Maybe you know that Marion County Republicans place more emphasis on winning control of the City County Council than they do on winning the Mayor's office.
But, if you have any doubt, don't take my word for it. Take it from the political director of the Marion County GOP. Robb Greene sent an e-mail this week to council candidates and others telling them how to instruct voters to scratch.
The idea is that voters can cast a ballot for the Democratic Mayor and also cast a ballot for a Republican council candidate.
Greene says too few people understand how to scratch properly.
As bad as it is to write off the top man on your ticket when voters are clearly telling pollsters they want a change in the mayor's office, now comes word that the Marion Co. GOP has also written off three of its at-large candidates. Ed Coleman, Michael Hegg and Barb Malone have been cut loose by the party. Recall Matt Tully recently saying "privately, GOP sources insist that their only realistic chance of gaining an At-Large seat rests with Kent Smith". The GOP logic goes something like this. Lonnell Conley (D) has run well behind the other at-large Democratic candidates in previous elections and so he is the only at-large Democratic candidate the GOP can realistically defeat. Apparently, they have concluded Ron Gibson is not vulnerable, if you can believe that. For reasons completely unclear to me, Kent Smith is chosen to get financial and campaign support from the county party to the exclusion of the other at-large candidates (Note, GOP headquarters displays out front a sign for Kent Smith but not the other at-large candidates). I'm sure Kent Smith is a fine man. I saw him at several of the anti-tax rallies this summer. He turned down opportunities to speak to the crowd, and unless you introduced yourself to him, he just stood there taking it all in.
The reality is whichever party wins the mayor's office also wins all four at-large council seats. It's happened in every election since UniGov's enactment back in the early 1970s. Memo to Tom John: If you want to win the at-large council seats, you have to assume you must win the mayor's race. Could this year be different? Sure it could, but there's also plenty of voter unrest to assume there could also be a strong anti-incumbent mood which could sweep Peterson and several other Democratic council members out of office.
The only reason council control is currently close is because the GOP has been able to win 56% of the 25 district council races. Demographic changes over the past four years have made several of those Republican districts, however, extremely vulnerable. Scott Keller's district is the most vulnerable. It is considered a Democratic district Republicans never expected to win four years ago. Perhaps even more vulnerable is the District 1 seat being vacated by Ike Randolph. Susie Day survived a close race four years ago, and Marilyn Pfisterer's district is trending Democratic. Republicans will also have a tough time defending the Lance Langsford seat in Warren Township. Republicans have a 50-50 chance at best of upsetting two incumbents, Angela Mansfield and Sherron Franklin.
Maybe someone can help me out with the GOP's strategy, but if I were Mike O'Connor, Mayor Peterson and the Democratic council candidates, I would be tickled to death by the strategy the GOP has chosen. All hope is not lost. The voters still have to speak, and I suspect they will throw us all a few surprises. But whatever success the GOP has this year, it will be in spite of their efforts and not because of them.