Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prosecutorial Pile-up: Bowes To Detour Around Slating-Part 2 of 2

(This is a continuation of yesterday's discussion of Greg Bowes' decision to detour around the slating process and continue directly to the May Primary Election...for more information please read Part I.)

So, now that you've heard the Bowes side of the issue, let's analyze what he's talking about.

I believe that Bowes has many valid points in his letter. He's right on many issues, and I could support some of what he's proposing. The sad thing is that despite his rational points; Bowes is going in a very irrational manner to make change and to gain support. Some would consider what he's doing political suicide.

You see, Bowes is correct. We elect far too few Precinct Committeepersons. There are examples across the county. Take my situation for example. When I moved, I moved across Thompson Road into a different precinct. I remain the PC in my old precinct where I was elected in 2006 because I can't find a replacement. It's not that we didn't look for replacements. I've been through the list of Democrats in the precinct as recently as a year ago, and there just isn't anyone willing to run right now. I don't intend to remain in the slot forever, but I'm still here for now.

In a perfect world, it would be the local Ward Chairs that appoint the Precinct Committeepeople in their individual wards with the absence of an elected PC. That happens here where I live in Decatur Township. Essentially, it's up to the basic unit of Democrats in each individual area to rise up and become that basic machinery of PCs, Vice PCs, Ward Chairs, and Vice Ward Chairs. If you get your house in order, you can avoid the "stuffing" phenomenon that Bowes spends time on in his letter altogether. In too many areas of this county, people don't stand up and get involved. Thus, the 260 that are elected and the rest that get appointed DO have the say about what happens at slating.

Still, anyone can stuff the precincts; it's not limited to the Marion County Party Chairman. In my experience, the Chairman seems to respect the wishes of the local area. There has been no litmous loyalty test that I know of for PCs in my ward. If, for example, Decatur Township has a number of PCs to appoint, the Chairman has not interfered with those appointments when local people have placed them in nomination...even when some of those appointments have disagreements with the Chairman!

Bowes had the same opportunity to recruit a group of loyal PCs and Vice PCs appointed or elected to the positions as Terry Curry and David Orentlicher have. I have sat down with both of those candidates to talk about their respective candidacies for Prosecutor. I've never had a sit down one-on-one talk specifically about Prosecutor with Greg. Within the current structure, I think it's fair to say that Bowes may have been outworked.

Besides this "stuffing" phenomenon he advocates against, Bowes mentions in his letter that he was slated in 2003 and 2006, but he was more than just a slated candidate after 2003. He was part of the party establishment as an elected official. That carries a lot of weight! It was Bowes' choice to leave the safety of running for re-election to the Assessor's Office and pursue the Prosecutor's Office, and this slating situation apparently wasn't an issue for him when he was part of a slate before. Might it have been more effective for him to have fought for these changes from within the process?

I'm told that he didn't seem to push anything at the meeting where a new and revised slating agreement was put to a voice vote by elected officials. Bowes sudden change of heart was noticed by one party source that requested anonymity, "(Greg) Bowes has been the repeated beneficiary of this process, and the hard work of the PCs who supported him. Now, when his campaign appears to be floundering, he wants to go outside the process that elected (him) to every office he’s ever held."

As far as the changes in the slating agreement go, the party source told me, "The slating agreement was changed after two meetings with elected officials, the second of which had an overwhelming vote of the 60 plus officials there. Mr. Bowes was a 'no' my estimate of the voice vote it was better than 50-10 in favor."

The new slating agreement that apparently is drawing Bowes' ire is one that puts teeth in punishing those that run against the slate or elected officials that support candidates that aren't slated. Why change the agreement? Again, the source from the party said, "The agreement was changed to reflect traditional processes and to move beyond the divisive primary in 2008 in which elected officials (including Mr. Bowes) 'got off the reservation' and worked actively against the slated Congressman Andre Carson."

That's neither here nor there, slating is not perfect by any means, but, honestly, neither are elections. There's simply no such thing as a perfect election. You just make the best effort to get it right, and I think most times the slating process does. With some exceptions, the process has worked pretty well in more recent years.

Bowes points out a number of elected officials, current and former, that have run against the slate. To that, the party source said, "When people cite prominent African-Americans running against the slate, they are harkening back to a time in the party when slating was controlled by the whites and the primary by the blacks. This was true to some degree up until the mid to late 90's. Party leadership then determined to work on candidate recruitment to appropriately balance the ticket and 'get it right the first time.'"

All of this aside, Greg Bowes might be a great candidate for Prosecutor, but he's, in my estimation, not the best candidate for Prosecutor. In my view, he's been running for Prosecutor as the Marion County Assessor, and I just don't think it's a good idea to be the tax man running for anything except the tax man. I know he's been a great attorney, but I spent months attending the same functions as Greg and only recently have I heard him mention specifics about this resume item. Instead, Greg has given timely updates from his work as Assessor telling us to make sure to check our mailboxes for property tax bills. At one point, I had even forgotten he had been a Deputy Prosecutor because he rarely mentions it. The strategy has been flawed, and that's showing in where the money and support is heading in the campaign.

Marion County is the only county in the state that slates though my source points out that Lake and Howard Counties are considering it. The Marion County Republicans slate, and there have been shenanigans charges on that side of the aisle, too. Politics is a high stakes game. With a county party as large and complex as this one is, slating seems reasonable. It's the process we have right now to select candidates from within the party. If you don't like it, you can try to go outside of it. That's what Bowes plans to do. Buck the party process and head to the primary. PCs and Vice PCs carry weight outside the slating process. It's the loyal party voters that by and large come out for the primary. Many times it's those that pay attention to...the SLATE!

So, back to good ole George from Hoosiers. Greg Bowes has barked at the moon, and he has brought the fight right into Ed Treacy's living room. Now Treacy is "kinda forced to deal with" the situation. In that case, Bowes has has chosen to fight this type of battle on this battlefield. If this slating fight is truly his battle, then my hat's off to him. I wish him well, but I think he's going to lose and lose big in the end. He's playing this incredibly risky poker game with one of the most powerful Democrats in the state.


Wilson46201 said...

Your posting reminds me of why Julia Carson was so powerful at Slating Conventions: she was a tireless recruiter of precinct committeepeople! She worked this for many years - many cmteprsns were friends and relatives of candidates she'd supported. One time I estimated 1/3 of the PCs and VPCs in Center Township were personal recruits of Julia's.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Wow, too long to completely digest before I head off home, but I wanted a quick response. I wish I would have reviewed this earlier.

Actually it is the county chairman who appoints ALL openings in PC and WC and any other slot. The county chairman may accept the WC's recommendation, for example, but doesn't have to.

I prefer the Early term "mummy dummies" to "stuffing." What you seem to be saying is that anyone interesting in a slating result can also recruit mummy dummies to fill slots prior to slating. We'll assume the county chairman will simply rubberstamp those picks, which is not a certainty if you're looking at a contested situaiton.

What you're saying is that a slating convention filled with a bunch of mummy dummies is okay if everyone has an equal opportunity to recruit and appoint the mummy dummies. I wouldn't agree with that. Certainly someone who is a ward chairman in Pike, for example, trying to "stuff" (your word in this context works better) the precincts is at a huge disadvantage when compared to the county chairman doing the same thing county-wide.

I'm sorry, but I don't buy that everyone being allowed to manipuloate the slating vote makes it okay. That's not a healthy system and it deprives the party electorate of a real say in voting.

Not only is Marion County slating a rarity in the state. It's a rarity anywhere in the nation. It's something that sounds good on paper but in practice falls apart.

Bottom line, slating is all about a few party bosses and not the party workers or the party electorate, picking the candidates. I'm not sure that you would even disagree with that.