Monday, October 20, 2014

Continued Speculation on the Republican Nominee for Indianapolis Mayor

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana is reporting that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard will very soon, as early as this week, announce he is not running for a third term.

That's not a surprise.  As I've said before, Ballard beat the odds in Democratic Marion County twice.  In 2011, he only received 51% of the vote against a Democrat, Melina Kennedy, who was not perceived as having run a strong race.  This time he would face a much tougher candidate, most likely former Secretary of State and U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, just as the chickens were coming home to roost with Ballard policies as well.  Stories of violent crime have dominated the pages this year and Ballard was facing increasing criticism for insider deals and a lack of transparency.  Additionally, Ballard's fiscal record of raising scores of taxes and fees left him vulnerable to attack.
In 2007, local Republicans were looking around for the candidate for Mayor to run against incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson. First and and second tier candidates all declined.  Instead the party pulled Ballard from the third tier to run.  Ballard ran as a populist which appealed to voters when Peterson imploded politically by raising local income taxes in the Summer of 2007.

Although Republicans don't face an incumbent Democrat in looking for a nominee in 2015, they do face the situation of squaring off a well-known and well-liked Democrat.  So the situation isn't much different than 2007.  But the county is much more Democratic than it was in 2007. In the 2006 mid-term, the election that most resembles the municipal election in turnout, the Republican baseline was 46.35%.  In 2010, a great Republican year that featured very low Democratic turnout, the Marion County GOP baseline still managed to decline to 44.53%.  It is a safe assumption that the GOP baseline in 2014, will drop to 42%, leaving 18% between GOP and Democratic candidates.  That's outside the range of being competitive.

The speculation is that former Republican State Chairman and Lt. Governor candidate, Murray Clark, might run.  Others point to State Senator Jim Merritt as a possible candidate.  I can't see either tossing their hats in the ring.  Politicians who have achieved success in the past tend to be risk adverse. Clark and Merritt both had chances to run in 2007 and took a pass.  Now that the county is much more Democratic, I think they would have even less of an incentive to run.  For Clark and Merritt to run would mean taking a long-shot risk at overcoming the increasingly strong Democratic numbers in the county.   While neither would lose their positions due to running, losing badly, as they likely would, could negatively impact any future political endeavors they might have.

I think Tier 1 candidates will take a pass.  That leaves Tier 2 candidates, people who are less known but who have some political experience.  In a previous column, I speculated those candidates might be Councilors Mike McQuillen and Christine Scales, former Councilor Isaac Randolph, or former congressional candidate Carlos May.  Regardless, the GOP establishment will certainly get behind one candidate and make sure slating is rigged for that person to win.   Even if it is not the best candidate, the mindset of current Republican leadership is that they'd rather lose to a Democrat than run a Republican who might challenge Indianapolis' political structure which has proved handsomely profitable for certain contractors and big law firms


Nicolas Martin said...

I’d suggest that Ballard move to Fishers and contest the next mayoral election, but I think we have home-grown Republican politicians who are entirely capable of ruinous spending.

Jon said...

Any bets on which campaign contributor give herr mayor a job?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Clark was also a State Senator. He had great working relationships with neighborhoods, as well.

I'm not a Republican, and I don't play one on TV - but Clark could pull D votes and lots of independents.

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