Sunday, February 9, 2014

Indy Vanguard Notes that the Time is Overdue for a Democratic Candidate for Indianapolis Mayor to Step Forward

Christian Mosburg has written an excellent column for Indy Vanguard discussing that the time is long overdue for the Democrats to have a mayoral candidate step forward for the 2015 election.  The article points that even if someone files as of Monday to start raising money for the office, he or she will be 172 days behind the last Democrat mayoral challenge Melina Kennedy who started much earlier.
Indianapolis Councilor
Zach Adamson

I might part a bit from Mosburg when it comes to the importance of an early start on fundraising.  While the media always focuses on total dollars, the issue should be on whether a campaign is sufficiently funded to get the message out to the voters.  While I have no doubt that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's campaign can solicit enough contractors doing business with the city that he'll be better funded than any Democrat, I have little doubt that the Democratic candidate for Mayor will have sufficient funds to run a competitive campaign, especially in a county that is at least a 56% Democratic majority.

In this year or so leading up to the active campaign, however, Democrats need to have surrogates challenging Mayor Ballard on the various issues, particularly the poor priorities of this administration.   It would appear that the only one doing that is Christian's husband, Councilor Zach Adamson who is regularly in the media criticizing the Mayor on various issue, most recently on snow removal.  Most of the other Democrats, at least those on the council, were, as they usually are, silent on the issue.

What I found particularly insightful about Mosburg's article is how he pinpoints the Mayor's weaknesses, in particular character flaws that would make him vulnerable if pressed.  Mossburg aptly calls them "missed opportunities":
One obvious missed opportunity unfolded on January 2nd and came to a full head early on January 3, blowing into the next week. This was the first major snow of the season and the subsequent logistical failures that the poor planning of the city caused. For the record, the lack of response to the snow was 1 year and 10 months (669 days) before the
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Municipal Elections. For the first three days after the initial snow, the mayor had seemingly gone AWOL: there was no official statement until the next storm was coming. Where was he? I don’t know. There was no evidence he was even in town. I will NEVER say someone shouldn’t be able to go out of town, but a good politician would at least seem present. Instead, there were fits of misplaced and poorly timed snarky comments on Facebook and Twitter. Elected leaders and concerned citizens were basically being told they were incorrect and all of the chaos that the poorly timed storm had caused was a figment of their imaginations and to move on. Essentially from the mayor’s office was: “Forget what you know and listen to what we’re telling you.”
Another lost opportunity actually came to light in an article in the Indianapolis Star written by Matthew Tully.

This article was written on January 18, 2014, which is 1 year, 9 months and 16 days before the election. I won’t summarize the entire article, I will instead quote the article.
“An arrogance and distance has crept into the mayor’s office. A political leader who won his first election by tapping into the frustrations of city residents now seems to ignore the views of anyone who dares to question him.”

 Earlier in that day the Mayor had done a Twitter Q&A with Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star, where he gave very dismissive answers like:
Murray: “For some folks who aren’t necessarily familiar with city finances, it raises a question of priorities. Is that a valid question?” (speaking of Mayor Ballard’s Cricket Park.)
Ballard: “No, it’s not a valid [question]. Do you want me to shut down the park system? I mean, that’s kind of what they’re saying here, right?”
This example was a very public dismissal of the concerns of the residents of Indianapolis. Luckily for the mayor it didn’t get a lot of play, and he eventually apologized, but it showed the arrogance and distance that once didn’t seem to exist between this mayor and his constituents.
Mosburg seems to understand what a lot of Democrats don't - that Mayor Ballard has certain character flaws that make him vulnerable as a candidate.  The Mayor has a short fuse, is not knowledgeable about issues, has a tin ear when it comes to the public's concerns, and is prone to mistakes when questioned.   But if the Democrats don't challenge Ballard outside the election window when voters are less skeptical of the political motivation for such criticism, they have missed an opportunity to chip away at the the Mayor's approval rating.  That will be an important factor on whether a Democrat is elected Mayor in 2015 as the election will be a referendum on Ballard.

Obviously U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett would have been a formidable Mayor candidate.  But, not surprisingly, he decided to continue with the high profile, non-political job that may lead to other opportunities.  Other Democrats I've heard mentioned as mayoral candidates is State Representative Ed Delaney and Councilor Vop Osili.  While both can raise money, they would not appeal to much more than the Democratic base.  They are also not fiscal conservatives, both being closely tied to the Indianapolis pay-to-play, corporate welfare structure of which the public is growing weary.

For my money, the best candidate for Mayor, at least on the Democratic side, is easily Councilor Zach Adamson.  He is one of the few Democrats who has taken positions against endless corporate welfare that is diverting more and more tax dollars away from basic city services, a very popular position.  Zach is a bright man with a populist appeal and a strong understanding of the media and how to craft a message.   He would appeal to many fiscal conservatives who might traditionally vote Republican but want an alternative in light of Ballard's never-ending increases in taxes, fees and borrowing.  Unlike Delaney and Osili, Adamson would have a cross-over appeal that would cut into the Republican base.  That was one of the faults of the Melina Kennedy.  She never made an effort to go after Republicans.  Ballard started out at 43% and the only issue was whether he could get enough Democrats to cross over to elect him.  Well, imagine a candidate picking off some of that 43%, a candidate who can attract Republicans yet still hold the Democratic base?  That's Adamson.

Adamson, the first openly gay Indianapolis councilor would be running to be the first openly gay Mayor of Indianapolis?  Would that be a negative?  No, I'd argue it would be a positive.  The only ones who probably would vote against Adamson for being gay are Republicans who probably wouldn't have voted for him anyway.  But there an awfully lot of Republicans couldn't care less, they just want to finally have a mayor who will be fiscally responsible and stop raising their taxes and borrowing to give more away to political contributors.  The Democrats would likely be solidly behind his campaign.  But more importantly much of that same political apparatus that is helping to defeat HJR-3 could be turned around to elect Adamson as Mayor.  

Run, Zach.  Please run.  Indianapolis needs you.


Jon E. Easter said...

What I think is extremely interesting about this whole "Zach for Mayor" push is that, as you point out, little of it surrounds the fact that he's married to a man.

People know Zach and what he stands for. He would make a tremendous Mayor, but I don't think he wants the job. In the times I've talked to him, he's happy being a Councillor and says he doesn't have the time necessary to campaign for the job.

I hope he changes his mind someday.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Well he won't be a councilor after 2015 unless he runs for a district seat. I assume maybe one is open for him. I forgot which district he lives in.

Jon E. Easter said...

While I have had no direct conversations with Zach, my general sense is that he plans to try to stay a Councillor as a district-level Councillor.

He is currently a district-level constituent of Mr. Mahern.