Police scandals. Ballard insisted on taking control of the city's Police Department after his election. It was the right decision; citizens hold mayors responsible for public safety, so having them lead the Police Department is crucial. But that means Ballard takes a hit when the Police Department is the source of a stream of bad news.I can't disagree with any of those reasons, but I can't help but note Tully omitted the most obvious explanation. Greg Ballard betrayed the people who made his election possible. While acknowledging Ballard "benefited from a wave far beyond his own making that carried him to election," Tully makes no mention of the people behind that wave and their deep feelings of discontent and betrayal by Ballard. That's because Tully, like Jim Shella, has always refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of that force of disaffected voters who can shift elections from year to year. I have been involved in politics my entire adult life and have never felt more betrayed by a politician I supported than I feel towards Ballard. And that's saying a lot having grown up and worked in Illinois politics before moving to Indianapolis 20 years ago.
The city's confidence in the Police Department has been badly shaken. Ministers and others insist the department's problems will drive turnout in African-American precincts that came out in low numbers in 2007. Municipal elections typically have paltry turnouts, so a heavy show among a core part of the Democratic base could decide the election.
The police scandals also cut across racial lines. The death of a motorcyclist during a crash caused by a police officer has hung around the Ballard administration's neck for months, as have other scandals. This is clearly Ballard's biggest problem.
Crime. Certain crime rates are down, and Public Safety Director Frank Straub has made much-needed updates and changes to the Police Department. But crime is still a major issue in the city, and telling voters that some rates are down isn't likely to make them feel better. Crime is always a vulnerability for Indianapolis mayors -- as is the threat of a high-profile murder or violent assault that captures voters' attention before Election Day.
The numbers. Politics is a numbers game. And Ballard begins his campaign at a deficit because there are simply more Democrats than Republicans in Marion County. All else being equal, Democrats win. Just look at the 2010 elections: While Republicans won big across the state and nation, Democrats cleaned up in the city.
Unless he can win a solid majority of independents, and some Democrats, Ballard has little chance next year.
An apolitical man. I included this as a reason Ballard would win the election. But there's a downside to not being a natural politician, especially when you are in the middle of a campaign.
Ballard in 2007 benefited from a wave far beyond his own making that carried him to election. This time, there likely will be no such wave. He'll have to run a savvy and aggressive campaign and read the political winds well. A soft-spoken guy, he'll need to find a way to be heard over the loud criticism coming from his opponents.
Ballard's low-profile ways are refreshing. In a campaign, though, they could leave him diminished. Former Deputy Mayor Melina Kennedy is his likely opponent. She's impressive and has already proved to be a relentless campaigner. It's not clear Ballard is up for a long, bruising campaign.
A record to break. In 2007, Ballard didn't have to defend his ideas. The campaign wasn't about him. He simply had to be the outsider. Actually, the less voters knew about him, the better.
This time around, Democrats will be able to attack his record. The water company deal. The Pacers deal. The police problems.
He'll be the incumbent on the defense, and recent elections have made clear that's a tough role to play.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Tully On The Flip Side
As promised, Star political columnist Matt Tully explains the five reasons he thinks Greg Ballard may not be re-elected as mayor of Indianapolis. Take a look and share your reaction: