To be clear, this is complete speculation on my part and I have not talked to anyone about Councilor Brian Mahern's poor attempt at ousting Council President Maggie Lewis outside of conversing on social media. However, this speculation is based on knowing both the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council as a body, and a number of the council members, fairly well.
For those not in the know, Mahern (D-District 16) tried to bring a motion to the floor of Monday's full council meeting. That motion was to make an agenda item on next month's meeting to oust Lewis (D-District 7) as President of the Council and, presumably, vote for a new President. The motion failed, with the Democratic caucus (minus Mahern) being joined by four Republicans to keep Lewis as President.
In the first year of the Democrats taking the majority on the Council, Mahern served as Vice President. With that role, he also became the chief critic of Mayor Greg Ballard (R). Meanwhile, the President slot went to Lewis. There was a very real divide between Democrats who felt they had been shut out of city government for the past four years and wanted their voice heard*, and Democrats who wanted to go along to get along while making changes here and there. Lewis was that compromise pick, in that she was seen as being able to work with the 25th floor and be able to bridge the divide with the more independent minded Democrats.
*There's also just blind partisans within this part that just wouldn't like any Republican at all, period. And to be fair, there's more than a few Republicans who fit this description as well who'd stand against any D on the 25th floor regardless of their policies. As they say, the Village Idiot needs his representation too.
As with many legislative bodies, a lot of the bickering and the power brokering and whatnot is done behind closed doors within caucus meetings. My guess is that, at some point in the recent past, Mahern and the more rogue Democrats on the council had a beef with Lewis and the more establishment Democrats. I wouldn't even be surprised if there was a conversation on getting a new Council President. But Mahern seemed to think that these behind-closed-doors chats with other caucus members would translate to some support in his public motion.
And that fell flat.
While many seem to think this has hurt Mahern's brand (and it probably has, it'll be a tough slating or primary for him should he choose to run for anything), I think it is important to recognize that there is a very real division within the Democratic caucus. This was a poorly thought out plan that seemed to be a rash act from Mahern. But what should trouble some is what if there was a more organized plot? Could that hurt Lewis and her brand and any higher political ambitions she may have?
With budget season officially under way, this could get interesting.