Monday, May 01, 2006

Primary Races To Watch

Advance Indiana will be watching results from several key primary races tomorrow to give us a sense of: how strong the anti-incumbent mood is this year; the strength of party endorsement; and the influence of the religious right.

In the race for 7th District Congress, party influence is at stake. On the Democrat side, 10-year veteran Rep. Julia Carson faces 4 primary opponents, including a well-financed, openly gay candidate, Kris Kiser. There is no question that Carson will win the primary; the question is by how much. Given her party support, name recognition and years of service, she should have no problem capturing 75-80% of the primary vote. Carson's ability to turn out votes is legendary. If her vote percentage falls much below that mark, it could be an indication that there is an anti-incumbent sentiment more than an indication of weakness in the Marion Co. Democratic organization.

There are 4 candidates running for 7th District Congress on the Republican side, but only two are serious candidates. The party has slated Ron Franklin, a former city-county councilor with a very troubled past, including a criminal conviction for firing a handgun at a loaded truck of people. Successful automobile dealer Eric Dickerson has mounted an impressive campaign without any official party support. If Dickerson defeats Franklin, this will be a sure sign of the continuing decline of the once-venerable Marion Co. GOP organization.

There are two state senate races on the Republican side we will be watching. The obvious race is Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton's race against new-comer Greg Walker. While Walker has had some last-minute success in fundraising to mount a direct mail and radio ad attack against Garton for his role in preserving the self-serving health insurance for life legislative perk, it may have been too little too late to make a difference with District 41 voters in the Columbus area. If Garton loses this race, this will insure that the Senate Republicans will move sharply to right in their leadership.

A factor which may aid Walker is the support he is getting from right to life and other religious right groups and the work these groups are doing in an overlapping house district to aid Rep. Woody Burton, who is fighting for his political life against Ron West. A Burton loss to West will likely be attributed to an anti-incumbent sentiment. A Burton win will likely be attributed to his support among the Christian right. If the religious right turns out in big numbers for Burton, that could spell defeat for Garton.

Sen. Allen Paul is facing a very strong challenge from Bruce Wissel. As with Sen. Garton's race, a loss by Paul might signal an anti-incumbent mood among voters.

There are 3 Republican house district races to keep an eye on where incumbments face serious primary opponents. In northern Indiana, Rep. Mary Kay Budak is in a very tough race against Tom Dermody, and Rep. Phyllis Pond faces a challenge from Denny Worman, whose father served in the Senate. In the Evansville area, Rep. Suzanne Crouch faces a challenge from a big pro-life candidate Jonathan Fulton. In each of these races, a loss by the incumbent would move the House Republicans ideologically further to the right, if that is possible. A win by the challengers will be claimed as a win by the Christian right; however, issues such as daylight savings time and Major Moves, two controversial issues in these regions, might say as much about the success or failure of the incumbents.

If you're looking for a race that might be decided on the DST issue, watch the race between Rep. Rich McClain and challenger Richard Eller in the Logansport area. Eller, who was once a McClain supporter, launched his bid against McClain because of his vote for DST. Previously, McClain had taken a position in opposition to DST.

We're not expecting an upset in Rep. Mike Murpy's District 90 race tomorrow against two primary opponents, but we are going to be watching it. He really has just one opponent, Brian Canter; the other candidate was asked by Murphy to run in order to split the votes of anti-incumbent voters. If Murphy manages a win with anything less than 60% of the vote, that will signal a strong anti-incumbent sentiment in Marion Co., as well as an indication of a weakened GOP party. Afterall, Murphy is the county chairman, and if can get party workers to do anything, it should be to get him re-elected.

The only judicial race we will be watching is on the Democratic side for Marion Superior Court. There are 12 candidates, including the 9 slated by the Democratic Party. One of the slated candidates is Becky Pierson-Treacy, wife of county chairman Ed Treacy. Karen Celestino-Horseman, a former city councilor, is mounting a strong outsider campaign against the slate and is getting a lot of support from the GLBT community. The candidates in this race are listed in alphabetical order as are all the races on the ballot, with LilaBerdia Batties listed at the top of the list. She received the lowest rating from the Indianapolis Bar Association, and she was not slated by the party. Being first on a list of candidates this long cannot hurt. This race will be a true test of the strength of the Democratic Party in Marion Co.


Anonymous said...

Good summary...tomorrow will be an interesting day.

My only quibble is with your statement that Major Moves and DST are significant issues in the Evansville race.

In reality, neither issue is particularly controversial here. We've been on DST since time immemorial, and support for Major Moves is probably higher here than in almost any other region due to the I-69 angle.

My prediction: Crouch wins, but not by much.

Advance Indiana said...

Your point is well taken--I think my comment is more appropriate for the Budak and Pond races. I had thought the issue of making the new I-69 a toll road might not be so popular there.