Friday, May 8, 2015



Tuesday's results offered some lessons, but will anybody heed them in November?

More Information

The Fort Report

This week's show will feature State Reps. Bob Morris and Phil GiaQuinta,who will discuss the highs and lows of this year's legislative session. The episode will premiere at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on Comcast Channel 57 and FiOS Channel 27 and later at

Harper got more votes than Henry, but that doesn't ensure victory, Downs says

Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 12:01 am
Despite a turnout of less than 10 percent, several lessons can be gleaned from Tuesday's primary results -- including the apparent impotence of the pro-union movement, the value of hard work and the possibility that numerical superiority in May does not always translate into victory in November.
At first glance, the outcome of the mayoral races would seem to indicate that Republican Mitch Harper enters the campaign against incumbent Democrat Tom Henry with an edge. After all, Harper received 8,473 votes compared to Henry's 5,676 despite the absence of the kind of complacency-busting challenger Wayne Township Trustee Richard Stevenson provided in the Democrat primary. What's more, about 10,000 Republicans voted Tuesday compared to about 7,500 Democrats, according to Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW.
But Republicans should see caution lurking in those numbers, Downs said, because the party had a two-to-one primary vote total four years ago -- and Henry still won a second term by getting 1,600 votes than Republican Paula Hughes.
"(Tuesday) was really pretty good turnout on the Democrat side," Downs said, pointing to the impact of Stevenson's challenge, the nine-candidate race for three at-large council seats and the race between Michelles Hill and Merritt in the 2nd District.
But as county Republican Chairman Steve Shine pointed out to the party's traditional post-election hot dog luncheon Wednesday, the GOP enters the fall campaign more unified than it has been in at least 12 years. The schisms that contributed to Democratic mayoral victory don't exist this time around, he said.
Even so, Downs noted that "If money matters, Henry is in a better position." That's because, in reports filed last month, Harper's campaign had just $30,963 on hand compared to Henry's $661,301. To win, Downs said, Harper must not only Harper must mount an exceptional campaign but must be deemed credible enough to attract financial support from the state party.
While the defeat of 15-year GOP incumbent Tom Smith in council's 1st District may have been the biggest surprise of the election, the relatively poor showing of candidates in both parties identified with efforts to restore collective bargaining for city employees may have been the biggest long-term news. Although Democrat victors generally support bargaining, the council candidate most closely associated with the restoration movement -- International Union of Operating Engineers 399 Business Agent Lloyd Osborne -- received just 6.7 percent of the at-large vote.
On the GOP side, candidates deemed more pro-labor also failed to win -- most notably Allen County Councilman Robert Armstrong, who was targeted by many within his own party.
In fact, Tuesday was a good night for some of the GOP's most-conservative candidates. Jason Arp prevailed in the 4th council district and the man who defeated Smith, Paul Ensley, is a protege of conservative State Rep. Bob Morris. Downs, however, suspects their victories had as much to do with effort and organization as anything else. Arp was campaign manager for State Rep. Chris Judy last year, and Judy returned the favor Tuesday, lending his support.
As for Smith, Downs said, "He simply got out-hustled" -- something even Smith has acknowledged.
Currently, Republicans control six of nine seats on City Council -- the exact number needed to spend Legacy dollars or override a mayoral veto, as was the case with collective bargaining. Shine told supporters he expects to increase that majority in November, and Downs concedes it's possible. But it's also possible for Democrats to maintain the status quo or even pick up a seat or two, he said. The wild cards will be how well the party fares in the three at-large races -- longtime Democrat incumbent John Shoaff is retiring -- and in the 4th District, where the well-known and well-funded Safety Director Rusty York will challenge Arp.
Although York works for a Democratic administration, he is not widely perceived as partisan, which could help him in a Republican district. For that reason, Downs said, he should "focus on the stuff cities do: responsible spending, garbage collection."
As for the dismal turnout, several Republican candidates said Wednesday they will work to change that in November. "We have to give people a reason to come out," said Derek Pille, who didn't do that enough and lost to Lana Keesling in the clerk's race.
That's always good advice for both parties, but you could also argue that people who don't already understand the degree to which government affects their lives and spends their money are too clueless to reach.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at or call him at 461-8355.


  • No Comments
  • You must login or register (for free) to comment reserves the right to remove any content appearing on its website. Our policy will be to remove postings that constitute profanity, obscenity, libel, spam, invasion of privacy, impersonation of another, or attacks on racial, ethnic or other groups. For more information, see our user rules page.
Craig' (Report abuse)
MAY 7 2015 3:27 PM
Maybe the voting public realizes that their votes don't really matter. The organized crime syndicate that is the Indiana Republican Party will just change the rules of the game if they don't like an election result.

No comments:

Post a Comment