Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ed Feigenbaum On The Bizarre GOP Senate Caucus Election

Ed Feigenbaum has a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the GOP race for the Senate appointment to replace retiring Sen. Murray Clark (R) in his weekly subscriber-based Indiana Legislative Insight newsletter. His sentiments about the race are similar to many political observers. “We can’t say that we’ve seen a stranger caucus election to fill a vacancy over the past 15+ years than we witnessed last week in the race to fill the Senate seat of Murray Clark (R),” Feigenbaum said.

He says of the winner, “Mike Delph (R), a guy who proved his doggedness and tenacity in the 2002 GOP Secretary of State race at convention, showed it again this month, prevailing under bizarre circumstances.”

Feigenbaum’s step-by-step account has some interesting observations, including the following:

  • Isaac Randolph was the choice of party leaders, not only because he would help diversify the party as an African American, but he would also present a formidable candidate to win the congressional seat currently held by Rep. Julia Carson (D).

  • Sen. Clark initially recommended Randolph but later refused to endorse his candidacy, causing his support among committeemen to erode.

  • Party faithful were still miffed at Randolph because he had made no effort to repay the more than $80,000 the party dumped into his council bid in 2003.

  • After Gov. Daniels stepped in to support Randolph, Rep. Dan Burton called Daniels and told him to butt out.

  • Party folks were miffed about Gov. Daniels’ staff involvement in the appointment.

  • 20 precinct committee spots remained open as of the day of the caucus voting in Marion Co. because two township chairman had not bothered to fill the posts, an oversight that may well have cost Gammon the race.

  • Delph won the first vote taken by a 34-30 margin, but one more ballot was counted than committeemen in attendance, prompting a demand by Gammon’s supporters for a re-vote.

  • Delph came out on top in the second round of voting by a 36-29 margin.

So what’s the upshot of it all? Feigenbaum doubts that Randolph will run for the seat next year as originally planned. Feigenbaum asked the thoroughly discredited Marion Co. GOP Chairman Mike Murphy if anyone from Marion Co. would challenge Delph next year. “I have no idea. You’ll have to ask potential candidates,” Murphy told him.

Advance Indiana thinks it is completely unconscionable for Murphy to allow 20 committeemen position in two townships, Wayne and Pike, to remain vacant, particularly as we approach another election year. Not that we wanted to see Gammon win the race, but we do hate to see Marion Co. lose a legislative seat to Hamilton Co. It is long past time for the Marion Co. GOP to commence a new search for a forward-thinking leader. Murphy sees the future of the party through a rear-view mirror without any of the leadership skills the party badly needs to remain a viable party in an ever-changing county.

It is hard to believe that when Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh moved to Indianapolis more than 15 years ago, the Marion County GOP organization was recognized as one of the best Republican county organizations in the country, controlling every single major office in the county and townships (save Center) and regularly delivering large pluralities for state-wide candidates. The party needs to find a younger, more-enlightened person, such as Bill Oesterle, to stop the hemorrhaging. To do anything else would be to relegate the party to permanent minority status.

As for Delph’s election, it means an even more conservative Republican-controlled state senate. In his speech to the caucus attendees, Delph, Feigenbaum reported “pledged to respect ‘the sanctity of innocent human life,’ and to ‘stand up to the Indiana Civil Liberties Union in defense of our constitution ally protected First Amendment right to worship the Lord as we individually see fit. I will stand up and say that rulings like that which came from Judge Hamilton are not only wrong, they are in a sense unAmerican.’” Just what Eric Miller ordered. How disappointing.

Feigenbaum’s Indiana Legislative Insight provides by far the best and most incisive reporting on the legislative and political happenings in Indiana. If you want to subcribe, click here.

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