Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Hamilton County Democrats Drop the Ball in Carmel Mayor's Race

Last night Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard won the Republican nomination in his effort to secure a seventh term this Fall.  Brainard was opposed by Fred Glynn, a member of the Hamilton County Council.  Glynn ran as a fiscal conservative, highlighting Carmel's substantial debt in his pitch to voters.

Although Brainard won, a major takeaway of the night is that over 45% of the Carmel GOP voted against him and for his opponent, Glynn.

An incumbent winning a close primary does not mean much when the incumbent's party dominates the electoral district.    But when the opposing party has a substantial base in the district, dissension within the majority party, as reflected by a close primary, can be successfully exploited.

Looking at the 2018 numbers, it would appear that the Democratic baseline in Carmel is now up to 41%.   While the lower turnout in a municipal election will probably hurt that number, the Democrats still are within striking distance of scoring an upset in once heavily Republican Carmel.  This is especially true given the unpopularity of the Brainard among Republicans, a fact demonstrated by Glynn's performance against the incumbent mayor.

So who won the Democratic nomination for Carmel Mayor last night?  No one.  No Democrat filed to run.

Now, I know the law allows Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Joe Weingarten to appoint a nominee post-primary to run against Brainard.  But that is not the same thing as having the nominee win a primary, even if the candidate is unopposed.  The primary provides a candidate a substantial amount of free publicity that is foolish to pass up.  Plus a mayoral primary would have encouraged Carmel Democrats to take an active role in their party, even if it is nothing more than showing up to vote in the party's primary. 

In 1986, I took a position as Pike Township (Marion County) precinct committeemen. Despite the fact we were regularly pummeling the Democrats by margins of 2-1, every election the Pike Township Democrats would field a full slate of sacrificial lambs candidates.  I considered the gesture futile. I was so wrong.  By steadfastly recruiting candidates, the Pike Township Democratic Party was creating and maintaining a partisan infrastructure that would help win future elections.  And boy did they win those elections  By 2000,  the numbers in Pike Township had dramatically shifted in the Democrats failure.  Within about a 12 year span, Pike Township went from 2-1 Republican to 2-1 Democrat.

The transformation that happened in Pike Township appears to be going on in Hamilton County, especially in the more populated sections of that county, such as the cities of Carmel and Fishers.  Democrats dropped the ball big time in failing to field a mayoral candidate not only in Carmel, but Fishers as well. Candidate recruitment is the No. 1 task in building and maintaining a partisan organization.  A party which fails to field primary candidates becomes an irrelevancy.

Democrats would have been wise to recruit a fiscally conservative candidate to run for Carmel Mayor, a candidate who could have exploited Brainard's weakness with his own party.  And the State Democratic Party would have been wise to invest money in the race.  A funded and competitive Carmel Mayoral candidate would have energized Carmel Democrats and helped the Hamilton County Democratic Party build the infrastructure necessary to be a more competitive political organization going into the 2020 election.  If Democrats win the governorship in 2020 (which is definitely within range), the party is going to have to continue to improve its margins in populous suburban counties such as Hamilton County.


Leon Dixon said...

That is a better argument than "demographics" that is usually made by the brain dead. The criticism of "leadership" in serially failing to recruit good candidates winds up with the embarrassment of the County Chair having to run for Mayor. A series of inept to incompetent previous R chairs can also accept their role as wreckers of their party. As for fiscally conservative Democrats I think you can find lots of them in the Hamilton County Unicorn Park

Anonymous said...

Amen and Amen.

Unknown said...

If the Democrats find a strong candidate it won't make a nickel's worth of difference in November. The real lost opportunity is for the Republicans who can't seem to put forth a candidate who can excite enough voters to generate a turnout above 20%

Anonymous said...

Democrats are planting their flag on Communism Hill. They have no desire for local races where even if they won, they couldn’t implement their wealth redistribution programs.