So how did Marion County Democrats manage to lose the highest office a county where they have an inherent 10-point advantage over Republicans? That question is being asked in today Democratic circles and there apparently is a lot of blame being passed around and not a lot of responsibility being picked up.
Their candidate, Melina Kennedy, raised the money, issued the position papers, had the endorsements of the Indianapolis Star and Fraternal Order of Police, and she was very competitive with fundraising, yet when it was all said and done, for the second time, the voters took a bucket of water and dissolved her political ambitions like it a scene out of the Wizard of OZ.
Marion County Democratic Party (MCDP) Chairman Ed Treacy is reportedly blaming power broker Lacy Johnson and the Black ministers for failing to deliver the African-American vote. A good chunk of the he party faithful is blaming Treacy. MCDP Executive Director Adam Kirsch is blaming sexism.
Like I said, while there is probably a smorgasbord of blame to dish out, there was one main reason why Kennedy lost, she was not a very likeable individual. And at the end of the day, people vote for whom they like and against whom they can’t stand. While it may not seem like solid political theory from the Harvard School of Government, it has the inconvenient plus of being true. Kennedy just didn’t do it for the voters. In fact, had she been running at-large she would have come in third after John Barth and Pam Hickman. Voters want warm and fuzzy, with a good dose of smarts and toughness. They don’t want politically frigid candidates who can’t connect.
While Kennedy was a good speaker and debator, she never seemed to emotionally connect with voters. When she ran ads showing that she was a mom and she cared, the words seemed more forced and mechanical than anything else. She came across as your ex-girlfriend who would you take to a party, she would sit there, politely sip her drink, not finish it, and be ready to go home in an hour. The only time she ever showed any real emotion was in her concession speech where she fought to hold back tears.
Another reason for her unlikeability was that she also went negative early. Instead of telling voters what she would do, she attacked incumbent Greg Ballard, whom the polls shows had a 60-plus percent approval rating. This was clearly a race where voters did not like negative attacks and Kennedy went ugly early and unfortunately paid a price for it.
The more tough part about Kennedy’s loss is that this was her second one. She ran for County Prosecutor in 2006 and lost to Carl Brizzi. Ironically, the same person who ran Brizzi’s campaign at the time also ran incumbent Greg Ballard’s campaign. If she was hoping for vindication after being the only Democrat to lose in the 2006 wave, the only thing she got was confirmation, voters don’t like her.