Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Curious Case of Bill Levin
The race for City-County Council is an interesting one this year, and the party that controls the Council will have a huge hand, with the Mayor, to determine the course of the city for the next four years. In the past, that was just something almost exclusively for Republicans and Democrats, but things are a-changing.
The Marion County Libertarian Party has become a more major player in local politics by recruiting and pushing forth good candidates and good leaders. They have become a very interesting supporting player in the movie that is Marion County politics.
Ed Coleman, who was elected as a Republican, flipped to Libertarian after becoming frustrated with the inner workings of the Republican Council leadership. He now is leaving his At-Large spot to tangle with Jack Sandlin in District 24 which makes a usually sleepy race very interesting there. Coleman isn’t the only Libertarian making things interesting. Bill Levin’s entry into the At-Large race also sparks wonder as in, “I wonder what effect he will have on the Council race At-Large?”
That remains to be seen. After I posted my Council forecast on Monday, a few comments that were left talk about Levin’s efforts to register and recruit new voters to the process. Republicans like Paul Ogden seem to believe Levin will pull votes from the Republican At-Large candidates. I tend to think that some of the most liberal social Democrats may take a look at Levin because of his activities with ReLegalize Indiana, a PAC dedicated to getting marijuana legalized in the Hoosier State.
I think he will pull votes from both sides of the aisle. I am not sure it will be enough votes to swing an election, though. In a municipal election where the turnout is sure to be lower than a Presidential or midterm election, the hardcore party voters take on extreme importance. 2007 was an anomaly as both Republicans and Democrats took their angst about taxes out on the Democratic Party. Coupled with a poor campaign effort, Republicans took back control.
At this point, I think 2011 will be more of a normal election year. Since there are more Democrats in Marion County, I think you will see that begin to play into Council politics. I’m not ready to declare the Republican Party dead in Marion County. They have very deep pockets when they want to target a race, but it appears that the insurgence of the Libertarians over the last four years could certainly damage their chances.
The Libertarian Party carried the standard and helped to defeat the comprehensive smoking ban proposal by pressuring the Council. They found enough support to keep smoking legal. Winning elections as a third party is certainly different than advocating for a cause, but it nevertheless is something that should be noted.
A bigger question though is who is Bill Levin going to count on to get his votes out? Does he have the kind of campaign cash and organization to get a new and, admittedly, sometimes less than politically involved base out for him? Will he and other Libertarians be able to door knock and to rally support and pull some of the hardcores over to his direction.
These are the questions he will have to ask himself about his campaign because to draw a 12-way tie, you need at least 8.3 percent of the vote. It's not as easy as you think. Democratic candidates took the At-Large slots with 12-13 percent of the vote, individually, in 2003 with the lowest winning vote getter (King Ro Conley) receiving 69,374 votes or 12.1 percent. It took 11.63 percent of the vote or 72,495 votes for Ed Coleman, the candidate that won with the least number of votes) to be in the top four in 2007, and he was on the Republican ticket then.
It will take an effort for Levin to break on through to the other side. Can he get the 69,000-72,000 votes he might need to win? It's tough as a third party. In those two elections, Libertarians took less than one percent individually in 2003 and one to two percent of the vote in 2007. The progress is measurable, but it’s still going to take an effort to get elected as a third-party candidate no matter if Willie Nelson endorses you or not.
Can he be a spoiler? Absolutely! If he pulls a few thousand votes from either side, it could swing a close race one way or another. Can he win? That’s a whole other question altogether!