Friday, March 12, 2010
Will Marion County Assessor's Race Be Interesting?
The prevailing wisdom is that the near baseline vote of 60 percent Democratic in Marion County should easily carry through the Democratic Party county ticket of the Clerk (Beth White), the Recorder (Julie Voorhies), the Auditor (Billie Breaux), and the Assessor (Joe O'Connor) to office.
I would say that, for most of the ticket, that is correct; however, I would caution O'Connor and Democrats not to just simply write off firebrand GOP candidate Becky Williams without beating her first.
Let's get this straight, I'm not denigrating or criticizing Joe O'Connor at all here. I like Joe, support Joe, and have donated to Joe. I know and am impressed by his qualifications for the job, but I just get the feeling that Williams is going to go after him hard. Williams is not one to go quietly.
Williams was the face of the Assessors as they battled to save their jobs in the referendum that ended up eliminating them. She was vocal, loud, and seemingly everywhere as the president of the Indiana Township Assessors Association. More than anything, Williams was staunchly anti-Greg Bowes at every turn. She created waves when she claimed that, upon applying for a job in the Marion County Assessor's Office, Bowes simply told her that she would be better off working at Wal-Mart. Bowes denied that was exactly how the conversation went down, and I believe him.
O'Connor, a 16-year veteran of the assessment process in the Pike Township and Marion County offices, certainly has the impeccable credentials to run for and succeed in the office. He has also done great work as Bowes' Chief Deputy Assessor. He knows the job and will make a great assessor. He is, however, not the strongest campaigner. He's very low key.
Williams is not, and, if given the opportunity with some money might be able to turn that into some votes at the ballot box. Will people even care to do anything but vote party at that level of the ballot? I don't know. Williams is going to have to make some sort of crossover appeal to people's wallets.
She's also going to have to convince the public that O'Connor is somehow Greg Bowes and that they, together, did a bad job running the office. I don't know that she will be successful in that regard. Bowes and, later, O'Connor were delivered a very tough set of circumstances when Governor Mitch Daniels froze assessments and ordered the County Assessors to reassess all real property. This backlogged the assessments and the bills. With the help of very effective public servant, Marion County Treasurer Mike Rodman, Bowes and O'Connor have done a tremendous job catching things up. As we enter the new property tax season, things are back on schedule and running well.
It's an uphill climb for Williams, but she might be able to at least score some points along the way in a race that typically fills only the election night crawl and not the brains of the analysts and pundits. So far, all's quiet on the assessor front, but who knows what will come before November? I'm not saying that Williams will win or even make a dent. All I am saying is that I wouldn't totally discount her as a candidate. She can yell loud enough to make this thing interesting. Whether anyone will listen remains to be seen.