Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Thoughts About Today's Election

It's election day and it's nothing like what I expected immediately following the May primary. As soon as the Republican Party failed to nominate a big-name Republican this year, I immediately concluded a third term had been conceded by the party to Mayor Peterson. Then the property tax fiasco arose in June and people finally started to examine Peterson more closely and seriously consider whether he really deserved a third term. People who never paid any attention to what the City-County Council did suddenly began attending meetings or watching them on cable TV. What they saw appalled them. Perhaps by the end of this day people will conclude that Mayor Peterson sealed his fate when he arrogantly pushed through his $90 million, 65% increase in the income tax. The well-crafted image of a fiscal conservative he had worked so hard to build crumbled before our eyes. To many, he had just become another tax and spend liberal who was unable to feel the pain of taxpayers already reeling from his earlier tax increases of which there have been plenty.

As I watched TV this evening, I saw one Peterson ad after another attacking Greg Ballard ad hominem. Occasionally an ad would appear for Greg Ballard, all positive and offering a message of hope. Eight years ago, Peterson was an underdog to Secretary of State Sue Ann Gilroy. Gilroy led throughout most of the year in the polls, even as Peterson used his personal wealth to bankroll positive ads which started appearing in the primary and continued straight through the summer. As Peterson creeped closer to her in the polls by Labor Day, the Gilroy campaign unleashed a negative barrage of ads against Peterson. The ads didn't resonate with voters and Gilroy began sinking in the polls. Peterson stuck to the high road, touted his own Peterson Plan and built a small lead over Gilroy by early October. On election day, he handily defeated Gilroy.

Unlike Gilroy, Ballard had no campaign warchest to define himself through TV and radio ads earlier in the campaign. Instead, Ballard tapped into the grassroots protests which spread across the city like a wildfire this summer. Democrats and even some Republicans dismissed the depth of the protest movement. Big shots Republicans, including Gov. Mitch Daniels and state GOP chairman Murray Clark shunned Ballard, while grassroots folks embraced him. Although Gov. Daniels met early on with Ballard, an insider says Daniels wasn't moved to support him. Many would argue that Daniels' reassessment order this summer had more to do with aiding Mayor Peterson's re-election than helping out taxpayers. While Ballard slowly attracted some campaign funds, it paled in comparison to Peterson's fundraising machine, which included donations from many business types who typically gave to Republicans in Marion County in past elections.

Yet, despite the overwhelming funding advantage, Ballard began creeping up in the polls and Mayor Peterson hovered dangerously below the 50% level. Despite the efforts of Democrats and even big-name Republicans to dismiss the poll numbers, Mayor Peterson knew he was in trouble. It's a cardinal rule in politics that you end the campaign on a positive note. Mayor Peterson unleashed his negative ads last week, a day before Ballard's first positive ads made the airwaves, and he never stopped. All the feel-good ads came down. This became a full-frontal assault by Goliath against David. An incumbent never devotes these kinds of resources on negative ads against his opponent this late in the campaign unless he knows his own campaign is in serious trouble. Mayor Peterson has accepted the fact that a majority of voters plan to vote against him and the only thing he can do to save his own skin is to drive up Ballard's negatives so much that voters will be turned off by both candidates and not come out to vote in today's election.

I believe the state party only dumped a last-minute, $55,000 into Ballard's campaign because Murray Clark, who is very close to Mayor Peterson's Chief Deputy Mayor, John Dillon, became privy to the Peterson campaign's internal polling. While the Peterson campaign officially remained tight-lipped about their internal polling, leaks confirmed to some the news wasn't good for Peterson. Clark had already been outed by the Star's Mary Beth Schneider for withholding support for Ballard at the same time the party was aiding the indicted Matt Kelty in Fort Wayne, wingnut Juan Manigault in South Bend and old-timer Paul Ricketts in Lawrence. Clark was placed in the position of being blamed if Ballard lost by a small margin or looking downright incompetent if Ballard managed to win without any state party support. Gov. Daniels to the last day refused to support Ballard in any way, shape or form, a decision which may come back to haunt him in his own re-election bid next year.

So when all the votes are finally counted tonight, I think we'll have a new mayor and, most likely, a Republican-controlled council. I caution that voter turnout will be the key. Absentee voting appears to be up 50% over four years ago. I haven't a clue as to whether the absentee voting is being driven by voter interest or party activism. I've seen no evidence of a major get out the vote efforts by either party as I've seen in the past. This will mark the first election in the 17 years I've lived in Marion County that I haven't received a single campaign flier in the mail or any phone calls from a party or candidate. I typically receive at least one push piece from the GOP as an identified Republican voter and numerous phone calls. The race will not be decided in Center Township, but rather the outlying townships. The lack of contested council races in Center Township doesn't help Democrats' get out the vote effort in its strongest township though.

Democrats' almost macabre-like appeal to black voters on the eve of the election by raising Carson from her sick bed to give a recorded interview urging the African-American community to come out and vote for Mayor Peterson is an indication of just how desperate things appear to be for Peterson. I don't rule out a Peterson win. The demographics in the county continue to move in his and the Democratic Party's favor. If independent voters aren't moved to come out and vote today in large enough numbers, the Democratic advantage among voters could carry him to victory, along with a Democratic council. My hunch, though, is that this is just one of those years where most people who come out to vote are doing so for the purpose of "throwing the bums out." If that proves to be the case, nothing can save Mayor Peterson.


Sir Hailstone said...

We believed in Greg Ballard when hardly anyone else did. Wow. It's seemed like forever since Greg was slated at the Wayne Twp. Fire Academy building.

The Ryerson Rag will go down swinging, still with its collective head up Bart's you-know-what. It will be interesting to see what the bias of the Rag will be once Greg Ballard is in office. And what has Bart done? Quoted the Rag over and over and over again.

Even better would be the Ballard Administration blowing off the Star in favor of, say, the IBJ. Or even more "independent" media - like us.

Anonymous said...

I hope your right Gary.

Anonymous said...

I am schocked at your claim that you have received nothing from the GOP re: the election. I am a Dem and for two weeks, I have received 1 to 3 mailings every day and several phone calls and even someone was here when I wasn't home and left a door knocker message on my front door. If the Dems lose, it is not because of hard work. I personally believe Peterson will win.

Anonymous said...

I was up bright and early. At Pike 12 there were about 20 people already in line at 6:00 AM. A few poll workers arrived late any my voting machine was not working so we had to put them in the manual slot to be counted later on ( I hope ).

When I pulled up I saw 3 news trucks there. It turns out the Ballards vote in Pike 17. I was able to get a picture of me with him after we all voted. I hope it is a picture of me with the future Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Some Ballard signs delivered to polls have disappeared already.

If you have any extra, take them with you when you vote. It'll be harder to get rid of them as daylight nears and voters are present.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 5:50, I live in an uncontested council race--District 15 where Andre Carson is on the ballot. The push in my area would have been for Ballard and the at-large candidates. This is the first election I have never received a single mailing from the Republican Party or one of its candidates. I should add that I also didn't receive anything from the Democrats either.

Anonymous said...

wow. a very thoughtful article that really captures this very odd campaign.

if the mayor goes down, it was because of his arrogance and distance from real people.

he could have been a hero by halting his 65% COIT increase in the environment of the crushing property taxes. he didn't and looked condescending saying it's the right thing to do and that everything would be ok on property taxes.

thank god the people in this city woke up and paid attention to the bunch of losers that run the city council -- and i am specifically talking about those in control, not everyone. however one does have to consider sanders, a decent person, as a loser to due to her association with gray (attended his fundraiser; enough said).

i hope it is good riddance to this lot.

Anonymous said...

I sense that Ballard will carry more votes in Center Township than he expected. The African American vote in heavily Dem pockets will be about the same as in the past but new votes will offset that in Ballard's favor.
You are correct Gary, this battle will be one or lost in the outlying townships where I believe Peterson is in the most serious trouble.
Everything hinges on the mindset of those that do cast ballots today. Are voters angry enough? We shall see. Unfortunately in America, the people who tend to bitch the most never go and cast a ballot.
Any way you look at it, the outcome of this election will determine the direction of this city for the next two decades.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I justed voted at my precinct polling place at the elementary school at Walnut & New Jersey downtown. About 50 people had cast votes at that point. The Republicans furnished no poll workers for the precinct. There was a sign up at the entrance for the Peterson team, but not a single Republican sign. Hopefully, this is not typical of other Center Township precincts. It's not a good idea for the Republicans to completely ignore these precincts on election day.

Anonymous said...

The Republican Party conceed this election right up to this morning. Mitch Daniels will never receive another vote from me. The Libertarians are looking better all the time.

Anonymous said...

If Ballard, with almost no resources, can overcome Peterson's jaugernaut of cash and mud, it will be the most amazing thing I've observed in 40 years of watching politics. I'm not optimistic that he will.

Unknown said...

Someone told me that the IPS school at Capitol and 40th Street had Peterson and Gray signs posted. Is that a little shady?

Anonymous said...


I know for a fact @ 500 signs went out for Ballard last night/this AM to polling sites.

Where they are now is anybody's guess. It was not a lack of effort on Ballard's part.

Anonymous said...

Lots of voting machines are not working. Paper ballots are being used and placed in slots.
Could someone please followup on this.
It's one thing to open the polling place but it IS important that these machines work. They've have months to get this right but all of a sudden the machines don't work???
If this thing's close there's going to be some serious accusations comming down.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Methodist Church @ 54th and Meridian STreet at 6:00 am this morning and left a 1/2 later at 6:30 and I am not sure if my vote counted. I was one of three people at the time (including a judge) that were not listed in the book. We have all voted in past elections and have not moved. In addition, many of the poll workers were slow and clueless about how to help us. We finally left in frustration @ 6:30 am--they wanted us to sign another piece of paper that they couldn't locate!

Gary R. Welsh said...

David C., Ryan Vaughn said this morning the clerk's office had in error moved entire blocks of voters in the Meridian-Kessler area to a different polling place. As a consequence, voters were being turned away from the polling place, even being refused to cast a provisional ballot. It is his understanding the clerk's office is now instructing people to complete a certificate of error and cast their ballot at their normal polling place in light of the clerk's office error. Not sure how widespread this problem is, but it is extremely frustrating for the folks who have always voted in one precinct to arrive and be told they are no longer listed in the polling book and can't cast a vote.

Anonymous said...

I voted in Pike 41.

The scanner didn't work and the poll worker watched me like an eagle as I slid the ballot in the slot. She was def. checking to see how I voted.

Anonymous said...

A.I., I also live in District 15 but vote at the Goodwill plaza at Michigan and White River Parkway. There were no Republican signs anywhere, but a ton of Peterson/Council stuff.

I arrived a little after 8am so the polls had already been open a couple hours. I was the 7th vote. My wife was there about an hour earlier and she was the 2nd vote.

Anonymous said...

God willing and the river don't rise.

Anonymous said...

"had in error moved entire blocks of voters in the Meridian-Kessler area to a different polling place"

This is one of the SLEAZIEST things. I guess if the Dems are scared they will do anything to win. Pitiful.