Saturday, November 28, 2015

Spokane TV Station Obtains Details on Frank Straub's Ouster as the City's Police Chief

KREM has published a lengthy report detailing information gathered in texts, emails and written records relating to the ouster of former Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub from his position as Spokane Chief of Police:
Former Spokane Chief of Police Frank Straub
Records released Tuesday stated that Cotton met with City Administrator Theresa Sanders in April 2015 to voice her concerns about Straub. Handwritten notes from Sanders after the meeting said [then police department employee Monique}Cotton was distraught and claimed Straub "grabbed her ass and tried to kiss her."
Sanders said in the notes she forwarded the claims to Mayor David Condon to investigate. 
Amid a series of complaints from additional co-workers, Straub resigned in October after coworkers accused him of intimidation, personal attacks and threats. However, Straub's lawyer argues that he was fired and did not resign. 
Straub's lawyer, Mary Schultz, fired back following Condon's statement on Wednesday. 
She claimed the ...statement by Condon [published by KREM in this story] confirms he never investigated any of these damaging accusations, "gave his word to an accusing employee that he wouldn’t investigate their accusations, gave the accuser what they asked for without question, and then publicly denied all of it."
Fortunately for Condon, details regarding his handling of the Straub matter were kept under wraps until he was re-elected earlier this month with over 60% of the vote.  Nonetheless, whether Mayor Condon mishandled the investigation into the Cotton sexual harassment allegations and Straub's termination, the fact remains that Condon showed incredibly bad judgment in hiring Straub in the first place. Straub's employment problems at White Plains, NY, where he was chief of police and then Indianapolis were well-documented available to anyone who had access to a computer and the search engine "google."  Yet Mayor Condon ignored Straub's past problems and enthusiastically hired him any way.  That shows terrible judgment on the part of Condon that should have disqualified him from being re-elected.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hillary Clinton Apologizes for Describing Illegal Immigrants as "Illegal Immigrants"

The Washington Times reports:
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton bowed to pressure from Hispanic activists Tuesday and apologized for using the term “illegal immigrants” at a town hall earlier this month.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Mrs. Clinton said it had been a “poor choice of words.”
Mrs. Clinton has been pressed to retract her use of a term that offends people who entered the U.S. illegally, according to Hispanic activists who are demanding expanded immigrant rights and citizenship for the country's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.   
She was prodded into an apology during a Facebook question-and-answer session hosted by Spanish language TV network Telemundo.  The question came from Jose Antonio Vargas, a filmmaker and journalist whose organization, Define America, has led the charge to remove the term "illegal immigrants" from presidential campaigns.
While Republican candidates are increasingly pushed by their base (and Donald Trump) to take unrealistic positions on immigration such as building a wall on the southern border and deporting 11 million people, the Democrats have their own problems on the issue if their base voters will not even tolerate using the perfectly accurate term "illegal immigrants" to describe "illegal immigrants."  Clinton's cowering apology to her party's extremists won't sit well with most Americans.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

New Poll Results: Carson Falls While Trump Holds Steady; Cruz Rises

New polls are out, taken after the terrorist attack in Paris.
Sen. Ted Cruz

A poll by the ABC/Washington Post show New York businessman Donald Trump extending his lead over Ben Carson to 32% to 22%.  A Fox News poll released today has Trump's lead over the physician at 28% to 18%.  A previous ABC/Washington Post poll taken in the middle of October also showed Trump with 32% and Carson at 22%.  A Fox in early November had Trump at 26% and Carson at 23%.

In Iowa, a CBS/YouGov poll shows Trump with 30%, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz has jumped ahead of Carson 21% to 19%  Meanwhile Trump continues to dominate in New Hampshire with Florida Senator Marco Rubio next at 13% followed by Carson and Cruz who are tied at 10%.  According to the CBS poll, Trump also leads in South Carolina at 35%, followed by Carson with 19%, Rubio 16% and Cruz 13%.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hypocrite Connecticut Governor Malloy Inserts Foot into Mouth Again

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy couldn't help put his foot in his mouth again while criticizing Governor Mike Pence for his opposition to taking in Syrian refugees.  The Indianapolis Star reports:
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy
... this is the same guy who signed a homophobic bill in the spring surrounded by homophobes," Malloy said, referring to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act that critics said would allow discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. "So I’m not surprised by anything the governor does."
Malloy leaves out the fact that his own state has a RFRA.  But that law is different from Indiana's in that it provides MORE protection for religious freedom.  In Connecticut the person filing the RFRA claim only need show a burden, no matter how slight, on his or her religious freedom.  In Indiana, the litigant must show that it is a substantial burden.  As any lawyer will tell you, that is an enormous difference. The Connecticut law actually goes beyond even the old Sherbert test that RFRAs are restoring.

Of course people have pointed to other differences to insist Indiana's RFRA is stronger than Connecticut's.  The problem though is the above difference is prefatory language, a standard that must be met to litigate a claim.  It is the critical portion of the statute.  And Connecticut's RFRA on that point is much stronger in terms of protecting religious freedom than Indiana's.

Unfortunately facts don't seem to matter too much to Governor Malloy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Conservatives Encourage State Senator Smith to Challenge Governor Mike Pence in Republican Primary

On the heels of the announcement Senate Republican leadership will be supporting an LGBT rights-religious freedom compromise during the 2016 General Assembly, a move no doubt supported by Governor Mike Pence, comes the news that Charlestown State Senator Jim Smith may be recruited to challenge Pence in the Republican Primary next spring.  Smith was expelled from the GOP state senate caucus for supposedly leaking super secret caucus discussions about the compromise bill in
Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown)
advance of the yesterday's Organization Day, the official kick off of the 2016 session.

Interestingly Sen. Smith writes on Facebook that he was never been informed of the action in caucus to expel him, information that was linked to news commentator and reporter wannabe Abdul Hakim-Shabbaz.  If that is true then the leaker would have committed the same violation Sen. Smith is accused of and that legislator should also be expelled.  I won't hold my breath on that happening. 

Rumors earlier this year were of Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle challenging Gov. Pence from the left in the 2016 Republican Primary.  Pretty much the only persons who thought such a candidacy was viable were liberal media types.  Oesterle, who has trumpeted LGBT rights and expressed contempt for religious freedom, had positively no chance of running to Pence's left and winning the Republican nomination for Governor.

While the Oesterle candidacy was always an empty threat, a Sen. Smith candidacy would be an extraordinary dangerous threat to Pence's renomination.  Smith would run to the right of Pence, where the Governor's continued veering to the left while in office has left plenty of running room.  Pence has deeply alienated the evangelical community who make up a critical part of the GOP primary electorate.  But other conservatives are just as angry at Gov. Pence, including Tea Party types.  The Governor might want to take at look at what happened to Sen. Richard Lugar if he thinks he can win a Republican statewide primary in Indiana while only courting moderate Republicans.
What happened to Gov. Pence to cause him to veer to the left?  My guess is that in entering the Governor's Office he became surrounded by Chamber of Commerce and Big Business executives who dissed conservative social and fiscal policies in favor of corporate welfare and social liberalism.   While the Chamber and Big Business shell out a lot of campaign money, Governor Pence is fooling himself if he thinks that their money also represents votes.  The Chamber and Big Business won't decide who the Republicans nominate for Governor in 2016.  Conservatives will decide the race, and if Sen. Smith runs there is a very good chance that GOP nominee won't be named Mike Pence.

Indiana Senate Republicans "Compromise" LGBT Rights-Religious Freedom Bill Represents Disastrous Political Strategy

During Organization Day yesterday Indiana State Senate Republican leaders announced that they will be supporting compromise bill during the 2016 legislative session that expands the state's civil rights law to include sexual orientation while promising to also protect religious freedom. 

I guess that political activist Eric Miller's claim the Republican legislative leadership planned a "sneak attack" on Organization Day, i.e. the passage of a bill to protect LGBT rights, was an exaggeration more than a fabrication.

This column is not about the merits of the detailed bill that attempts to forge a compromise.  It rather

Senate President Pro Tem David Long
is about the political strategy involved, an extremely foolish political strategy.

I know exactly what the political thinking is behind the compromise civil rights bill. GOP strategists believe that by passing the measure in 2016 the Republicans will take the contentious issue off the table and the legislators and Governor Pence can run for re-election without dealing with the matter.  The strategy represents an extremely unsophisticated understanding of how the political game is played and will undoubtedly doom Pence's re-election efforts and cause Republicans to lose seats in the legislature.

The first rule of political strategy is that you never ever alienate your base.  You can irritate your base supporters, but if you alienate them you are finished.  By Republicans cowering and doing the "fix" to the RFRA last session (which I have argued didn't actually do anything), Governor Pence and the Republican leadership irritated their evangelical base.  But they were willing to forgive. Now with the GOP legislative leadership going further and supporting a compromise civil rights bill the Republican leaders are making the fatal mistake of alienating their critical base of supporters.

But what about the details of the compromise?    They simply do not matter.  The two page RFRA got horribly misconstrued by media and political activists who were too lazy to read the bill or simply had a political agenda that required being dishonest about the law.  Why in the world do Senate leaders believe that won't happen with this new bill that covers some 20 or so pages?

Bottom line, conservatives will attack the bill as going too far and not protecting religious freedom sufficiently.  Liberals will oppose the bill as not going far enough.   Further, there is no reason for Democrats to compromise as they believe they have Republicans on the run on the issue. And since the Republicans are actually running from the issue of religious freedom, can you blame Democrats for thinking they have a winning political issue?

By trying to please everyone, the Senate Republican leaders' compromise civil rights bill will please no one.  And it will drive a wedge between the GOP establishment and critical evangelical support.  Pence's re-election is doomed if he signs any version of that bill.

A more sophisticated and successful political strategy would be for Indiana Republicans to say they are proud to support religious freedom and publicly demand that the Democratic Party and their candidates do the same.  By instead pursuing this compromise strategy the Republicans are sending the message to the voters that they did something wrong by supporting religious freedom last year and are trying to beg the electorate forgive the party for its transgressions.

There is a word that describes the Indiana Senate Republican leaders' strategy on the compromise civil rights bill:  Disastrous.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Amherst Students Want Fellow Students Punished for Free Speech reports
A group of 11 students at Amherst College, a private liberal arts school in western Mass., issued a list of 11 demands to administrators that includes making them apologize for signs that mourned the death of free speech.   
The group, who call themselves the Amherst Uprising, said the college’s president Biddy Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that says the school doesn’t tolerate the actions of students who posted the “All Lives Matter” posters, and the “Free Speech” posters that stated “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.”    
Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats;” the post said. “Alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.”  
Another one of the 11 demands says that Martin needs to apologize for the college’s “institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.”  
“If these goals are not initiated within the next 24 to 48 hours, and completed by November 18th, we will organize and respond in a radical manner, through civil disobedience,” the group wrote. “If there is a continued failure to meet our demands, it will result in an escalation of our response.”
 Here is the actual demand that students be reprimanded for their speech:
5.    President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” posters, and the “Free Speech” posters that stated that “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.” Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.
Wow, I never thought I would see the day when college students would ask administrators to punish other students for free speech.  If these Amherst idiots think they're upholding the spirit of the 1960s college protests with their actions, they might want to open a history book.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Is Purdue the Next Target for Student Unrest?; Purdue Professor Tells Critic to F--- Off

Simmering below the surface is a potential confrontation between liberal activists at Purdue University and their allies and  Purdue University Mitch Daniels.  On Wednesday former Governor Daniels sent an email expressing support for free speech on the Purdue University campus:

To the Purdue community.
Events this week at the University of Missouri and Yale University should remind us all of the importance of absolute fidelity to her shared values. First, that we strive constantly to be, without exception, a welcoming inclusive and discrimination-free community, where each person is respected and treated with dignity. Second, to be steadfast in preserving academic freedom and individual liberty.

Two years ago, a student-led initiative created the “We Are Purdue Statement of Values”, which was subsequently endorsed by the University Senate. Last year, both our undergraduate and graduate student governments led an effort to produced a strengthened statement of policies protecting free speech. What a proud contrast to the environments that appear to prevail at places like Missouri and Yale. Today and every day, we should remember the tenants of those statements and do our best to live up to them fully.

President Mitch Daniels
The idea of supporting free speech, in the face of racial protests, didn't sit well with many students
and some members of the Purdue faculty.  This includes Roxane Gay, associate professor of English at Purdue.  Unbelievably she found Daniels' letter to be offensive:
Prof. Roxane Gay
When a person tweeted to Prof. Gay about her "incomprehensible crying" regarding the Daniels' email, the professor responded with the highly intellectual retort: "Fuck off. Truly."   Then she proceeded to tweet about how the right to free speech does not include the right to be free from the consequences of free speech. Actually it does. The position taken by Gay was advocated by the Federalists with respect to the Sedition Act some 220 years ago.  That position has been thoroughly rejected..  That's why "chilling" free speech with "consequences" today is no different than outright banning the speech.  Neither is allowed.  The irony is that Prof. Gay, who recently won a "Freedom to Write" award, does not even have a basic understanding of the free speech guarantees contained in the First Amendment.

When I pointed out that "chilling" free speech was the same as banning free speech to Prof. Gay on Twitter, she immediately responded by blocking me.  Apparently she doesn't like being proven wrong.

Purdue protesters are plowing ahead.  They plan a second hour long social media blitz from noon to 1 pm to highlight racism at the university.  (The first blitz was held today.)  Students at Purdue University are also planning a rally on Friday to show solidarity with the racially charged protests at the University of Missouri.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

University of Missouri Officials Wage War on the First Amendment

The Atlantic reports:
It’s stunning how quickly the story in Columbia, Missouri, has turned from a debate about racism in the university community to a story about free speech—and attempts to limit it.
Most prominently, the video of a crowd intimidating a photographer—a student journalist—and attempting to block him from doing his job went viral. Tim Tai, the
photographer, asserted his First Amendment rights with impressive poise and calm, given the pressure on him. (On Tuesday, the faculty of the School of Journalism were voting on whether to strip Melissa Click—an assistant professor of communication shown calling for “muscle” to push a reporter out—of her “courtesy” appointment in journalism.) Suddenly, the focus of the University of Missouri story has become about free speech.
That’s even more true after an email Tuesday from university police.
The rest of the Atlantic article goes on to discuss the conflict between university officials wanting to provide a safe place for their students while not trampling on the requirements of the First Amendment that protects Free Speech. As any first year law student will tell you, a public university doesn't have the right to adopt rules and regulations that override the constitutional guarantees contained in the First Amendment.

Two law professors and the ACLU immediately raised constitutional problems introduced by the email:
"You can't restrict free speech based on concepts of decency," Davidson said. "The First Amendment is not to protect 'pretty' speech; it's designed to protect offensive speech."
Gregory Magarian, a Washington University in St. Louis law professor who specializes in free-speech issues, said the vagueness of the email is problematic. The email only says that students should report "hateful and/or hurtful speech," but doesn't define what that is.
"One cardinal rule in law on deciding what speech can be restricted is: Don't be vague," Magarian said. "If you are trying to strike the balance between what is restricted and what is not, you can't be vague and you can't leave authorities with too much latitude to interpret what speech is OK, and what speech is not."
"It's important to make sure you don't chill, punish or deter speech that is protected and (speech) that doesn't fall into that zone of being threatening or unduly aggressive," Magarian said.
On Tuesday night, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri voiced its "disappointment" in the new MU Police Department initiative.
"The ACLU of Missouri is disappointed with the recent request by the University of Missouri Police to report ‘hurtful speech,’ which simultaneously does too much and too little," Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement. "Racial epithets addressed to a specific person in a threatening or intimidating manner can be illegal, and may require action by police and/or university administrators. But, no governmental entity has the authority to broadly prohibit ‘hurtful’ speech — or even undefined ‘hateful’ speech, or to discipline against it."
Unfortunately what is happening at the University of Missouri officials and students attempting to stamp out speech they deem "hurtful" and "offensive," and in doing trampling on the First Amendment, is taking place on college campuses all across the country.  I would strongly recommend people read The Silencing, a book written by Kirsten Powers, a former staffer in the Clinton administration and current Fox News contributor, who documents the increasing liberal assault on free speech on college campuses.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Gender Neutral Restrooms Part of LGBT Agenda According to Activist

WIBC reports:
As the LGBT movement continues to gain political attention, so does the issue of "All Gender" public restrooms.  
Cities like Austin, Berkeley, Philadelphia, Santa Fe and Seattle have already approved legislation that calls for more single-user, all-gender public restrooms.  Could the issue gain traction in Indianapolis?  
Indianapolis City County Councilman Zach Adamson says gender-neutral bathrooms aren't really new. However, Adamson adds that gender-neutral bathrooms are part of "the total package" of equality and human rights when it comes to all public accommodations. Adamson says he cannot point to any examples where such facilities would pose threats to anyone. 
Government requiring the installation of such restrooms would seem to be an enormous expense for many small and medium sized businesses.  But besides that, even raising the possibility of mandating gender neutral restrooms seems distracting and counterproductive to the LGBT community's push to expand Indiana's civil rights law to include sexual orientation.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Indianapolis Will Sorely Miss Amos Brown's Honest Approach to Local Politics

Most of you have heard the news by now that Amos Brown, community leader and radio host, has passed away.

Amos Brown
It was shocking news as Brown appeared to be the picture of health until felled by a heart attack while visiting family on Friday.

I thought very highly of Brown.  He certainly stood up for the African-American community in Indianapolis, giving them a much-needed voice through not only his radio program but his frequent columns in the Indianapolis Recorder.   Brown insisted on holding public officials accountable.   Whether it be about the parking meter deal, Blue Indy, or the proposed Criminal Justice Center, Brown was unwilling to simply regurgitate the talking points provided by civil leaders.  He did his research and asked questions, tough questions.  Those questions became so difficult for Mayor Greg Ballard that he boycotted Brown's program.

A few years ago, I was walking out of a meeting in Pike Township with Brown.  Our conversation turned to Republican Senator Scott Schneider.  Brown told me how highly he thought of Scott and the entire Schneider family.  I asked Brown how that could be since he is the polar opposite to the politically conservative Schneiders.  Brown said it was because the Schneiders were always upfront with him on who they are and what they stood for.  He admired the Schneiders' honesty and integrity, even though he vehemently disagreed with their politics..

That also sums up how I felt about the Amos Brown.  The Indianapolis political world is a place where you often can't tell Republicans from Democrats without a score card.  Insiders run the political game deciding how to divvy up the spoils of government.  Into that realm steps Brown asking tough questions, giving a voice to the powerless Indianapolis voters who in the past several years have faced never ending tax increases.  As a liberal Brown didn't have a problem with higher taxes.  But Brown did have a problem with the revenue from those tax increases constantly being diverted by political insiders for corporate handouts instead of the city services Brown pleaded that Indianapolis residents needed.  

Brown always talked about his serving people on "his side of the street," a term he used to refer to the African-American community in Indianapolis. But in reality Brown did a service for my side of the street as well, indeed for all Indianapolis residents.  He will be sorely missed.  RIP Amos Brown.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Indianapolis Had Much Lower Turnout in 1995 than 2015

Following Tuesday night's election results out of Indianapolis we were swamped with stories about how voter turnout was the worst ever, or at least in recent history.  But was it?  No, it wasn't.

The 1995 Indianapolis Mayor's race featured Republican Steve Goldsmith running for re-election against Democrat Z. Mae Jimison.  Jimison was never a favorite of the Democratic establishment and the party made little effort to help her in the election.  (Very much like
this year and the Republicans lack of assistance to their nominee, Chuck Brewer.)  The lack of effort was noted by the voters, when only 116,307 voters came to the polls. 

In contrast, 150,451 voters came to the polls in 2015.  That's an increase in the number of voters by 29.3% at the same time the adult population in Marion County increased only 10.9% (631,557 in 1995 to 700,682 in 2015).  How then did 2015 get labeled as the lowest turnout ever?

It is because turnout is based on total registrations not the adult population in that area.  Registration numbers in recent years have become grossly inflated.  The reason is that, in 1993, the Democratic Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act.  The bill, dubbed "The Motor Voter Bill," not only allowed for easier registration, it eliminated automatic purges for non-voting.   While the law and its progeny allowed counties and states to clean up their voter registration rolls that became increasingly filled with dead voters and those who had moved, that process has proven to be cumbersome and expensive. Indiana is one of the worst states at keeping its voter registration rolls clean, and has been a target of litigation because of it.

In 1995, there were 438,755 voters registered in Marion County, 69.5% of the adult population.  By 2015, that number had soared to 663,209 or 94.5%. 

Yes, supposedly 94.5% of adults who live in Marion County are registered to vote.  Does anyone actually believe that?  Well, believe it or not, our voter turnout rates are based on the assumption that 94.5% of the adults who live in Marion County could have went to the polls on November 3rd and cast a vote.

If you look at voting turnout compared to the adult population ("real turnout"), you see a different story when it comes to registration.  While 2015 is definitely a low turnout year (21.5%), turnout in 1995 was actually much lower (18.4%).  The highest real turnout in the last 25 years was in 1991 (32.8%), followed by 1999 (30.6%) and 2011 (26.5%).

Contrary to Democrats' claims there doesn't seem to be any turnout trend associated with Indiana photo ID requirement (passed in 2005 but not implemented until 2008) or other supposed restrictions on voting. The only thing apparent from the data is that registration has soared at the same time as official turnout (as opposed to real turnout) has decreased.  Someday the media might connect the two.

Here is a table on the data I collected.  I did not include all the population data I used in my calculations.  The census data though is readily available with a google search.

Year Total Voters Reg. Reg. Rate Total Vote Turnout Real Turnout
2015 663,209 94.5% 150,451 22.7% 21.5%
2011 604,429 88.5% 181,220 30.0% 26.5%
2007 630,993 95.8% 181,220 26.3% 25.2%
2003 561,047 86.4% 150,440 26.8% 23.2%
1999 532,736 82.8% 196,983 37.0% 30.6%
1995 438,755 69.5% 116,307 26.5% 18.4%
1991 417,502 68.6% 199,719 47.8% 32.8%

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Defeat of Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a Lesson for Hoosiers as State Considers Similar Legislation

The Houston Chronicle reports:
Houston's controversial equal rights ordinance [known as "HERO"] failed by a wide margin Tuesday, with voters opting to repeal the law that offered broad non-discrimination protections, according to incomplete and unofficial returns.
The ordinance bans discrimination based not just on gender identity and sexual orientation, but also 13 classes already protected under federal law: sex, race, color,
Houston Mayor Annise Parker
ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.
Businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing and city contracting are all subject to the law and face up to $5,000 in fines for violations. Religious institutions, however, are exempt. The ordinance was in effect for only three months between extensive legal challenges.
Political scientists expected the law to drive turnout, though without complete results it's not clear to what extent that has happened.  But in early voting, approximately 130,000 city voters cast ballots, more than doubling pre-election day turnout in Houston's last open-seat mayor's race six years ago.
While Texas is heavily Republican, Houston is a liberal oasis.  It s a solidly Democratic city led by an openly gay mayor, Annise Parker.  Parker made headlines earlier this year demanding that churches which opposed HERO, produce copies of their sermons.   Denounced nationally for her perceived attack on local religious leaders, Mayor Parker eventually withdrew the demand.  Despite Houston's heavy Democratic leanings, HERO failed by a 60-40 margin.

If an expansion of civil rights fails in liberal Houston, it seems less than clear that it would prevail in conservative Indiana.  But unlike Houston, the issue in Indiana will probably be decided by elected officials rather than considered directly by the voters at the polls.  Ironically Republican Governor Mike Pence, the scourge of the LGBT community because of his support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was perceived (wrongly) as allowing sexual orientation discrimination, might actually be that community's best hope for the expansion.  Reportedly Governor Pence is eyeing a compromise on the issue, undoubtedly as a political strategy to take the issue of the plate for the election so the Governor can focus solely on economic issues  But the strategy may well backfire by alienating Pence's socially conservative political base and causing many Republican legislators to face primary challenges.

HERO enjoyed nearly unanimous support of the Houston big business community, yet failed big time.  While the political opinions of corporate CEOs might have influence with elected officials, it does not appear that they have any influence whatsoever with voters.  In fact, corporate leaders involvement in contentious social issues often backfires as voters see their efforts as extortion and bullying.  The voters' contempt is understandable because at the same time the CEOs are issuing threats if certain positions aren't taken on social issues, they are demanding that taxpayers heavily subsidize their corporate expansion and relocation decisions.

In a related story, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce today announced its support of an expansion of the state's civil rights law:
“We believe this expansion is a necessary action for the General Assembly to take,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “After the negative perception of our state generated by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the spring, we need to get this right in order to secure the reputation of Indiana as a hospitable and welcoming place.
“The time has come for Indiana to expand protections against potential discrimination. This action will increase the state’s future business competitiveness in the recruitment, attraction and retention of talent, as well as enhance respect for all employers and employees. We encourage our state leaders to work together to take this next critical step."
Of course, the Chamber is a major supporter of big business (and corporate welfare) so the announcement is not a surprise.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Random Observations About the Indianapolis Municipal Elections

I missed five council predictions last night, a subpar performance no doubt.  I'm kicking myself mostly on the predictions that Councilor Jeff Miller and Councilor Janice McHenry would lose re-election.  While Miller is in in a slightly Democratic district and the McHenry in a district that shifts from strong Democrat to marginally Republican in low turnout elections, I focused too much on the numbers and not on the strength of those particular candidates.  One thing that makes prognosticating difficult in these type of races is that while it's easy to ascertain baseline numbers and guess as to top of the ticket influences on the races, it is difficult to know the work the parties' candidates did in those districts, absent actually living in those districts.

The loss by Republican councilors Lutz and Hunter was pretty unexpected.  Especially Lutz's district was at best a secondary target for Democrats.  I also missed the Fanning-Tew race but I don't feel bad about predicting Tew would win that.   Only a couple hundred votes separated the two candidates.

What did we learn from the Marion County-Indianapolis election results last night?  A lot.
Indianapolis Mayor-Elect
Joe Hogsett

1)  Turnout - Too much is made about the total turnout.  Having a low turnout (22.69%) certainly didn't help the Republican candidate for Mayor Chuck Brewer who lost by a shocking 62% to 38%.   On turnout, what is really important is which party gets its people to the polls.  While the Democrats didn't turn out in any great numbers, it appears the Republicans did even worse getting voters to the polls. (See #4)

2) Hogsett is a good candidate - One of the GOP selling points (and not one than anyone outside of
GOP circles cared about) is that Hogsett is a failed candidate who loses virtually every race he runs for.  Hogsett has run for four races and was a huge underdog in every one of them.  Despite that he did win one of them - the Secretary of State's Office against the very popular Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut.  Two of the other years he ran turned out to be huge Republican years.  That Hogsett was willing to take on tough electoral challenges for his party doesn't make him a loser.  It makes him a loyal Democrat and even this Republican respects that.

3) Hogsett and the Democrats blew big type opportunities - Although basking in the glory of Hogsett's victory and control of the council, the Democratic Party had plenty of opportunities to win even more seats on the council and blew virtually all of them.  Hogsett could have used his popularity to make the case for Democratic candidates running in close races.  Democrats could have run much better individual council campaigns that made a persuasive case why the Republican candidates, particularly incumbents, should not be elected.  Neither happened.  In the end it took a candidate the Democratic leadership refused to slate - Jared Evans - to bail the Democrats.

4) The Marion County Republican Party is on life support - There is no local Republican organization to speak of anymore.  It used to be Republican party workers covered virtually every polling place. No more.  But what is shocking is that the GOP electorate in the county continues to erode. Consider this... Joe Hogsett's vote total was only about 8,000 more than losing Melina Kennedy's vote total of 84,993 four years ago.  The difference in the race was that the Republican mayoral vote total that year was 92,525.  Republican Brewer only managed 56,662.  That is a 35,863 vote or 39% decrease.  Where did those Republicans go?   They certainly didn't go to Hogsett in substantial numbers or his vote totals would have been much higher Those Republicans either stayed home or they're moving out of the county.

5) Chuck Brewer got used -  Brewer joins the long line of high level "for show only" candidates recruited by Marion County GOP leadership.  I think the plan all along was to not run a competitive mayor's race in the hopes of depressing Democratic turnout enough to win down ballot council races.  The strategy almost worked.  Of course that sort of strategy undermines the effort to rebuild the Republican brand in Marion County, but that is a problem for the next Marion County GOP chairman.

6) Unslated candidates can be the best general election candidates - Both Democrat Jared Evans and Republican Christine Scales took on their party leadership's slated candidates and beat them in the primary.    It appears that the voters in those districts appreciated the independent-minded Evans and Scales who refused to kow-tow to their party bosses.

7)  Democrats need to stop whining about council redistricting - Although I certainly don't agree with the court decision that upheld the David Brooks lame duck redistricting of the council, the fact is the Brooks' map gave the Democrats scores of opportunities to win the council and they pulled it off despite themselves.  Brooks drew a 15-10 Republican map. It turned out to be 13-12 Democrat.  The Brooks' map put Republicans (with the exception of the Mascari race) completely on the defensive in race after race. The Democrats didn't fully take advantage of that as they proceeded to lose virtually every competitive seat.

Enough for now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Republican Success in Off Year Elections Continue As Tea Party Bevin Wins Kentucky Governor's Race

Kentucky Governor-Elect
Matt Bevin
Republican Matt Bevin, the Tea Party favorite who lost to Kentucky Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the GOP Senate primary in 2014, has been elected Governor.  Bevin won the primary by only 83 votes and most polls showed state Attorney  General Jack Conway winning.  He will be only the second Republican Governor in Kentucky in four decades, the third since World War II.

The victory now gives the Republicans control of 32 state governor's offices.  Democrats will be down to 17 governors after Bevin is sworn in. There is also on independent governor, Bill Walker of Alaska.

This evening Republicans appear poised to continue its control of 69 of 99 state legislative chambers as well as complete control (all state legislative chambers and governor's office) in 24 states, including Indiana.  While the Democrats were expected to have a shot at picking up the state senate in Virginia, those hopes appear to be dashed this evening with the Democrats losing a key race.

The Difficulty of Predicting the 2015 Indianapolis Elections

Over at Advance Indiana, blogger Gary Welsh is predicting that Republicans hold onto control of the Indianapolis-Marion County council due to low turnout. He astutely notes the missed opportunities for the Indy mayoral campaigns of Democrat Joe Hogsett and Chuck Brewer:
If Democrats fail to win control of the City-County Council or win the mayor's race by a
significant percentage, there will be a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing in Democratic circles. Some critics are already blaming Hogsett's campaign for taking black voters for granted. Hogsett's strategy clearly was focused on winning over voters who like the job Ballard has been doing for the past 8 years as opposed to winning over those who see many shortcomings in Ballard's two-term tenure. Many blacks have felt slighted by Ballard for the past 8 years, but knowledgeable sources say Hogsett failed to tap into their deep discontent towards the current city administration. Hogsett never once criticized Ballard's record as mayor, and he and his Republican opponent, Chuck Brewer, appeared to agree on every major issue discussed during the campaign....
Brewer's greatest failing has been his inability to distinguish himself from his Democratic opponent. Although he's been a resident of Indianapolis for only four years and has never run for political office before, he spent much of the campaign hitching himself to Ballard's coattails and trying to connect to political insiders, while Hogsett, the insider's insider, spent the last two months of the campaign trying to cast himself as an outsider who would take on the downtown insiders.,,,
Brewer's failures as a candidate I attribute to his simply not understanding the political game.  Given voter disaffection with the current administration, particularly among conservatives who feel Ballard completely abandoned his 2007 promises, he should have firmly established himself as independent-minded, someone who would take the city in a different direction.  Hogsett's failure I attribute to a candidate who was playing it safe, not wanting to rile the Republicans into aggressively challenging what appeared to be his inevitable election.  The problem with Hogsett's strategy is that it doesn't encourage Democrats to go to the poll and may well result in Republicans winning the council.

Gary's detailed crunching of the turnout numbers and turnout's effect on results is excellent analysis.  Where we differ (he predicts Republicans to win a majority on the council, while I predict the Democrats will win) is I try to account for the county trending more and more Democrat. Since the 2011 municipal elections we have had two elections (2012 and 2014) in which the GOP has not been competitive in Marion County.  Evidence of that change is that while Republican operative David Brooks drew the new council districts using 2010 midterm election baselines, the 2014 election results show that in 17 of the 25 council districts the GOP baseline declined.  Most of those were in competitive Republican-leaning districts.

It's not that I don't have doubts about my weekend predictions.  I might be wrong on Republican councilor Janice Shattuck retaining her northwest side district which is heavily Democrat during presidential election years.  I might also be wrong about Democratic councilor Frank Mascari winning his Beech Grove area district.   Those predictions, and my guess that Republican councilor Jeff Miller will lose re-election in his near southside district, cause me the most concern.  All three races I have breaking for Democrats.  If I'm wrong on those three races, it is likely that Republicans retain control of the council.

Oh, well, election predictions are about fun and entertainment.  I'm just glad people generally forget my predictions the next day.  The exception is 2007, when I predicted the win by Republican Greg Ballard, GOP control of the council and that the at-large districts would be split between the Rs and Ds. (I predicted 2-2 and it was 3-1 in favor of Democrats Republicans.)  I wish people would remember my predictions that year.

Ben Carson Leads NBC/WSJ Poll

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has pulled out to a six point lead, 29-23 over Donald Trump.

It marks the second recent national poll to show Carson leading Trump.  A third poll by Investors Business Daily in early November also shows Carson leading.  A newer IBD poll though showed
Ben Carson
Trump regaining that lead, ahead of Carson by 5 points.

In the WSJ/NBC poll Florida Senator Marco Rubio places third with 11% and Texas Senator Ted Cruz with 10%.  Jeb Bush is 5th with 8%.  No other candidate polls more than 3%.  Other details on the poll will be released at midnight.

Polling by WSJ/NBC shows that support for Carson has tripled since July.

While much of Carson's phenomenon appears to be Trump voters switching to the much more reserved physician, Carson's support seems to be broader than that.  An NBC/WSJ poll in late July showed Carson and Trump getting a combined 29% of the vote.   That rose to 41% in a poll two months later and then 47% in a subsequent NBC/WSJ poll.  With the most recent poll, the combined Carson/Trump numbers stand at 51%.  Meanwhile outsiders Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina have increased their combined numbers, driven by Cruz's improved numbers.

While Rubio is sitting in a prime position to win the nomination, the anti-establishment, outsider Republican vote appears to be holding strong. At some point, Rubio, a former Tea Party candidate who alienated many on the right by supporting comprehensive immigration reform, will have to find a way to unify the two factions of the GOP.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Turnout in Indianapolis (Marion County) Elections

Here are the turnout numbers for the last six municipal elections in Indianapolis (Marion County) according to the Marion County Clerk's website:

2011  29.98%
2007  26.32%
2003  26.81%
1999  36.18%
1995  26.57%
1991  47.84%

The figures show there was a substantial drop in turnout between 1991 and the years that followed.  However, the untold story is how Indiana's inflated voter registration rolls make turnout appear lower than it actually is.  In 1991, there were 417,512 people registered in the county.  Twenty years later, in 2011, there were 604,429 voters registered, an increase of nearly 45% which is far above the county's 13% increase in population during that time.  The difference is a direct result of Congress in 1993 passing the Motor Voter Bill which eliminated automatic purges for not voting and made it much more difficult for states to eliminate deceased voters and those that who have moved.   Indiana has been one of the worst states in the country in terms of cleaning up voter registration rolls, making the state's turnout numbers appear much worse than they actually are.

I do expect that the turnout numbers on Tuesday to be less than 25%.  The top of the ticket drives turnout and this appears to be the least competitive mayor's race since 1995 when Republican Steve Goldsmith ran for re-election against Democrat Z. Mae Jimison.

Struggle With Turnout? Try Shaming People Into Voting

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Vote or face public shaming.
That’s essentially the message from several last-minute mail pieces landing in the mailboxes of Indianapolis residents ahead of Election Day.    
The most recent is a mystery mailer that threatens to expose people who don’t vote. It's apparently an attempt to get out the vote for the Indianapolis mayor and council races. Turnout is expected to be low, so both parties are trying to make sure their voters show
up at the polls. 
“What will your neighbors think,” the mail piece asks in big, bold letters. The dominant image is a man peering through a set of blinds.
The back of the flier purports to show the voting record of the recipient and two neighbors.
“Your voting history is public record,” the mailer says. “An updated report will be mailed to you and your neighbors following the 2015 General Election. The updated report will show who in your neighborhood did their civic duty.”
It’s the same basic message the Indiana Democratic Party sent to potential Indianapolis voters last week. Republicans criticized that mailer as an attempt to intimidate voters.
“This is something unique. I’ve never seen this tactic before. It’s very aggressive and again, I think it’s intimidating to most voters and maybe even a little creepy,” Marion County Republican Party Chairman Kyle Walker told Fox59.
But the new piece appears to have GOP ties.
While the responsible party is not identified, postage information shows it was sent through Gridiron Communications, a direct mail firm that frequently does mail pieces for the Indiana Republican Party and other GOP candidates.
A copy  of the mailer obtained by The Star was sent to a voter in a predominately Republican area of the city.
This is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate voters.  While this appears to be Republican-inspired, Democrats have done the same thing.  Both parties need to knock off this nonsense. I agree with Andy Downs, political science professor at IUPU-Fort Wayne who said this creepy approach to turning out voters is unlikely to be successful:
“It’s Big Brother stuff. It’s peeping tom stuff,” he said. “I don’t know that this shame tactic works. I think this is as likely to discourage turnout as it is to encourage it.”