Monday, October 27, 2014

Indiana House Speaker Says Marion County GOP Insiders, Not Party Electorate, Will Decide Nominee for Indianapolis Mayor

In a column published a few days ago, Star columnist Russ Pulliam writes that if Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard decides not to run, Republicans will "scramble ... to find a consensus candidate."  In the column, Pulliam offers up a telling quote:
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma thinks the party will settle on the candidate in a
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R- Indianapolis)
January committee slating convention, not battling it out in a May primary.

“I don’t think Joe Hogsett is a shoo-in for the Democrats. But it’s a tough race for us. We don’t want to have a primary battle in a year with a tough race,” Bosma said. “There’s also a lot of respect in the party for the slating process.”
The idea behind slating is that elected neighborhood party officials represent their party in picking the best nominee and then the party collectively gets behind that candidate at the primary.  In the past 15 years, the slating process has so denigrated that even hard core Republicans no longer take the process seriously.  Most of the people attending county-wide slating (estimates are as high as 80%) are direct appointees of the county chairman, not elected representatives of the GOP electorate.  Most of those precinct appointees receive their position, not to do work in the neighborhoods for the party, but simply to attend slating and vote the way the county chairman wants.

If slating process were fair process for determining who the party electorate wants, you'd see multiple candidates in virtually every slating contest.  But under former county chairman Tom John and  current chairman Kyle Walker it became well known that party leaders would get together, decide who they want slated, and then rig the system so that person won.  Candidates who did not receive the blessing of leadership choose not to participate in slating.

In doing so the party bosses consolidated power in themselves at the expense of party workers and the GOP electorate.  The consequences of that power consolidation has been to destroy the grass roots of the Marion County GOP and to reduce Republican turnout.  In the 2014 Marion County GOP primary, only 28,533 voters participated, a mere 3.5% of the registered voters in the county.

Contrary to what Bosma says, there is virtually no respect anymore for the Marion County Republican Party slating process.  He's also wrong about the effect of a contested primary.  Just5 as the 2008 extended presidential nomination battle actually energized grass roots Democrats and their voters, a contested primary would do the same thing for Republicans in Marion County.  While any Republican mayoral nominee in 2015 will almost certainly be a long-shot in the Fall, having a contested primary would be help rebuild the grass roots of the party long-term.  The notion that contested primaries are always bad is simply a myth perpetuated by party leaders who don't want ordinary folks deciding who the nominees of the party should be.

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