Sunday, May 10, 2015

Handicapping the 2015 Indianapolis Council Races

Now that the primary is over, it is time to look at the matchups between Democrats and Republicans this Fall.  By way of background, the new districts these candidates will be running in were drawn by Republican operative David Brooks with the intention of creating a 15-10 GOP majority.  The expectation at the time was that the four at-large districts would go to the Democrats but the Republicans would still have enough cushion for a majority.  The subsequent elimination of of the four at-large seats by the legislature requires the Democrats to make up even more ground in the districts.

But it appears to be ground that should be fairly easily traversed.   Looking at the baseline numbers it appears that District  2 and 16 originally drawn by Brooks to be Republican, are now marginally Democratic districts. In 2014, the Republican baseline shrank to 49.78% and 49.13% respectively.  (Brooks used a 2010 baseline.) 

Republicans are going to struggle mightily to win District 2 as Republican newcomer Colleen Fanning faces off against Democratic activist, Kip Tew, who will undoubtedly be very well-funded.
 Republicans have a better shot in District 16, as Republican incumbent Jeff Miller tries to hold off Democrat challenger Emily Shrock.

In looking at the other races, it is notably that the Republicans do not as of yet have a candidate in 7 districts (1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 14) while the Democrats lack county council candidates in two districts (23 and 24).  The county party chairmen have over a month to find candidates for those districts.  However, none appear to be very competitive, with District 1 being the only one where the minority party (GOP) has a baseline over 40% (40.79%).

The races to watch on Election Day are:

District 21
Incumbent Democrat Frank Mascari faces off against Republican Anthony Davidson in a 50.75% Republican district.  That should be a nail-biter on Election Night, but with a strong mayoral candidate, Joe Hogsett, at the top of the Democratic ticket, and Mascari's name recognition, I have to give the edge to the incumbent.

District 6
Incumbent Republican Janice McHenry faces off against Democrat Frank Islas in a 51.55% Republican District.  There is probably no better door-to-door campaigner in local politics than McHenry.  However, the incumbent though has a record of voting for higher taxes and corporate welfare that wouldn't play well with her Republican constituents if the Democrats decide to exploit those issues to chip away at her base.  I'll assume the Democrats will be (reasonably) smart and exploit her vulnerabilities with her Republican base.  I give the edge to the challenger.

District 19
The next closest district features incumbent Republican Ben Hunter facing Democrat David Ray.  This Republican leaning district (52.5% baseline in 2014) is typical in that the GOP percentage plummets when there is higher turnout.  In 2012, the Republican baseline number in the district was 43.61%.  I have to give the edge to Hunter though Election Night should be close.

District 3
Democrats also have a shot at picking up District 3.  Incumbent district councilor Christine Scales faces incumbent at-large councilor Pam Hickman.  Scales' negative is that her support among Republicans might have been harmed by some brutal mailings sent during her primary battle with Tim Scales which she won by 130 votes.  Scales' positive is work is constituent work and her willingness to reach out non-traditional Republican constituencies.  Hickman's advantage is a strong Democrat at the top of the ticket with Joe Hogsett running for Mayor.  Her challenge will be reaching beyond traditional Democratic constituencies.   I give the slight edge to Scales.

The Best of the Rest:

Turnout will be extremely important on Election Day.  If Republicans are not motivated to come out to vote for their mayoral candidate, Chuck Brewer, Democrats will win scores of other Republican seats that are right now only marginally competitive. The races that could produce Democratic upsets include:

District 5:  Republican Jeff Coats faces Democrat Curtis Bigsbee in a district with a 55.08% GOP baseline (50.71% in 2012).

District 15:  Republican incumbent Marilyn Pfisterer squares off against Democrat Christopher Wall in a district with a 55.02 GOP baseline (45.3% in 2012).

District 22:  Republican incumbent Robert Lutz opposes Democrat Jared Evans ina  district with a 54.78% GOP baseline (44.75 in 2012).

District 4:  Republican incumbent Mike McQuillen faces Democrat Ray Biederman in a district with a 57.01% GOP baseline (51.47% in 2012).

I'll guess at the bottom end, Democrats end up with a 13-12 majority.  More realistically though, given the likely enhanced Democratic turnout due to the Mayor's race,, I expect it will likely be more like 15-10 Democrats on Election Night, and quite possibly the number of Republican councilors will shrink to single digits.

Note:  When I am referring to baseline, unless I indicate otherwise, I'm referring to the 2014 numbers in the district.  2014 is the most recent election that most closely resembles the low turnout of a municipal election.


Greg Wright said...

Gary, Perhaps both the Democratic base and GOP base are going to stay home. I do not see Ms. Clinton motivating her base. Likewise, I see the Tea Party & Christians disengaged from the Republicans. The base in both parties do not appear to trust the leadership of their traditional political party. Millennials are turned off. Perhaps turnout % will be below 2010.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why Marion County and State GOP continue to cower/idolize (take your pick) attorney political "R" hack David Brooks. There is really only one thing David Brooks excels in and that's making David Brooks a ton of money... any way he can.

As for these Council Districts that the nefarious attorney David Brooks drew... well, he may have cost his own Party candidates votes.

However, he sure did help Susan Brooks...a/k/a/ RINO John Boehner's Pet Indiana Congressbabe... find the votes she needed. There is no coincidence in politics... EVERYTHING that comes to pass is planned in advance.

LamLawIndy said...

Paul, what % chance of a 12-12 tie with Scales being the tiebreaker? And -- followup question -- what deal could she demand from Dems in exchange for their votes for Council President?

Flogger said...

I am still kind of fuzzy on how the At Large could be eliminated in Marion County but permitted elsewhere in the State and in Marion County such as Lawrence and Beech Grove, or Southport?? How do you justify logically taking away At Large for Marion County City-County Council and leaving it elsewhere???

LamLawIndy said...

Well, the statute doesn't apply to "Marion County" but to Unigov cities/counties. Obviously, Marion County is the only Unigov entity right now, but -- in theory -- the statute will apply to any other Unigov city.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Plus, LamLaw, local government is a subunit of state government. The state can do whatever it wants. Flogger though wasn't talking legally, but "logically." No logic in government.

LamLawIndy said...

To an extent. If the law is too "particular" to a given locality, then it could possibly be a "special law" and violate Art. 4, section 22 of the Indiana Constitution.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Lam, missed your question at 8:51. I think it is unlikely that the Rs get that close to a majority. I'm not sure Christine would be interested in council President anyway.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I think you are incorrectly handicapping District 21. It now includes many neighborhoods that Jeff Miller won and almost all of Beech Grove. Davidson is a young and energetic candidate. Mascari is a notoriously bad campaigner.