Friday, October 30, 2015

Is GOP Leadership Throwing Indianapolis Mayor's Race to Decrease Democratic Turnout?

We are only days away from next Tuesday's municipal elections and I doubt the average voter could identify the Republican running against Democrat Joe Hogsett for Indianapolis Mayor.  GOP nominee Chuck Brewer has run just a few TV commercials, all positive bio pieces.  There has been no attempt by Brewer to explain to Indy voters why they shouldn't vote for Hogsett, the former U.S. Attorney and Secretary of State.  As any political professional will tell you, in competitive political contests it is essential that a candidate explain not only why voters should vote for him or her, but also why voters shouldn't vote for the opponent. 
Chuck Brewer
GOP Sacrificial Lamb?

It is almost like the Marion County GOP leadership has decided to run a non-campaign and concede the Indianapolis mayor's office to the Democrats.

When GOP operative David Brooks drew the new council map he had to cut the margins on scores of Republican-leaning districts in order to get Republicans to a 15-10 margin.  This was done to make sure the total GOP seats offset the expected four at-large members elected who almost assuredly would have been Democrats given the leanings of the county as a whole.  The legislature later eliminated the four at-large districts, reducing the council from 29 to 25 members, all to be elected from the individual districts drawn by Brooks.

Brooks used 2010 numbers in coming up with the 15 Republican seats. By 2014 though two of those GOP district baselines had turned in favor of the Democrats, leaving only a 13-12 GOP majority.  By my count, 8 districts currently held by Republicans are competitive (55% or less GOP baseline) while only Republicans only have a shot at one district held by Democrats, Frank Mascari's Beech Grove area district.  But Mascari's district is one of the districts that has turned majority Democratic since Brooks drew the lines. Winning it is an uphill battle.

Turnout in elections is always driven by the top of the ticket.  One school of thought is that Brewer could have run a highly competitive campaign, hitting all the conservative hot buttons to drive GOP turnout and, if not win, at least save the marginal Republican seats.  The other school of thought is to lay down, not run a competitive campaign.  Why do that?  If Republicans don't give Democratic voters a reason to worry about winning the Mayor's Office, many will simply stay home. While that won't happen in sufficient numbers to elect Brewer, it could be enough to tip marginal council races to the Republicans.

Indeed there are signs that the Democratic electorate is not motivated with early voting at record lows.  Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana has written about that subject.

While the strategy of conceding the Mayor's Office after eight years of occupying it sounds insane, the concession strategy has been used by the Marion County GOP in the past.  In fact, the original plan of Marion County GOP party leaders in in 2007 was for the party to concede re-election to Bart Peterson and to instead focus on council races.  Party leaders told prospective donors that the political novice they had pushed to nominate, Greg Ballard, had no chance and not to donate to his campaign. It was only after Peterson repeatedly shot himself in the political foot and his support in the polls plunged, that the GOP party leadership got behind Ballard.

I should add that the concession strategy has also been used by the Marion County GOP as to the Indianapolis-based Congressional district.  Historically the Marion County GOP leadership has not helped the GOP nominee for Congress and, in fact, has often worked to undermine the candidate's campaign, telling donors not to donate to the nominee.

Expect both parties to try to drive turnout over the weekend.  Democrats will tell people internal polling says the mayor's race is tightening and turnout as crucial.  Republicans will do the exact same thing.   I used to see the party leaders do that every election until I finally figured out they were lying just to get the party workers motivated to turn out voters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has there been any published polling for the Mayor's race? I don't recall seeing any.