Monday, November 3, 2014

A Look Back: Marion County 2010 Election Analysis

With the 2014 "midterm" election just a few days away, I wanted to dive back and look at what happened four years ago in 2010. While I'm only looking over what happened in Marion County, Indiana and limiting myself to only the races all Marion County voters could vote in, I'm also taking into consideration events happening throughout the state and nation that could influence the outcome. In addition to looking at a candidate's vote total and vote percentage, I'll also be looking at the vote total for each office on the ballot. I'll also look into why candidate's of the same party may receive different vote totals or percentages of the vote. Finally, if there is no Libertarian candidate on the ballot, where do those Libertarian voters go?

At the top of the ballot was a United States Senate race, followed by three state-wide elections for Secretary of State, Auditor of State, and Treasurer of State. Following any state legislative races, the county wide offices were listed in the order of Prosecutor, Clerk, Auditor, Recorder, Sheriff, and Assessor. I initially planned on analyzing each race, but the US Senate and the state-wide races actually provide perfect examples of how votes shift based on circumstances of a race, availability of a specific political party's candidate to vote for, the "protest vote", and how people change their votes even when a candidate from a specific political party isn't available.

My source for these statistics are from the Marion County Clerk's certified election results.

Nationally, Democrats had victories across the nation in 2006 and 2008. With the national Tea Party movement arguably at the peak of its power, Republicans swept elections across the United States, gaining a majority in the United States House of Representatives and strengthening their minority within the United States Senate. Within the states, 29 Governorships ended up in the hands of Republicans and a majority of the state legislatures had GOP majorities as well, including our state of Indiana. It was a good year for Republicans. And even though Marion County is a Democratic county, the votes still reflect a strong Republican year even though no Republican won a majority in any contest that all Marion County voters could participate in.

The top of the ballot was a United States Senate race that was won by a former GOP US Senator, Dan Coats. Even though the total number of votes for the race was 214,077, neither Coats nor his Democratic challenger, then-US Rep Brad Ellsworth, received the most votes among their party's candidates eligible for a county wide vote. Coats finished last among all Republican candidates in Marion County, while Ellsworth trailed Democratic candidates in the much lower profile races of County Sheriff, Clerk, and Recorder. Ellsworth's campaign had a late start when US Senator Evan Bayh opted not to run for re-election, announcing the decision only days before the filing deadline to run in the Democratic primary closed. With no candidate on the primary ballot, the state Democratic Party had to vote and the Indiana Stonewall Democrats abstained from voting. He also skipped out on Indy Pride that year, though staffers were present. Looking back, it would be hard for any Democrat to win a US Senate Race in Indiana in 2010.

Coats ran honestly a boring race in the general, but his campaign wasn't a perfect campaign either. He won a GOP primary only because the Tea Party vote was split between four candidates and only rented a home and gathered enough signatures just before the deadline to be in the primary. Throughout the campaign, he was surrounded on questions of where he lived and why he didn't run for re-election back in 1998.

For disgruntled Republicans, Democrats, and actual Libertarians, the Libertarian candidate Rebecca-Sink Burris benefited receiving 11,879 votes, the most votes any LP candidate received that qualified for a county wide vote.

The Secretary of State race is special because a party that wins at least 2% of the vote in this contest gains automatic ballot access for the next four years. The Libertarian Party makes a special effort in this race so as to maintain automatic ballot access. On a county-by-county basis, the party that wins the SOS race also gets placed first on the ballot, so even if a party knows it is going to win or lose the race state wide, they'll still put in an effort in their strongholds to get the best ballot placement in general elections.

Two outside factors played an important part in this race. Democratic candidate Vop Osili is an Indianapolis native and campaigned heavily within Marion County. GOP candidate Charlie White, who won, was eventually forced out of office due to a series of felony convictions, including voter fraud. While the criminal charges and eventual conviction didn't occur until after he took office, the blogosphere started to pick up on the story as the election played out. At the time, sources told me that the White campaign effectively stopped campaigning in the final days of the campaign. Generally, the state-wide non-gubernatorial races are fairly low profile and people vote for the party they feel most aligned with, and White underperformed compared to the GOP candidates for Auditor of State and Treasurer of State.

Mike Wherry, the LP candidate for Secretary of State, seemed to gather some protest votes for Republicans who couldn't vote for White. Independents seemed also to break for Osili, perhaps due to the campaigning he did or having the home court advantage. He very well may have gotten some disgruntled Republican votes as well.

The difference in vote totals between Secretary of State and Auditor of State, 1780, can mostly be attributed to the drop off in the Libertarian candidate no longer being used as a protest vote. The Libertarian candidate only had 1510 less votes in the Auditor's race but the Republican candidate, incumbent Tim Berry, performed very well in the race getting nearly 47% of the vote while the Democrat didn't even crack 50% in Marion County. In these lower profile races, with no extenuating circumstances, people tend to go with their party identity and vote that candidate since they aren't familiar with the issues surrounding the race or the candidates. The Democratic candidate for Auditor of State also gets the honor of the lowest vote total for any Democrat running in 2010 that all Marion County voters were able to vote for.

Treasurer of State only had 603 less votes than Auditor but no Libertarian candidate. The vast majority of voters who chose Libertarian candidates elsewhere on the ballot simply chose one of the two major party candidates, Democrat Pete Buttigieg or Republican incumbent Richard Mourdock. Mourdock received 5754 more votes than the GOP candidate for Auditor did, while Buttigieg received  2195 more votes than the Democratic candidate for Auditor. If we had those two vote differences together and add the 603 less votes cast in this race, we get 8552, which is the same number of votes the Libertarian candidate received in the Auditor race. Mourdock had already been making the rounds at Tea Party meetings, so it is likely that self-identified Libertarians were already familiar with him and that's why they broke for him in such strong numbers.

Races for Treasurer and Auditor are important because, to the average voter, they have no idea who these people even are, and might not even know what the office of Auditor or Treasurer even does. In that case, voters are more likely to default to their standard political affiliation. Even more important in Indiana politics is that for a Democrat to win a state-wide seat, they really need to drive up the margins within Marion County and Lake County and not do horrible elsewhere. So if a Democrat candidate is only going to win Marion County by a slim margin, such as in the Treasurer of State's race, things don't bode well for Democrats.

And a brief note on the county races: Discounting the Prosecutor's race, which received the bulk of campaign money and media attention, they all heavily re-enforce that Marion County is a Democratic county. There are some interesting disparity in the numbers each Democrat candidate received, but that likely has to do with who really worked with grassroots party activist and who just decided to coast on the Democratic baseline. Also of note that even though the state-wide races had a decent showing for their GOP candidates within Marion County, that didn't translate into votes for Republicans lower on the ballot.

What does this have to do with the 2014 race tomorrow? Probably nothing. But it is interesting to see how voters We'll of course have fun analyzing the 2014 results later this week.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Some Open Questions on IPS School Board Candidates and Campaigns

I'll go ahead and say that I am completely unfamiliar with what the formal laws are regarding school board candidates and their campaigns, or if they operate differently than partisan political candidates and their campaign committees. I know that when I ran for council in 2011, even though I never raised a dime, I was still required to turn in a form every several weeks declaring how much I had raised.

So I'll admit at the outset that I could just be missing something so that this all makes sense.

Let's start with what we know. School board elections have been moved from the primaries to the general elections, where they will be placed on the ballot along with all of the other offices that are up for election on November 4th. 

The deadline to declare a candidacy for a school board campaign was August 22, which is much later than the deadline for a political party to either choose someone by a primary election, or appointment by July for any vacancies after the primary is held. 

School board elections are traditionally low key affairs, with candidates raising little to no money. That includes the successful ones. Pike Township has an At-Large school board seat up for election this year. Only the incumbent has even filed a campaign report, indicating she had a bit over $300 as of the end of last year. Her two opponents haven't filed anything. 

In contrast, Indianapolis Recorder columnist and WTLC-AM radio host Amos Brown attended an Indianapolis Public Schools' School Board candidate forum and had this to say. This is probably the most attention the school board races have gotten this year within the mainstream media:

Campaign cash. Yes, I did it. I threw out the unspoken question in this year’s IPS School Board race.
Two years ago, IPS winners Sam Odle, Caitlin Hannon and Gayle Cosby raised $207,689 combined in campaign cash. An unprecedented sum.
At a candidate forum at Martin University, I asked the candidates to outline their current campaign funds. Already three candidates, Kelly Bentley, Mary Ann Sullivan, and Dr. David Hampton have raised some $76,000. A fourth candidate expected to have oodles of cash is relatively unknown Black candidate, Lanier Echols.
Expect the issue of money and outside business interests to be raised as the IPS Board campaign heats up.

After I read that, I headed over to the IPS School Board candidates' section for campaign finance reports. Clicking on the candidates that Brown names only brings up a Statement of Organization. Not a single dime has been disclosed.

I think some of these candidates are good people. Kelly Bentley and Mary Ann Sullivan are both good public servants and I have no doubt that they'd be an asset on the IPS School Board. They have both run for public office before and surely know the ins and outs of how to run a campaign committee and the reporting requirements better than I, so I'm not alleging anything illegal going on in their campaigns or the other candidates' campaigns. 

But I think it is a fatal flaw in the system if candidates can raise several thousands of dollars within a relatively short 1-2 month period and not have disclosed any of it a month before the election.

The pre-general election campaign finance report is October 17th. But I hope the legislature looks into moving that forward so that transparency occurs a little bit earlier in the election cycle.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Council Shenanigans, Public Comment, and Pre-K

As reported by WRTV, a Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council committee met last night. One of the items on the agenda was the proposed elimination of the county homestead tax credit. The meeting ended with tabling that proposal and public comment was not sought on it.

Now, I am a major proponent of public comment being allowed on all items that are heard before a governmental body. I have been critical in the past of policies that have been used to suppress or limit attendees from the general public from having their views heard, especially when proponents for whatever is being pushed often get several uninterrupted minutes as part of the meeting for a full blown presentation, complete with audio and visual and handing pamphlets to the committee, the full works. Sometimes public comment is limited to two minutes per person. Sometimes that limit is enforced with a loud buzzer.

But this is budget time. The time where every single agency comes before the respective council committees and does some really hard crunching. These meetings often looked packed when the committee first starts out, and as the budgets are worked through, the people leave after their budget was heard. This is not the sexy part of municipal governance. In fact, it can be very dry. But it is important and must be done.

The budgets should take priority. Policy proposals can take a backseat until then.

After reading over the outraged press release from the Marion County Republican Party and the reporting on WRTV, Jon Easter actually wrote the chair of the committee, Angela Mansfield. She responded saying that the constituents were disappointed but learned that tabling just means it can be dealt with at a different committee meeting. She also wrote that of the three that complained, two were against the elimination of the local homestead tax credit. She also pointed out the proposal in committee is strictly about the elimination and not what to do with the increase in revenue if it is to pass.

So kudos to Council Mansfield on running her committee with efficiency and prioritizing the important work of the committee and separating it from the garbage council Republicans and the 25th floor are pushing.

And just a quick link to Pat Andrews' blog, I'm liking Councilor Robinson more and more nowadays.

Monday, July 7, 2014


EDITOR'S NOTE: As I was writing this blog, I started talking a lot more about the reasons I was traveling rather than the specific issue I had with the TSA in Orlando International Airport (MCO). I'll cover that in another blog later in the week.

Pictured above is my service dog, Quest. I've traveled with him before, and as I left Indianapolis, the TSA agents and the airline staff were very accommodating. I also have an implanted cardiac pacemaker  so I can't go through the metal detectors. Even though doctors assure me I can go through the X-ray machine things, I choose not to as a form of solidarity with Quest. Since no matter what, he has to get patted down. So I figure I should too. I had absolutely no problems with the TSA when I traveled with Quest six years ago, or leaving Indianapolis.

I think it is important to point out that I was leaving Orlando on a Saturday, probably a peak time for the airport. And the airport is busy. They had all the passengers who were in wheelchairs, had strollers, or some type of disability in one line and everyone else in a separate line. It was a long line but we were steadily moving. In addition to handling Quest, I was also carrying a CPAP machine with me (these need to be taken out of their case when being scanned by TSA) as well as my carry on backpack. I thought I'd put the things in my pockets into my backpack to make the process easier, including my wallet. My wallet had over $100 in cash.

As I approached the area where you're supposed to unload your carry ons into the scanner, I was told by a TSA agent "You need to wait in the center." I responded with "I was just about to..." and he said "I don't care what you were going to do. Step to the side" and then he vanished into the crowd. I was going to tell him I was opting out.

So here I stand in the center, figuring maybe I've been randomly picked for enhanced screening or whatever. So I'm just standing there, with my luggage and my dog, for 10 minutes. At least a dozen people who were certainly behind me have now gone through and are on their way. Apparently, it is a normal thing at Orlando International for travelers to just stand in the middle of a busy TSA check point because no one seemed to notice I was there.

After that time passed, someone tried to wave me through and direct me through the metal detector. I kindly told him I can't and can you please come to me so I can speak to you without shouting. After informing him that I was dragged to the side and ordered to stay here by a TSA agent before telling anyone I have a cardiac pacemaker and wanted to opt out, he acknowledged that and then left.

Shortly after, a separate TSA agent came over to collect my things, saying he'll put them through the scanner for me.

Those of you who know me personally know I never let anyone touch my CPAP machine. I am the only one who touched it. If someone drops it and breaks it, it'll be me and my fault because it is my responsibility. As it looks like he's about to put it through without taking it out of the case, I shout to him it needs to be taken out.

After five more minutes of waiting and telling a separate TSA agent that I have a pacemaker and asking specifically if I need to remove my shoes and being told no, he then changed his mind and said yes. So I took off my shoes.

I was then led through a very small gate between the metal detector and the X-Ray body scan machine. As I got around, I could see that my luggage was causing a pile up because it had been sitting at the end of the line for several minutes. I was hoping nobody had snatched my wallet while it had been sitting there.

I was then informed that my shoes had been lost. Several TSA agents looked at me as if it was my fault that my shoes were lost and not theirs for letting my luggage, including my life support CPAP machine, be unattended for several minutes.

The crack TSA team, or the TSA team thats on crack, I always get those confused....anyway, they finally found my shoes with someone who clearly has much larger feet than mine trying to fit his feet into my shoes.

So in the span of 20 minutes, I was made to needlessly wait while several dozen people who were behind me were let through with ease. In that span, my luggage, including my money and credit cards and my boarding pass, could easily have been stolen. I was never told why I was singled out and told to wait in the center for several minutes. No one seemed to have an idea why. I really didn't receive an apology nor did anyone really go out of their way to help me. The attitudes of almost all the TSA agents at Orlando International were, at best, apathetic.

My flying experience went really well, but this experience soured me on air travel. I wish I could say I got names or badge numbers or whatever, but how are you supposed to do that when you have a flight to catch?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Somebody Call the Whambulance for Indy Bar Association

The Indianapolis Bar Association has come out and said that criticism of Marion Superior Court Judge Kurt Eisgruber (R), who recently let a convicted rapist get by without serving a single day of his sentence in prison, is completely absurd.

According to The Indianapolis Star

In his statement, Abrams said that some media coverage provided a fair balance between strong criticism and legal constraints created by the legislature. In an interview, he noted such reports by The Star.
But he said in the statement that some commentators' remarks against Eisgruber "can only be characterized as insulting, attacking the integrity of the judge and, in some instances, communicating physical threats."
"We do not believe that any of such conduct is appropriate no matter how strongly one's opinion is of this matter," he said.

I encourage Abrams, the president of the Indianapolis Bar Association, to contact Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the US District Attorney's office for all of the comments he read that were physical threats against Judge Eisgruber. Online threats are still threats and should be dealt with appropriately.

As for the rest, the comments that were "insulting" and "attacking the integrity of the judge", Abrams can go get himself a bottle to suck on.

Judges are public officials. In some cases, such as Judge Eisgruber, they are elected officials. The courts and everything within, including their salaries, come from taxpayers. Therefore, we can treat them and comment on them however we damn well please. If Judge Eisgruber or any other judge can't take the heat, then they are free to find some other form of employment.

Whenever the United States Supreme Court is in session, you can turn on any cable news channel and watch political pundits, some of them law degree holders and some even are practicing lawyers, lambast and rip to shreds the decisions and the votes some Supreme Court justices cast. But the Supremes are big boys and girls. They can handle it.

Maybe Adams should take a cue from them. Suck it up, or find another occupation.

Judge Eisgruber, who is a Republican, is uncontested in his campaign for Marion Superior Court in this fall's election.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Civil Discourse Now at Democratic Convention, and a Format Change

Civil Discourse Now will be broadcasting live today, 11am-1pm, at the Indiana Democratic Party's convention at the Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. If you are a delegate, feel free to stop by and chat. We'll be with set up with the rest of the vendors.

For the last several weeks, we have experienced technical difficulties on Civil Discourse Now that have nothing to do with the hardware or software we use to broadcast the show. Last week, while I took a break to research some news, I checked into the station to discover that not only were we not on the air, but something else was being played in our time slot.

We hope to resolve that situation today, with the launch of 7 Bits Of Info on Live365. To listen, just go to the link and click play. An embedded Live365 player will be on the blog shortly. We won't only be broadcasting live, but we'll also use this station to air "classic" episodes of Civil Discourse Now. And some of our pre-taped segments will air on their own, instead of embedded within the program. I am also working on digging up some interviews I have on cassette tapes and broadcasting them on the station.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, download the Live365 app and point it to 7 Bits Of Info.

I know the transition may be rough for some listeners and fans. After all, it wasn't that long ago that this show was broadcasting live from UStream and had a video feed. But we truly believe that this is our best option so that our program will sound as technically good as possible.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Endorsements and The Treasurers

According to social media and confirmed by several sources, GOP candidate for Treasurer Don Bates sent out an e-mail last night claiming he was endorsed by the Indiana State Police Alliance. The e-mail was also posted on several social media outlets run by the Bates' campaign.

The Bates' website for Treasurer has since deleted the e-mail and most social media outlets announcing the endorsement have been deleted as well.

A source that is connected with the Bates' campaign said that Bates did meet with the Indiana State Police Alliance for an endorsement and that Bates wasn't expecting an endorsement this early in the cycle. The source said that Bates was approached by an individual from the ISPA pledging support and believes that the e-mail and social media posts were an honest mistake.

When contacted, a source within the Wayne Seybold camp didn't confirm or deny that Seybold had sought the endorsement of the ISPA and pointed out that their political action committee has less than $150 in the bank. Rumors are also swirling that an FBI investigation into Marion, Indiana's finances could become public before the November election. Seybold is the current Mayor of Marion. A source within the Seybold camp dismissed these rumors, noting that Standard and Poor's just gave an A+ credit rating to the city.

Seybold, Bates, and candidate Kelly Mitchell are all vying for the GOP nomination for State Treasurer. The Republican nominee will be elected by Republican delegates during their June convention in Fort Wayne.

UPDATE: A separate source within the Bates campaign says ISPA did endorse but they were later advises by legal counsel that they can't endorse before the convention.

UPDATE II: ISPA has released a statement echoing similar sentiments as to what my source said earlier.