The Devil You Know….

A couple of political truisms–which I have always accepted as “givens”–went up in smoke last night. The first was that at-large candidates win or lose based upon the performance of their party’s mayoral candidate. The second was that in close races, victory is largely a matter of getting your vote out.

In Indianapolis yesterday, the Democrats got their votes out. They took back the Council, including the at-large seats. But enough of those Democrats scratched Melina Kennedy to allow Ballard a second term.

There will undoubtedly be lots of second-guessing and post-election analysis. Here’s my two-cents-worth: ┬áthe sorts of things about the Ballard Administration that appall so many of us who watch government closely are not the sorts of things that are apparent to the average voter (and the media largely ignored those issues during his term). No one was enthusiastic about him–he never got out of the low 40s in internal polls–but the average voter was aware of no strong reason to oppose him. Meanwhile, Melina Kennedy never gave people a strong reason to vote for her–her ads did not adequately introduce her to the voters before they began attacking Ballard, and the attack ads were, as Paul Ogden has noted, insufficiently specific; they failed to explain what was wrong with the cozy deals they alluded to–they simply attacked.

Given two candidates seen as interchangeable, voters opted for the one with whom they were familiar.

The good news is that a Democratic Council should be able to block the sorts of cozy deals and poor policy choices that have characterized Ballard’s tenure. The danger is that the Council will simply act out of partisanship, rather than principle. In either case, the next four years are likely to be contentious.

A mediocre (at best) mayor and a hostile council aren’t exactly a recipe for progress.


  1. Going negative early is not a good campaign strategy. While obviously not scientific, my assessment of voter’s opinion of Melina Kennedy was that she seemed like a decent politician but a very unlikable person. I think the negative ads were what brought so many Indianapolis residents to this conclusion.

    Had she ran her “vision” ads sooner, I think things may have been different. Instead, Melina Kennedy became the nasty candidate who only has negative things to say. With more than 60% of Indianapolis residents saying the city is on the right track, going negative isn’t a smart decision. People don’t change their political views based on ads. They may soften on certain things, but very few people will be convinced by an ad that Indianapolis is going the wrong direction when they previously thought otherwise.

    To be quite honest, Melina Kennedy ran the worst campaign I have ever seen. She SHOULD have won this race, but she did everything in her power to prevent that from happening.

  2. Mayor Ballard ran some really negative ads as well. Didn’t seem to hurt him any.

    I prefer that she didn’t differentiate herself well enough to win. Perhaps she really isn’t all that different from what we have currently.

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