Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Death Of The Marion County Republican Party?

The days when GOP faithful would pack into Primo's banquet hall on the south side for a county GOP convention are long gone. Fewer than 200 committeepersons, many of whom were appointed and not elected, gathered this morning to re-elect the same team of leaders led by Ice Miller attorney Tom John. Although Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi enthusiastically nominated John for the post of party chair, most objective observers believe Brizzi's own hopes of holding on to that office for another term in 2010 if he seeks re-election are remote due to the beating his reputation as a tough prosecutor has taken over the last four years and the continued resurgence of Marion County Democrats.

In 2006, Republicans lost every countywide race save the prosecutor's race by about 8 percentage points. Brizzi, despite having a well-financed campaign against a Democratic candidate with questionable qualifications, managed to squeak out a win by just a few thousand votes. In 2008, the countywide results were nothing short of disastrous. Democrats swept every race by a margin of 60-40%. Despite having the strongest candidate in the nation, John Pless, for the job of county coroner and all of the scandal and incompetence that plagued former Coroner Kenneth Ackles' office, not even Pless managed better than 40% of the vote. Even worse, party leaders in a rather bizarre move made absolutely no issue of Ackles' controversial tenure in that office during the campaign. In addition to the countywide losses, the Republicans lost two state representative seats and lost a third open seat viewed as being competitive. It has reached the point that the only legislative districts Republicans can win in Marion County are those which overlap with the Republican-rich suburban counties.

Shockingly, Marion County Republicans outspent their Democratic counterparts by better than two-to-one last year. According to an analysis prepared by Indiana Legislative Insight's Ed Feigenbaum, the Marion County GOP spent more than $1.1 million in 2008 compared to the $567,000 spent by the Marion County Democrats. The party ended the year with barely $2,400 in the bank.

Ironically, the GOP fared better in 2007 when it was outspent by the Democrats by nearly three-to-one, a little more than $1 million for the Democrats to the GOP's $375,000. In that year, Republicans rode a wave of grassroots, taxpayer discontentment to oust Mayor Bart Peterson and Democrat-control of the city-county council. Sadly, the GOP has antagonized and alienated many of the grassroots supporters, including this writer, who helped build that grassroots campaign. GOP Chairman Tom John discouraged Republicans with deep pockets from contributing to Ballard's campaign and only supported one of the four at-large City-County Council candidates. One of the party's at-large council members, Ed Coleman, recently left the party and became a Libertarian in a disagreement over the party's reluctance to tackle out-of-control spending by the Capital Improvement Board of Managers, among other issues.

In 2006, another recent year where the GOP fared badly, the party outspent Democrats by a huge margin, $1.6 million to $686,000. What is clear is that the only year the party fared well, 2007, was when public discontent with skyrocketing property taxes and a 65% increase in the income tax, along with ethical issues involving CCC President Monroe Gray and lack of transparency in presenting and adopting a budget, overwhelmed Democrats. In just a little more than one short year, the GOP has squandered those issues. Serious ethical problems are brewing with two of the GOP's top council leaders, Ryan Vaughn and Lincoln Plowman. Ballard has basically turned to the same old country club crowd for advice on running his office and declined an opportunity to open up the books and investigate serious problems with the water company and the Capital Improvement Board, effectively assuming the baggage the Peterson administration left behind. Ballard is now seeking double-digit increases in water and sewer rates and higher taxes for the CIB to further subsidize the billionaire sports team owners. Ballard has also appointed a slew of conflicted individuals and lobbyists to key boards and abandoned the aggressive ethics reform proposals he touted during his 2007 campaign. Grassroots supporters have been completely shut out of his administration and have since come to a point of disillusion that he is unlikely to win their support back, effectively dooming his re-election prospects in 2011.

The future is not at all bright for the Marion County GOP. Part of that problem relates to the shifting demographics of the county. People fed up with rising taxes, crime and poor services, are fleeing to the wealthier suburban counties where good schools are plentiful and taxes and crime are lower. Those migrating out of the county are leaving behind a growing poor and minority population heavily dependent on government services. The immediate demise facing the party, however, must be blamed on its failure to keep its promises and govern differently than the Democrats. A majority of Marion County residents voted to put Republicans back in control of City Hall because they wanted change. Instead, all they are hearing is an echo of the past.


Downtown Indy said...

If there is such a thing as political inbreeding, Marion County has it.

M Theory said...

Gary, The leadership of the GOP does not care if their candidates win or lose. They care that their greedy self-serving interests are financed with public dollars, at the hands of public officials from either party who can be bought.

They know that much of that grassroots activism was also done by Libertarians. They know the Libertarians cannot be bought and that's why they attempt to marginalize us.

Andrew said...

I'm a PC, and I did not show up for Saturday's caucus. Some of this was due to school obligations, but a majority of ther reason was that I did not feel up to heading all the way over there just to rubberstamp failed leadership.