Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Examining Independent Candidate Rev. Charles Harrison's Narrow Path to Victory in Indianapolis Mayor's Race.

I keep going back and forth wondering whether the sudden emergence of Rev. Charles Harrison of the Ten Point Coalition is a legitimate independent candidate for Indianapolis Mayor or an ill-advised Republican stunt.  One thing that leads me to believe the GOP leadership was behind the petition campaign is that there seemed to be no attempt to challenge the Harrison signatures by the Marion County Board of Voter Registration.  That Board is run by two direct appointments of the Democratic and Republican county chairman.  Historically, the two party appointees have worked together to disqualify independent candidates as well as candidates of the two parties not favored by the local
Democratic and Republican Party leadership.

Rev. Charles Harrison
On the other hand, Harrison doesn't seem like the type of person who would agree to be the pawn of anyone.  Recent Twitter exchanges Harrison had with reporters suggest he has a bone to pick with party leaders who have used a rigged slating process to exclude the parties' electorates and party workers from deciding nominees.  It is a gripe that a lot of Republican and Democratic activists have.

Assuming Harrison is a legitimate candidate who plans to try to win, does he have a path to victory?  Yes, but it is a  very narrow path.  Here are some things he would have to do.

GET FREE MEDIA:  Harrison will not be able to compete with Democratic nominee Joe Hogsett when it comes to paid political advertising, but Harrison could potentially rival Hogsett when it comes to free media coverage.  Harrison will need to be particularly clever in crafting a message and engaging in activities (some would say "stunts") that grab the media's attention.  If Harrison can convince the media he has a chance of winning, then the coverage will increase dramatically.

GO AFTER HOGSETT'S RECORD AS U.S. ATTORNEY:   Unlike other jurisdictions, Indianapolis is notorious for having U.S. Attorneys who refuse to prosecute political corruption.  That includes U.S. Attorneys from both parties.  Joe Hogsett's tenure has been no different than those who proceeded and followed him.  Harrison would have to aggressively point out that Hogsett had the opportunity to prosecute Republican and Democratic corruption and walked away. 

GO AFTER HOGSETT'S CONTRIBUTORS:   If you read Hogsett's campaign report, it reads like a Who's Who of contractors doing (or wanting to do) business with the City of Indianapolis.  In recent years, we've taken for granted in Indianapolis that it is okay for the Mayor to accept campaign contributions from folks seeking city contracts.  Ballard took that practice to a new level during his tenure.   Harrison needs to go after Hogsett on the issue of who is funding his campaign.  Harrison should issue a press release asking his two opponents to join him in pledging to not take campaign contributions from those doing business with the City.   It will get Harrison headlines and give him a reputation as a reformer.

GO AFTER FISCAL CONSERVATIVES:  Republican nominee Chuck Brewer is pledging a third term of Republican Mayor Greg Ballard if he gets elected.  Ballard increased taxes and fees more (40+ by my count) than any mayor in Indianapolis history.  He has also engaged in reckless borrowing and corporate welfare projects, while diverting much-needed revenue from city services.  Many fiscal conservatives want nothing less than another Greg Ballard in office.  Harrison needs to highlight the dreadful Ballard dreadful fiscal record, which will be a challenge since he will most likely have to rely on free media to do so.

GO AFTER SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES:  This year, Mayor Ballard was Grand Marshall of the Indy Pride parade, an event which featured adult-oriented displays and condoms and lubricant handed out to parade watchers.  During the RFRA debate that preceded, Ballard was more than willing to bash Governor Pence for his support of religious liberty.  Many social conservatives think the Mayor has gone way too far in trying to earn the support of the LGBT community and in the process thrown religious and family values under the bus.  To earn many of those social conservative votes, Harrison should announce that, as Mayor, he will respect religious values and that he thinks it is improper for an Indianapolis Mayor to be Grand Marshall of the Indy Pride parade.  He could easily outflank both Hogsett and Brewer on the issue and gain the support of social conservatives.  Unlike the former, it would be easy for Harrison to get headlines on this subject.

GO AFTER CORPORATE WELFARE:  With all due respect to Lake County, Indianapolis is the pay-to-play capitol of Indiana.  Regardless of which party occupies the 25th Floor or controls the Council, it seems like the same contractors, big law firms, and the leaders of taxpayer-funded non-profits calling the shots.  Harrison needs to make the case that corporate welfare is money diverted from necessary social services.   Opposition to corporate welfare is an issue that unites the most conservative and liberal elements of the electorate.

ASSEMBLING A RIGHT-LEFT COALITION:   To win the election, Harrison would have to assemble, and keep together, a right-left coalition consisting of fiscal and social conservative Republicans and Democratic-leaning voters.  I'm convinced that Harrison could wedge off a significant piece of the Republican electorate.  I think the real challenge would be to get defections from the Democratic camp.  I've heard the argument before, that if you run an African-American against a white Democrat, African-Americans will vote for the black candidate.  But I have never seen that strategy work.  Harrison though, with his deep roots in the African-American community, might be an exception.  If he could get a significant portion of the African-American vote, then it's possible that with Republican defections, Harrison could get 40% of the general election vote and narrowly win a three way race.

While I think Harrison could win the Mayor's race, he would have to run a masterful campaign and get a lot of breaks along the way.


Pete Boggs said...

Your analysis is coherent Mr. Ogden. I've spoken with prominent D's & R's who are dissatisfied with their options. One such fellow characterized the problem by saying that unappetizing options aren't really choices & don't bring people to the table (vote).

Anonymous said...

". Many fiscal conservatives want nothing less than another Greg Ballard in office." I know of no fiscal conservative who wants another Greg Ballard in any elected office and most began having buyer's remorse a few weeks into his first administration when it became clear that he had been captured and neutered.