Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bayh Political Machine Dumbfounded By Nation's Unprecedented Defeat

Terre Haute has had a long tradition of electing Democrats as mayor. Republicans have occasionally elected one-term mayors when voters become weary of one-party rule, but Terre Haute has remained one of the state's strongest Democratic cities. Although Duke Bennett upset Mayor Kevin Burke four years ago in a hard fought contest that dragged on for months after Burke challenged Bennett's eligibility to hold the office, Democrats were overly confident the party would win back the mayor's race with Fred Nation, a longtime crony of U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh and his father, who hail from the Terre Haute area. Something happened along the way to Nation's coronation that wasn't suppose to happen. Bennett won, and he won by a landslide.

The results in yesterday's mayoral race are unprecedented even for a popular Democratic in this heavily Democratic city. Bennett captured nearly 70% of the vote. Bennett also became the first Republican mayor to win re-election since the 1920s. Nation was gracious, if not surprised, in defeat.

“Mayor Bennett is very popular,” Nation said. “His policies are very popular. … While he says he’s not a politician, he’s a very good politician. … He’s conducted himself very well. For a Republican in a Democratic town, I think he has a very good formula that’s worked quite well for him, and I congratulate him on it.”
This is Nation's first foray into running for office as a candidate, although he's spent his entire adult life helping the Bayhs win many elections. It will also likely be his last. He told reporters after his stunning defeat that he was unlikely to run for office again. “They know I’ve had to deal with some real financial issues,” Bennett said. “And they really appreciate the fact that we communicated with people. We let them know what’s going on. … I think we did a lot of that. That resonates.”

The Bayh magic in Indiana appears to have gone up in smoke. Bayh spent the last day of this campaign at the side of Indianapolis Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy, who failed in her bid to unseat Greg Ballard, who also won an upset win four years ago in an increasingly Democratic city. The Democrats turned out the voters who failed to show up in large enough numbers to support Bart Peterson four years ago, but enough of them defected to Ballard to leave her a narrow loser. I'm wondering if Democrats will now admit that she ran a horrible campaign despite raising a nearly equal amount of money to finance the most expensive mayoral race in Indiana history.


varangianguard said...

Apparently, Mr. Nation's campaign was run worse than that of Ms. Kennedy (which is saying something).

I don't mind negative campaigning, after all if there is nothing negative about the incumbent - why is one running against them? But, Mr. Nation's was inappropriately negative and snide (perhaps polarizing would be a more polite term).

Not that I'm there much, but Terre Haute seems to run well. For a city of that size, that's an accomplishment. Having a Mayor who can make that happen seems to resonate with voters.

That said, I'm happy Mayor Bennett was returned to office because not only does he seem to be a n effective Mayor, but he's a really nice guy, as well.

Southsider said...

What turned me the other direction was the recorded message from Clinton and the t v stations giving face time with Bayh.... coming back 'home' to vote.