Democratic organization. In the only party organization win of the night in council races, the Democrats' slated candidate Leroy Robinson knocked off incumbent district councilor Angela Mansfield by 35 votes.
It is significant that the poor 1 of 3 record was compiled during a municipal primary, the lowest turnout election. The party's slate has always done the best in primaries that feature low turnout in which only hard-core partisans are voting. With turnout in the primary at 7.72%, the candidates chosen by the party
Traditionally slated candidates have enjoyed several advantages over primary challenges: These include:
- Endorsement process lends credibility to slated candidate
- Party organization works for the candidate on primary election day
- Money, collective resources of the party are almost always superior to challenger
- Party control of critical information such as detailed voter lists
The consequences of stripping power of party organization workers to decide slating in favor of party bosses has undermined the credibility of slating with grass roots workers and the primary electorate. Many party workers have no inclination to help out the slated candidate at the primary. Some even refuse to pass out literature of the slated candidate or even the slate itself. Some organization workers will even work for the challenger against the slated candidate.
Slating still bestows a money advantage. The collective resources of the party will swamp all but the best funded challenger. But even this advantage is declining as the party increasingly finds itself strapped for funds.
The information advantage is the major card slated candidates have. Without a good list of likely primary voters, a list that includes names, addresses, primary history and preferably phone numbers and emails, a challenger is likely defeated before he or she even begins the race. Even in a small enough district in which the challenger can meet primary voters at their doorstep, not having a list of likely voters means the challenger is going to waste enormous resources contacting people who aren't going to vote in a low turnout primary election.
Of course, slated candidates have access to voter information needed to conduct a highly focused campaign. But increasingly some challengers are finding ways around the slated candidates' information advantage.
The Marion County slating process is not going to end anytime soon. But if party bosses want it to have some relevance, if they want it to be something respected by grass roots party workers and the party electorate, they would be well advised to make changes to the process to make it more democratic and fair.