In a rare joint blogging venture I asked Chris Worden of Indy’s Painfully Objective Political Analysis to tag team with me in covering the local slating conventions of both the Marion County Democratic and Republican parties. He hung out with the Democrats while I was with the GOP. His comments appear right after mine.
It Really Was A Grand Old Party
Whenever I want to gauge the mindset of a political operation, I look for little signs that act as canaries in the coal mine. For the Marion County GOP , it was the slating contest for Indiana House District 99, the seat currently held by Vanessa Summers. There was actually a contest between two candidates to take on an incumbent who won by 88 percent the last time around and there was only a Libertarian on the ballot against her.
That tells me the local GOP is caught up in the national fever that will make this a tough year for Democrats nationwide. I also spoke to individuals who want to challenge long-time Democratic politicos like Bill Crawford and Greg Porter. Can they win? Maybe, maybe not, but what it does tell me is that if the GOP is willing to run into such hostile territory, and spend real time, energy and effort it forces the opposition to defend turf it isn’t used to defending and it puts a strain on resources that could be used somewhere else. If this strategy sounds familiar it’s the same one that was done by the Obama campaign in 2008.
At the top of the ticket, the good news for Republicans is that their precinct committeemen were very excited about the candidacies of Mark Massa for prosecutor and Dennis Fishburn for Sheriff (he beat Bart McAtee and Steve Davis) and Carlos May for the 7th District.
In the race for prosecutor, I argue the controversies surrounding Carl Brizzi’s exit and Helen Marchal’s entrance and sudden exit were actually good for the party. It had held the prosecutor’s office for 16 years and was starting to get somewhat complacent. There’s nothing like a smack in the back of the head by the winds of political fortune to make you get off your rear and get your act together. I doubt the Democrats plan to attack Massa as a “puppet of the Governor” will get much traction, as the Governor’s approval ratings are at about 70 percent in Indianapolis. Also, unlike Marchal, Massa doesn’t have the baggage that comes along with being part of the Brizzi administration. He also gave a speech that was well-received by delegates.
Dennis Fishburn should prove to be an interesting candidate against John Layton. While Layton has the backing of the Sheriff and County party, there are some potential landmines out there which could put his candidacy in a tailspin. Fishburn will mainly have to worry for now if McAtee will use his resources to run against the slate.
For May, running in the 7th is always an uphill battle for Republicans, however in this climate no one should take anything for granted nor for a lost cause. It will be interesting to see how May taps into the Latino vote in Marion County and whether that is enough to change any dynamics in an off-year election.
Speaking of minorities, I have covered the last five slating conventions and have never seen one with so many people of color and under 40. It is definitely not your father’s Republican party.
Overall, my assessment for the local GOP is that they are energized and ready for battle, which they will need in a county that tends to favor the other side. If they can pack the ballots like they did their convention hall, they should do just fine.
Democratic Slating Convention Notes
Democrats packed the Indiana State Fairground today for their slating convention. Every seat was full and the walls were lined, which was surprising since the only contested races were for two township offices and a state rep slot. In short, if the Democratic Party is supposed to be on its heels, somebody forgot to tell Marion County.
The voting portion got off to a rousing start when beloved labor leader, Bob Voorhies (the husband of Marion County Recorder Julie Voorhies and the father of state representative candidate Brett Voorhies), rose to make a motion to accept by acclimation a slate of uncontested candidates – Terry Curry for Prosecutor, John Clayton for Sheriff, Beth White for Clerk, Julie Voorhies for Recorder, and Billie Breaux for Auditor.
Voorhies punched the air prize-fighter style, which prompted a roar from the crowd, as he told all he was in a battle with stage-four cancer. Voorhies said he would ignore doctors advice and go door-to-door to defeat the GOP.
Former state rep and prosecutor candidate David Orentlicher then delivered a brief “seconding speech,” that contained a strong plug for Curry. David O. stepped aside last week and endorsed Curry, which lets you know there are certain privileges to be had if you make nice with the party).
Voting was completed with impressive efficiency and results were known quickly.
By a 39-1 vote, Voorhies won the right to challenge incumbent Republican Phil Hinkle in House District 92, wich covers Wayne and Pike Townships and the town of Speedway, where Brett has been a lifetime resident. Hinkle will have his hands full in November.
In Warren Township, Garland Graves, the former assistant corporation counsel for Mayor Bart Peterson and current Warren Township court administrator, defeated attorney Todd Woodmansee, 48-16. Graves got a big push from the endorsement of Marion County Clerk Beth White, and his long-term relationships with party folk paid dividends.
Graves said he was extremely humbled by the support he received today, and added that he would employ a grass-roots, door-to-door strategy. Woodmansee promptly congratulated Graves and vowed to support his effort.
The Warren Township race became a two-man fight when incumbent Ricardo Rivera did not file for re-election. Rivera’s mother’s illness and her subsequent passing last month made it impossible for him to campaign in the way he needed to retain the seat. Our sympathies go out to Judge Rivera.
In Lawrence Township, Judie Conley, the wife of former city-county councilor “King Ro” Conley (who I’m told wants his seat back), defeated political newcomer Jackie Butler, 33-16.
Without impugning the credentials of Graves or Conley, some party folk I spoke with were concerned about lack of enthusiasm and ballot fatigue among African-American voters with all-white township tickets in areas that are increasingly diverse. The fact that Warren Township Trustee Jeff Bennett’s victory in 2006 didn’t come until a recount challenge would certainly have impressed on folks the need to get voters excited about the township ticket. The same could be said for Lawrence.
Consensus among precinct committeepersons today though, was that the biggest “problem” was too many good candidates.
Other notes of interest…
Marion County Prosecutor candidate Greg Bowes was on-hand, though he opted not to participate in the slating process. Bowes has stated emphatically that he will stay in the race until the party’s primary voters tell him to exit. (Look for a May checkout).
Also on hand was newly-announced Mayoral candidate Ron Gibson. I observed Gibson for a long while, and while he was greeted warmly by a few folks, he also spent a lot of time looking like a man lost in a crowded airport. On one occasion, a lady who was seated waved to a man several rows back. Gibson waved back enthusiastically before realizing the wave was not intended for him. The reception didn’t seem to bode well for Gibson’s mayoral prospects.
Special thanks to Chris for agreeing to do this. Although we have differing political philosophies, I think he does the community a service when he presents his points of view on events.