Only a few weeks ago, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson seemed destined to win his third term with ease.
But then came the political firestorm produced by new, much higher property tax bills and an income tax increase of 65 percent. Yard signs soon popped up around town, declaring such things as "Bart Lies."
And now, as Peterson prepares to unveil his annual city budget today, even his staunchest supporters concede the road to re-election is likely to be a little bumpier than expected. How much bumpier? That depends on whether his Republican opponent, Greg Ballard, a political neophyte with little money and even less name recognition, can mount a credible campaign.
"Clearly, (Ballard) has been given a window of opportunity," said Bill Blomquist, a political scientist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "What's not clear is (whether Republicans) have got the resources in money, organization and candidate to use this opening to upset the mayor" . . . .
State Rep. John Day, a longtime Democratic lawmaker from Indianapolis who has been involved in elections here since 1974, said he's never seen this kind of anger.
"The mayor's election, once thought a foregone conclusion, is not now," Day said.
Even Peterson's campaign manager has noted the change. "Does this make it more difficult for him?" said Mike O'Connor, the former deputy mayor who is also chairman of the Marion County Democratic Party. "Absolutely."
As Schneider points out, some big-name Republicans are starting to throw money Greg Ballard's way to help him overcome Peterson's huge financial advantage with over $3 million in the bank. Schneider writes:
But Ballard's resources may improve, said Brose McVey, a Republican political insider and former congressional candidate.
"He is definitely getting a second look from folks who might have written this race off," he said. Rex Early, a former Indiana GOP chairman and longtime activist, is among them. He said he hadn't given money to Ballard but will now. He's sending a $1,000 check.
"I'm going to get a little more involved," he said. "And I've heard other people say they're going to get more involved in this thing."
The state Republican Party is giving organizational support to all its mayoral candidates, said State GOP Chairman Murray Clark. He said the party never decides until closer to any election how much money to devote to individual races.
But, he said of Ballard's chances: "In this environment, no incumbent is safe."
Early's decision to contribute to Ballard is important. He is one of those establishment Republicans who helped do in Sue Anne Gilroy when she took on Peterson 8 years ago. Many establishment Republicans like Early then-preferred the Republican-like pro-business Peterson over the moderate Gilroy, who would have become the city's first female mayor. That, of course, was before Peterson turned into a traditional tax and spend liberal Democrat.