Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Indianapolis and Hamilton County Election Takeaways

Yesterday, Indiana held municipal elections across the state.  Here are my thoughts on the the election results in Indianapolis (Marion County) and Hamilton County:
  • Death of the Marion County GOP:  The once great Marion County Republican Party has been struggling for awhile, but there was always hope.  Yesterday that hope was extinguished. The GOP won 12 of the 25 Indianapolis city-county council seats in 2015.  Yesterday, the GOP
    won just 5 of the 25 seats.  My warning that only Republican council candidates with districts south of Washington Street might survive the council election turned out to be deadly accurate.  If that wasn't bad enough, two of the winning Republican candidates narrowly won their southside districts.
  • Marion County Supplants Lake County as Most Democratic County:  Last night, incumbent Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett won 72% of the vote versus the Republican challenger State Senator Jim Merritt's 27%.   Democrats running countywide in Lake County regularly beat Republicans by 2-1 margins.  While the high profile Indianapolis Mayor's race is not the best one for measuring a partisan baseline, that race along with the council races suggest Marion may now be the most Democratic-leaning county in the state.  Move over Lake County.
  • Hamilton County Democratic Party Scores Council Wins:  The good, no great, news for the Hamilton County Democratic Party is that it won a council seat in Carmel as well as a district and at-large seat in Fishers.   But the Democrats gave up the opportunity for a majority of the six person Fishers council when it fielded only one candidate in the three person at-large race. (I know this might have been part of a deliberate strategy to get the one candidate elected, but don't think there is much data to show that strategy actually works.)
  • Hamilton County Democratic Party Blows Mayoral Opportunities:  Looking at the 2018 numbers, I knew the Democrats could run competitive mayoral elections in Carmel and Fishers in 2019.  But the Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Joseph Weingarten apparently couldn't find candidates for the mayoral slots, leaving the Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness unopposed in their bids for re-election.  The 2019 election results show Fadness in particular could have been beaten.  In my original analysis, I forgot to consider Westfield where Republican Andy Cook was running for re-election in that city.  Cook had no Democratic challenger, only a Libertarian opponent...who received an incredible 39% of the vote.  Cook is, obviously, an unpopular mayor but the Democrats can't win with nobody on the ballot.
  • Marion County/Hamilton County Developments Could Spell Trouble for Statewide GOP Candidates:  If the state's largest county (Marion) is suddenly 70% plus Democrat and the formerly state's most Republican county (Hamilton) is no longer providing huge GOP margins, can statewide Republican candidates continue to win statewide elections?  Probably ... as long as rest of the Indianapolis donut counties continue to provide GOP votes. Haven't studied the results in Boone, Hendricks, Johnson, etc. yet, but my guess is their shift in the Democratic direction is much slower than Hamilton County.  
  • Trumpism's Damage to GOP Brand is Real:  Several of my fellow Republicans warned in 2016 that if the GOP nominated such a disreputable character as Donald J. Trump, Trumpism would come to define and harm the Republican brand.  That damage was on display in the 2018 election results and now once again in 2019.  Possibly that damage is temporary, but my guess is it is long term and will take a generation from which to recover.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Christine Scales, Indianapolis' Finest Public Servant, is Not on Today's Ballot

After receiving a lot of positive feedback for the race I ran trying to unseat then State Rep. Jeb Bardon from a Pike Township based seat in 2000, I was persuaded by a couple state representatives to run for Marion County Clerk.  Months into that endeavor, in the midst of attending scores of Republican meetings across the county, I received a call from a high level Marion County GOP operative.  He told me that party leadership would be supporting my GOP slating opponent because I
"could not be controlled." While I might vote the way Marion County GOP leaders wanted 90% of the time, they wanted someone who will support them 100%, even when what they wanted wasn't in the public's best interest.

It was probably about that time frame, 2001-2002, that I met  Christine Scales at a Washington Township GOP meeting.  Christine was later elected to her northside Washington Township city-county council district in 2007, serving three terms.  Christine Scales proved be a tireless public servant who always insists on putting the best interests of her constituents first, even when her party's leadership wanted her to vote the other direction.  In short, Christine was the elected official who "could not be controlled" by party bosses.

Okay, "tireless" may not be the right term.  No doubt that after three terms of non-stop fighting on behalf of her constituents, Christine is, understandably, very tired.  For 12 years she has been a flurry of activity.  Her chief interest has always been public safety.  I remember well her fight to ensure northside residents had sufficient fire coverage when the city tried to eliminate a ladder truck.  She also has been a good friend to law enforcement, fighting to ensure they had the resources and equipment to make Indianapolis neighborhoods safer.

What I like most about Christine though is that she has always been a straight shooter.  She always is willing to tell you what she thinks and if her words step on some political toes in the process, so be it.  And Christine has stepped on a whole lot of toes while in office.

To understand the arc of Christine's political career requires an understanding of Indianapolis/Marion County politics.  Although party control in the county has gradually shifted from Republican to Democrat these past few decades, it has always been developers, contractors, and big law firms who have called the shots.  If there is some project that will result in taxpayer money ending up in the pockets of these powerful special interests, you can bet that the project will be supported by Indianapolis' political leaders, regardless of the party.  Even when the Indianapolis GOP faces a drubbing at the polls, which will most surely happen today, you don not see Republican mayor or council candidates speaking out for Indy residents against the wishes of  those special interests.  It is a line that candidates, even those facing sure defeat, will not cross.

Christine never got that memo.  Or more likely, knowing her, she did get the memo and threw it in the trash.  Regardless, Christine went about doing her job, fighting for constituents and getting re-elected by voters who liked and appreciated her putting community service ahead of special interests.

Proposal 364, which is one of the last measures Christine initiated on the Council, is emblematic of her work.  During her time in office, Christine attended scores of committee meetings in which advocates for various proposals would blindside councilors with reams of documents filled with stats and data for why the councilor should support, or oppose, some measure.  Naturally, councilors presented with the documents for the first time at the committee meeting do not have the time it to digest the information (considering in the process its veracity as well as alternative information), prior to casting a vote on the measure under consideration.  Proposal 364 is a good government measure aimed at requiring that those documents be provided to councilors 48 hours in advance of the committee meeting.  If the documents are not provided in a timely fashion, Christine's measure provides that a committee vote can be taken to delay consideration of the proposal until the next scheduled meeting.

While Proposal 364 passed out of committee unanimously, council leaders have apparently stalled the measure, quite possibly as a final personal affront to Christine who to the very end insists of putting her constituents ahead of Indy's special interests who exercise the political clout in the city.

During Christine's last term in office, she switched her partisanship from Republican to Democrat.  But, regardless of what party she affiliated with, she always put the voters first.   Thank you, Christine, for all you did and tried to do.  Indianapolis is better off because of your service.