Friday, May 2, 2014

On Slating...

Not sure why I picked Waldorf and Stadler for this,
but it seemed appropriate at the time so I left it.
Let me begin by saying that I have been a slated candidate for office before.

In the 2008 General Election, I was the slated Democrat in the race for Decatur Township Advisory Board in November.  The candidates for the office had struck a deal with the Marion County Democratic Party that we would not pay a slating fee unless we won.  The Democrats downtown were as eager as the local Democrats to fill the slate.  As a party, we went 0-6.  I lost big time, and I haven't run for office again.

I have, however, participated in slating conventions as one of the so-called "party bosses" and "insiders" that some have railed against.  I haven't always voted the way that the prevailing winds say I should have voted, but I've never been pressured or been coerced to vote one way or another by anyone in the Marion County Democratic Party leadership.  I have always voted for the people I felt were the best candidates.  Sometimes, my candidates have won.  Sometimes, they have lost.

I became disillusioned with the slating process in 2011.  We had a Decatur Township Democrat (Pat Andrews) running for City-County Council.  Before the deadline for submitting precinct committeepersons passed, our local organization in Decatur Township submitted a last few candidates.  They were submitted to fill slots and no litmus test was applied.

When those Democrats arrived at the slating convention, they were told they could not receive a credential.  The Marion County Democratic Party blamed it on a miscommunication and that the Chairman had been ill and unable to approve the last-minute appointments.  I was embarrassed, as a Ward Chair, that those people took time out of their days to go downtown, find parking, and vote as precinct committeepersons but were unable to do so.

I have never accused anyone of anything untoward, but I felt that it made me look like an idiot. Shortly after that, I was elected President of the Decatur Township Civic Council, a non-political position, so I resigned as Ward Chair.

These past experiences have given me mixed feelings about slating.  I believe that it does have some value, but I feel that the process needs to be reformed...I just don't know where to start to do the reform.

I think that we carry out heavy-handed campaigns sometimes to push the slate, and I don't think that makes anyone enjoy the process.  The voters ultimately have the decision in their hands on May 6.  If we, as a party, have played our cards right and truly have good slated candidates, then there should be no problem.  

On Tuesday, I think the slate carries for the Democrats.  I believe the slated Democrats ARE the best people for the job.  They are all competent and ready to serve.  If I didn't believe that, I would tell you.  I'm not beholden to anyone on this blog, and I don't get a dollar for it.

What I do believe is unfortunate is the way we characterize those running against the slate.  For stepping out and into the political realm, we should, at some level, praise everyone that runs for office and leaves his or her comfort zone.  At the end of the day, we're all Democrats.  We all share some of the same core values, and our party is better because we are all in it.

Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.  I've probably been guilty of it in the past.  For that, I'm sorry.


Greg Bowes said...

" I believe the slated Democrats ARE the best people for the job."

What about Mark Jones?

johnnystir . said...

I would have, in all honesty, voted Mark Jones and Karen Celestino-Horseman at slating. Had they continued on, I would have voted for them in the primary.

I'm sorry, Greg. I feel that the eight recommended judicial candidates who are Democrats are the best eight for the job. That doesn't mean that I don't like you or David Hennessy (who I've never met) or the other candidate (who I've also never met).

The incumbents, Dave Dreyer, Jim Osborn, Barbara Cook Crawford, and Annie Christ-Garcia are people I have come to know and trust over the years. Marcel Pratt has a wealth of experience. Shatrese Flowers and Christina Klineman have both been commissioners. I have also known Angela Davis for years, and I have seen her at work as an organizer. I think she is efficient and fair-minded.

I believe you are also qualified to be a judge, Greg. I think David Hennessy is also qualified from what I know about him. If either of you are selected on Tuesday by the voters, you will each make fine judges.

People can take my opinion for what it's worth. A friend of mine says that opinions are like rear ends...everyone has them and most of them stink.

Dan Foreman said...

I agree that slating needs tweaking. I have some ideas. My disgust is with those who have used the slating process, won slating and then elected to office but when they have a slating loss then slating becomes a horrible evil. Was it a horrible evil when that candidate used it to gaim office? Some of this seems to point to being a sore loser more than concern over the slating process. I have never been coerced to vote for anyone and have frequently voted for a candidate who was not favored by the party heads. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. Isn't that like life?

Zachary Mulholland said...

Thanks for sharing your insights on this Jon. I actually don’t disagree with too much of what you say. I think many of the criticisms of slating are over-the-top and believe it or not, I support the concept of slating in principle if not in practice.

First, let me start by stating that I think the idea of slating judges by political parties in an unequivocally bad idea. I think this process compromises the ability of judges to operate as the independent arbiters of the law that they should be and unnecessarily politicizes the one branch of government that should be sequestered from such influences. Having said that, we have some terrific judges in Marion County – both Democrat and Republican – so my issues aren’t with the qualifications of our judges, but rather our process for electing them. I recognize the concerns with the funding of judicial elections and the dangers of allowing the plaintiff and defense bars to manipulate the seating of judges. That is a real and important concern, but the current system is equally flawed in my estimation. It seems crazy to me that school board elections (which have far more reaching policy implications) are non-partisan, but our judicial elections are not.

Having said that, I otherwise appreciate the important function that slating serves. For better or worse, political parties are brands; they crudely and inexactly reflect a certain vision for our political institutions and represent a bundle of policies that reflect this vision. Obviously, in a two-party system (I’ll set this can of worms aside) there is a need to promote and protect the brand. I appreciate this need and think that slating – when done right – can serve this function. When the comments and conduct of a single candidate (see Richard Mourdock) can have far-reaching effects on other candidates and the reputation of the party, the necessity of screening candidates seeking a party’s nomination is clear.

Zachary Mulholland said...

However, while I recognize the merits of slating in principle, I have serious concerns about it as currently practiced. I don't doubt that you (or others) were not coerced or pressured to vote a certain way, but I would not agree that the process is in any way fair or democratic. I'm certainly willing to listen to ideas to the contrary, but I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for why APPOINTED committeepersons should be permitted to vote at slating. In my view, the only reasonable justification for this is to allow the party Chairman to influence the outcome of these contests. If we truly are the party that defends free and fair elections, let's at least practice the democratic principles we espouse.

As far as "tweaking" or reforming slating, again I think limiting voting to elected PCs is a first-step, no brainer. However, if I were in charge (which clearly I am not nor ever will be), I would propose an even more radical reform. I don't think Marion County democrats should slate just one candidate. Rather, I think slating should function to screen out unqualified or potentially damaging candidates. Maybe that means that 51% of elected PCs must vote that they are confident that the individual is qualified for the office they are seeking and that their views substantially reflect the views of the party. So while PCs would screen out those persons they concluded were not qualified, ultimately the decision would rest where it should, with the democratic primary voters. Especially considering that most of our legislative districts have been carefully crafted so as to make them non-competitive in the general election, the idea that a handful of people (many of whom are appointed by one person) select the person who will represent the interests of tens of thousands of people should offend the senses of everyone who believes in the idea of representative democracy.

Of course, this would mean holding primaries that mattered. While I'm sure this is incredibly threatening for some, I actually think it is a missed opportunity for the party and contributes to the apathy and cynicism that so many harbor about the political process. Perhaps as part of this reformed slating process, there would be some guidelines on primary campaigns (e.g. an expectation that there will be absolutely no negative campaigning, spending limits, etc.). What could possibly be more healthy to our party than to engage as many people as possible in our party. I just do not accept that having tons of young people engaging in positive campaigning, registering new voters, knocking on doors and getting excited about politics is anything but beneficial to the democratic party and to our democracy.

I've resigned myself to the fact that I will always be an outsider, but I will always remain hopeful that our party lives up to its highest ideals and aspires to be the party that encourages and supports democracy rather than fears it. I continue to believe that the Democratic Party is the best hope for the future of our city, state, and country. I will continue to vote for and support candidates who act with integrity and intelligence. I used to think that elected office was the best way I could use my talents and passion to serve, but I watched my father as a youth pastor in Fountain Square change lives and reshape our community for 25 years. I'm beginning to think that I can make a far greater impact by following his example than I ever could have trying to set my own.

Paul K. Ogden said...
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Paul K. Ogden said...
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Paul K. Ogden said...

"I haven't always voted the way that the prevailing winds say I should have voted, but I've never been pressured or been coerced to vote one way or another by anyone in the Marion County Democratic Party leadership."

They don't have to pressure you, Jon, because for every one of you elected, working PCs, the county chairman has appointed at least three people to attend slating and cancel out your vote. This is the biggest tall tales about slating - that since there isn't any coercion going on at slating, the election is fair. It's rigged before the convention ever takes place. That's exactly why, unlike 15 years ago, you rarely see slating contests. Candidates know it's rigged going in. In very, very few occasions can someone beat the handpicked candidate of the county chair. It's like trying to win the 100 yard dash and your opponent having a 25 yard head start.

As far as the judge races, I don't know how anyone can seriously argue
that Greg Bowes David Hennessy do not rank in the top 8 qualified judicial candidates. They are much more experienced than several of the first time judicial candidates. Greg is one of the sharpest attorney I have ever met, a wide array of criminal and civil experience that's unmatched by the other candidates. He would be a very ethical judge, a straight shooter who would call them as he sees them. Although I've never worked on a case with Hennessy, he is universally praised by people in the legal profession. The notion that the 8 slated judicial candidates are the most qualified of the 11 is wishful thinking.

johnnystir . said...

I actually spoke with the Marion County Democratic Party after this posted, and I'm told the list is locked down in November for the slating convention in February. There are no more appointments allowed after that.

This is a change that Chairman Miller made.

johnnystir . said...

I just love your assumptions, Paul. You assume so much that you have no clue about. Keep assuming.

Zachary Mulholland said...

@Jon - I don't see how the timing of appointments is germane to the larger issues of why appointed precinct committeepersons should be allowed to vote at slating. Again, other than allowing the County Chairman to influence slating contests, what justification is there for allowing appointed PCs to vote?