave even the lowest level people in the party actual power and authority.  With the changes though the system which was once democratic became autocratic.  County chairmen now no longer want elected neighborhood PCs.  They want appointed PCs that they can immediately remove if they are not doing what the county chairman wants.

While the powers of the autocratic county chairman has risen, the power of the grass roots party workers has seen a corresponding decline.  But no place has the grass roots of the party been hurt more than Marion County.  There are couple reasons why Marion County has been affected more by the changes than other counties.  First, Marion County has some 600 precincts, many of them in solidly Democratic areas.  That ensures a huge pool of vacancies that the county chairman can appoint PCs to.  Second, Marion County is unique in employing slating to "endorse" candidates prior to the primary.  Endorsed candidates rarely fail to win the nomination. 

Slating used to give elected PCs significant responsibilities.  That is no longer the case.  The change in the rules has led to a perverse result.  During the last Marion County slating, some 85% of the PCs attending were appointees of the county chairman, appointed PCs who can be removed at the stroke of a pen if they don't agree to vote the right way.  The days of endorsed candidates being selected by the Marion County grass roots party workers is no longer. They are almost always hand-picked by the county chairmen.  Potential candidates have figured that out. Rarely is a slating in Marion County even contested any more, even when there is an open seat.

Fortunately, for the Republican Party, Democrats have mirrored Republican changes that also weakened their grass roots organizations in favor of a more autocratic system.  That doesnot mean though that Republicans should continue with the current autocratic party system, particularly given the effect it has on devastating the grass roots party organization in the state's largest city. 

The State GOP organization needs a revitalized Marion County GOP organization.  I am optimistic that can happen, but not under the current state rules that strip party workers of their power in favor of an autocratic county chairman.  I would ask that you convene a commission to study the party rules and how changes can restore the vitality and strength of the county grass roots Republican organizations, particularly in Marion County.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Paul K. Ogden

See also:  Wednesday, November 14, 2012, Election Results Show Marion County GOP Fared Very Poorly


Louis Mahern said...

Another perversion of the slating process is that frequently legislative or council candidates are slated by individuals who do not live in that particular district making a mockery of "Representative Government."

Paul K. Ogden said...

Louis, that is absolutely correct.

Woody Allen said...

Ahhhh some logic. The bad thing is Kyle Walker really does not care. That has become known after what happened last week in the dumping of a Republican who had a great grass roots organization, that Kyle did not like.

Great letter Paul, I was thinking of writing something myself to the State Chairman.

Pete Boggs said...

As someone who's tried for too many years now- Drudge asks a logical question. Why vote Republican?


guy77money said...

It used to be hard for me to vote for a Democrat, but in the last few years it has been getting easier and easier. Voting against Ballard is a no brainer.

Pete Boggs said...

Unlike the Republican Party, the Tea Party's had targeted, yet significant influence & results with comparatively limited resources.

The Colorado recall was a Tea Party success- not Republican. Colorado Republicans, a royal supposition vs. loyal "opposition, didn't consider the recall to be effort worthy (remind anyone of a particular Indianapolis municipal election?).

Confused & unfamiliar with their binding principles, election cycled, not color fast; the parties have fallen to failed designs of crony clubbing.

There is no party of small government, which is to say that as founded, there is no distinct Republican Party; only the cynical husk of a commoditized brand.

Ralph said...

You missed the greatest reason for the decline in the Republican Party in Marion County that is the loss of the patronage system. When Steve GOldsmith privitized everything the republican county party went in a tailspin . The same thing is going to bite Mike Pence in 2016

Pete Boggs said...

If on a national level, Republicans fail to defund Obamacare; the party is done.

Who needs two parties of big government; one amateur, one pro?