Friday, January 8, 2010

Mayoral Marathon: Democratic Race Heats Up

I've taken several looks at the Mayoral Marathon these last few days, but, as promised, I'd like to analyze where the race for the Democratic nomination stands as we begin 2010.

With over a year to go before slating and the May 2011 primary, the is leaning towards former Deputy Mayor Melina Kennedy over well-financed venture capitalist Brian Williams and potential candidate City-County Councillor José Evans. While that's my take on the race today, the road has already taken many twists and turns.

Brian Williams became the first candidate to file late last summer. Williams has put forth some interesting, common sense proposals such as the re-use of the old City Hall as a new Mayor's Office and a letter talking about his vision for education in Indianapolis. Williams has also weathered a loose connection with embattled financier Tim Durham by being seemingly up front and honest about his business relationships. The reference to Durham remains prominently displayed on Williams website because, as Williams says, he can't hide it so why not be open about it.

Melina Kennedy was the second to file, but she's also been the first to begin lining up major endorsements. Former Congressman Andy Jacobs, former Mayor Bart Peterson, and several prominent CEOs and business leaders have come out in favor of Kennedy. Unions also have shown early support for her. AFSCME Local 1887 (Indy Parks), International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators & Allied Workers Local 18, and the LIUNA all have endorsed her. Kennedy's campaign has already raked in some good campaign cash at fundraisers.

Among others rumored to be running, José Evans appears to be the most serious. , a freshman City-County Councillor, is a wild card of sorts. Amongst the contenders, he would be the only sitting officeholder to be in the contest if he jumps in. While he boasted to Indianapolis Monthly that he has put together a great organization, he has yet to make a commitment to the campaign in a major way while Kennedy and Williams continue to raise money and build support.

Also notable so far are the names that have decided not to pursue the office after at least giving it some thought. Former Indiana Secretary of State Joe Hogsett was either the frontrunner or in a close second place when he decided to pull his name out of the race. He never filed any paperwork to run. Also pulling out in the early going was former state and county party chairman, Kip Tew. Most recently, former Lieutenant Governor Kathy Davis decided to abandon any thoughts of running.

Some bloggers have speculated that candidates like Davis, Hogsett, and Tew have decided not to run because Greg Ballard is seen as someone that will be tough to beat. I beg to differ. I think it's because they've looked at the candidates that are

running and the starts they have had and have decided that it's going to be tough to make up the difference. Evans, for example, has been a rumored candidate almost all along and has done a good job staying right outside the fight.

Right now, as of today, Melina Kennedy has to be considered the frontrunner for the nomination. She has her negatives. Many point to her loss in 2006 as the party nominee for Prosecutor. Others also tout her involvement with the Lucas Oil Stadium negotiations. I think Kennedy has tremendous positives. As Deputy Mayor, she helped to shape the terms of one of the most progressive mayors in city history.

Williams has shown flashes of brilliance here and there. It remains clear that he has work to do with name recognition and clearly defining himself as a candidate who can do more than just be a good mayor for business. He is trying to do that through a series of web commercials. Williams should not be underestimated, and he has the ability to spend some cash as well.

Evans also should not be underestimated, but he needs to decide to get in the game. Kennedy and Williams are already way ahead in terms of a head start on Evans. Certainly, there's still time to make some headway and make it up, but the time's a tickin' here.

With any of these three candidates, Mayor Ballard will have his hands full for re-election.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Outside of Abdul are there other bloggers who have:

"speculated that candidates like Davis, Hogsett, and Tew have decided not to run because Greg Ballard is seen as someone that will be tough to beat?"

I can't imagine there are. Take a look at the county's demographis, the minority Republican base and the fact that Ballard has alienated much of that base and been regularly panned in the media for poor or a lack of leadership. It doesn't spell victory by any objective analysis.

The only thing Ballard has going for him is that his position allows him to get a lot of campaign contributions from companies wanting to do business with the city. While that money might get him through a contested primary, it's unlikely to be able to repair the damage done to the Mayor's reputation these many months. While money is criticalin politics, it can also be overrated. There is only so much money can do in terms of fixing a poor public image that is deeply ingrained in the public's consciousness.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Brian is consistently referred to as "well funded". I'm very curious to see what his campaign finance reports look like because as I've been making the rounds in the Dem community, I'm not getting the sense that this is necessarily true. The breadth of donors will be interesting to see as well.

I've been to a Kennedy and a Williams fundraiser and Kennedy's was far and away more impressive. Both with the quantity of people as well as who was actually there.

I think these reports will tell us much about what 2010 will look like for the Mayor's race.

Anonymous said...

Melina won't win. She has too much baggage. Williams does not have to deal with Lucas Oil Stadium, losing to Carl Brizzi, and her connection to Bart Peterson. The GOP will beat Melina up bad.

Anonymous said...

Ballard can't really use Lucas Oil against anyone because he's all for it now (another broken campaign promise). He's touting getting the Super Bowl as an accomplishment, talking about the CIB fix as saving and maintaining the economic engine of Indianapolis, etc. He can't go there, he has just as much baggage on that as anyone now.

Losing to Brizzi won't hurt Melina. She lost by 4000 votes against a better funded incumbent. Big deal.

Trust me, other than the extreme arm of the MC GOP, Peterson still polls very well.