We really haven't seen much of the "cards" played yet in politics for this Mayoral race in 2011. With that said, I think Mayor Greg Ballard came very close to playing the "gender card" with his latest ad.
The content of the ad is simple. Ballard's responding to Kennedy's ad campaign that has been highly critical of him. The ad is trying to connect Kennedy to tax increases that happened under the administration of Bart Peterson.
Multiple news sources have reported that Kennedy is on record supporting a tax increase in town back during her 2006 run for Prosecutor, but that was not a frivolous tax increase. It was one to help the Prosecutor's Office hire more people to ease jail overcrowding, and that was a problem in 2006. In the world of politics, Ballard's ad is perfectly fine in that regard. I think it's misleading and out of context, but, frankly, that's how you run a campaign sometimes.
As far as the Ballard record portion of the ad, he's again taking credit for someone else's work: something he does very often.
The drop in property taxes that we all have experienced (to some detriment to our schools and local governments) came at the General Assembly level and not the local level. The perception of Ballard as a key player in that fight is somewhat comical. His stance was to support the cuts, but that type of decision has left Indianapolis shortchanged in public safety and has forced folks at IMPD officers to buy their own toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other supplies to work.
We all love cheaper property taxes. Mine went down a lot, but the legislature did the cut without looking at its effect. It was a short sighted solution for an immediate political win. Kind of like selling off our water and sewer utility as well as our parking assets, but I digress.
Let's look at the subtext of Ballard's ad. It uses a multicultural cast of actors to get its point across. Again, no objection. That's smart. You want to appeal to a broad range of people, so make the people look like the viewers. Here's where it gets interesting, and I'm sure you noticed it. I'm going to assume that Ballard's camp intentionally chose an all-female cast for the ad to criticize Kennedy. I'm sure that Republicans will say that he did that to appeal to Kennedy's perceived strength among female voters. The question I have is, "Is that playing the gender card?"
I am not sure I'm ready to drop the sexist card on the table, but I think some will call Ballard's ad mildly sexist. Maybe they are hypersensitive folks, but this was an intentional choice by the Ballard camp to use an all female cast of actors in this ad. Maybe the thinking is that women will accept criticism of a female candidate only if it's coming from women and that Ballard doesn't want to seem like the big bad wolf. I think it's a point worth mentioning.
Then again, I could be off base. I don't think the ad is very effective. A couple of the ladies in the spot seem to be reading off a teleprompter, and it's clearly more negative in tone than Ballard's first few ads. It's a signal of a change in tactics and that Kennedy's criticisms are hurting the Mayor's polling in some fashion.