Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ballard 2015?

Mayor Greg Ballard
Last week, Greg Ballard sat down for his normal monthly one-on-one with his friend, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.

The Mayor told Abdul that he's pretty much undecided on running for Mayor a third time.  The interview appears on Abdul's Indy Politics site.  He said the job takes a toll on both a person and a person's family, and that he will likely give it a go only if he feels in his own mind like there's still work to be done.

Abdul's conversation comes a few weeks after one of Ballard’s chief confidants, Jen Hallowell, said that Ballard was planning on a run in 2015. It leaves us to wonder, which is it?

I take Ballard at his word that he is stuck in the middle. I believe his party will want him to run. There’s no doubt that Greg Ballard can win elections and raise money. Twice he has proven he can win this race in two very different races.

His first run saw Ballard as the punchy underdog who hopped aboard the early grumblings of the Tea Party Express to defeat an incumbent.  In the process, he surprised almost everyone including many in his own party. The second time around, he fought off a well-financed and strong challenger. This third run might be the toughest yet for the incumbent.

Third term runs have been tough on the incumbent since Unigov became the law of the city and county.  While Hudnut was successful, due to circumstances beyond his own control and some within his own control, Bart Peterson was not successful in winning a third term.  Richard Lugar elected to run for Senate after leaving office in 1976, and Stephen Goldsmith saw his second term blow up into such a dumpster fire that he lost then Republican-leaning Marion County to Frank O'Bannon in the 1996 gubernatorial race.

Ballard, or at least those around him, must realize this.  I could not sleep at night if I said that Mayor Ballard's time in office has been a miserable failure, but, as he is in office longer, some of the decisions he and his administration have made really has left him vulnerable to attack on multiple fronts.

One of the biggest fronts sits in right under his nose.  With the homicides mounting, if Ballard is unable to win this battle to get folks in this city to stop killing each other, that will continue to be a huge Achilles heel for him since he ran on the slogan that public safety was job one.  I understand that it's not all his fault, but, as many in the media point out, Ballard is not the most hands-on guy.

Public safety isn't the only issue out there where the Mayor would be vulnerable to a pinpoint attack.  A well-run campaign by the Democrats could hit Ballard on city contracts, campaign finance, the use of Rebuild Indy funds, his penchant for raising taxes and fees, cricket, and much more.  Remember, Ballard preached for honesty and transparency while not asking for more taxpayer dollars.  That candidate is very vulnerable.

On top of it all, Ballard just completed one of the greatest coups taking critical powers from the City-County Council and Marion County Commissioners for himself by getting Senate Enrolled Act 621 through the Indiana General Assembly.  Ballard's power grab made it easier for Republicans to gain control of the Indy City-County Council and easy for the Mayor of Indianapolis to exert his will over the city.

Coupled with these vulnerabilities, the Democrats have a bench here with a few solid candidates sitting on it. U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett is his potential chief rival.  As U.S. Attorney, Hogsett is unable to do anything political in nature, but the thought is that he has aspirations for political office again.  Hogsett would be a strong campaigner and strong fundraiser who would hit Ballard in his vulnerable areas while touting a long record of public service most recently as a crusader against gangs, guns, violence, and government corruption.

There are other Democrats on the bench that could also be very strong candidates if Hogsett decides to not to run or to run for something else in another cycle.  City-County Councillors Brian Mahern, Vop Osili and Council President Maggie Lewis are possible candidates.  Former Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Woody Myers is rumored to be interested, and Abdul reported in the same posting that Sam Carson will try to get on the ballot as an independent.  It's not impossible to do in Marion County, but it's very tough.

That brings us back to Mayor Ballard.  Democrats would be well-advised not to underestimate him.  He’s moderate enough to keep getting elected in a city that leans blue, but he’s conservative enough to draw enough of his base to continue to get votes and support. He’s also Teflon enough so that things just don’t stick to him like they should. As much as I criticize him here on this blog, Ballard is a genuinely nice fellow. He does the retail politics well, but the question is will he want to do it again?

There's no rush on this timetable.  As the incumbent, I think that Ballard understands he has probably until next summer to make a firm decision on 2015. By that point, we should also know the plans of Joe Hogsett and other Democrats who are considering a run.

Whatever Mr. Ballard decides, it's been an interesting run for the man few people gave a chance to back in 2007.  He's proven to be a much bigger political force than I could have ever imagined, and, if he runs, I won't dare write him off or out in 2015 until the votes are counted and the race is called.


varangianguard said...

Ms. Kennedy was not a "strong" challenger. She frittered away all of her "strengths" by running a lackluster, almost do-nothing campaign.
To beat the Mayor, the Democratic party will need to put forward someone who (publicly) acts like he/she really wants it and has some concrete plans that differ significantly from what the voters have already.
You perception of the last campaign may differ from mine, but you are closer to the inside looking out, and apparently that view wasn't seeing the reality on the street. The result speaks for itself.

Jon Easter said...

I would disagree with your assessment of a "do nothing" campaign. In fact, Mayor Ballard has employed many of her policies specifically on education.

I think her campaign's tactics were wrong. I think that a campaign must be a reflection of the person running it. Anyone that knows Melina knows that she is a wonderful person. She's kind, considerate, and caring. We never really saw that person in that campaign. I think that was bad advice.

I won't address the "inside looking out" aspect of your comments. I had nothing to do with the campaign other than blogging about it.

As far as the actual description of Kennedy as a strong challenger, I think she was. She was smart and would have been a great Mayor. She was a good fundraiser as well. I've said it several times. The problem was not with the candidate in my view. The problem was with the campaign's tactics.

varangianguard said...

I agree that her campaign failed to add her human element. I'm sure she is a very nice person. But, that never was publicized effectively.
The "inside" comment just means that you are much more involved than I with politics. Your activism allows you to see inside better than me. That's all.
Perhaps Ms. Kennedy had strong potential as a candidate, but I absolutely agree with you that the campaign seriously let her down. I also agree that she would have made a great Mayor. Obviously, our two votes weren't enough.