Primarily Speaking, It’s a Crucial Voting Period

Primaries have always been my favorite. In most districts, the primary election is the election that will decide who gets to raise his or her right hand and take office. The pressure is generally more intense and often more personal given that the political parties see them as “their fights.” Not us. We represent the business community (employers and employees) and recognize the opportunities presented by a good primary fight no matter the party. Primaries are usually the best, if not only, chance to take out many of those incumbents who say they are pro-business, but their voting record and actions indicate otherwise.

Just a few months ago, the only race in town was for control of the Indiana House. With only eight days to go until the last day of the primary election voting season, there are several others that are just as compelling. What was once a cakewalk U.S. Senate re-election race for Evan Bayh has turned into a competitive Republican primary that people are paying close attention to and a November contest that will be one of the most watched in the country. There are highly competitive primaries in the fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth Congressional districts. And of course, there are a bevy of state legislative primaries that are hotly contested.

After the 2008 failure of the political parties to recruit enough pro-jobs, pro-economic development candidates, (even leaving several competitive districts uncontested), we decided to fully implement our own candidate recruitment and development program. Since December 2008, we have met with well over 100 potential candidates and recruited several who decided to run.  Following this effort, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG) is now leading or playing a significant role in no less than seven highly competitive Indiana General Assembly primaries.  

This post kicks off an impressive lineup of guest bloggers we have assembled this week. They include state chairmen, a former state chairman, media representatives, popular Indiana bloggers and leaders/communicators from the state’s largest three political parties.

Please check back this afternoon as one of the most insightful and respected individuals in Hoosier politics weighs in. Robin Winston is a former Democratic state chairman, Indiana Week in Review panelist and key strategist for Hoosier Democrats. Grab a nice hot tea or caffeinated drink of your choice and enjoy. I certainly will.

The Roller Coaster Ride of Candidate Filing Comes to a Close

Even though we have been heavily involved in candidate recruitment this election cycle, the candidate filing period was full of surprises and plenty of candidates wanting to serve Indiana at the Indiana Statehouse and the U.S. Capitol.

Here is the complete list of filings (PDF).

We will write more analysis next week, but here are some early highlights:

  • Eighty-three candidates filed for U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. Someone pull out the history book and tell me the last time the party holding an open U.S. Senate seat did not have a candidate on the primary ballot.
  • U.S. Senator Bayh, Congressman Steve Buyer and Congressman Brad Ellsworth will not be returning to Washington in their current seat. Ellsworth is vacating his congressional seat for a run at the open U.S. Senate seat.
  • The early scoreboard on the race for control of the Indiana House is 30-11 for the Republicans. There are 30 districts currently held by a Republican without a Democratic challenger and 11 uncontested for the Democrats. Each party has until June 30 to fill a ballot vacancy for the general election.
  • The Senate scoreboard is 23-10 for the Republicans. This includes seats not up until 2012 (Republicans control 18 of those 25 seats).
  • There are eight contested primaries in the Senate. Three are on the Democratic side and five on the Republican side.
  • There are 38 contested primaries in the House. Ten are on the Democratic side and 28 on the Republican side.
  • Sue Errington and John Waterman are the only two incumbent senators with a primary.
  • There are 19 House incumbents with a primary: Charlie Brown, Dan Stevenson, Chet Dobis, Don Lehe, Doug Gutwein, David Wolkins, Shelli VanDenburgh, Tom Dermody, Bill Ruppel, Bill Friend, Jack Lutz, Jacque Clements, Tim Brown, Dan Leonard, Dick Dodge, Tom Knollman, Woody Burton, Phyllis Pond and Mary Ann Sullivan.
  • There were a total of 263 candidates that filed for the Indiana General Assembly.
  • Only 17.1% of the candidates were women.

Look for more analysis over the next several days on candidate filings. Please feel free to add to the conversation and post your comments or questions.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Business Freedom

In a major victory for Hoosier and American business, the United States Supreme Court handed down a much anticipated ruling today in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This ruling removes the ban placed on corporate dollars spent on independent expenditures and will give the job creators and innovators of this country the freedom to talk about issues, candidates and elections.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling frees American business from the yoke of second class citizenship.  It returns the right of American business to talk about workplace issues and hold candidates accountable,” said Gregory Casey, President and CEO of the Business and Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), the nation’s oldest business political action committee. The Court’s action is “certain to increase the discussion on economic issues in the 2010 elections, which is a very good outcome.” 

The Court’s 5-4 ruling also involved two much older cases, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.  In Citizens United v. FEC, a small non-profit organization, Citizens United wanted to release a documentary that was critical of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential election on cable TV that would have been available through video-on-demand. Several lower court decisions ruled against the organization from airing the documentary.

Contributions made by corporations will be disclosed and essentially treated the same as an individual contribution currently is by the FEC. Transparency and freedom of speech are both important and both won in this ruling.

By the way, the loud moan you are hearing is coming from labor union leaders who fear business leaders talking directly with voters about an agenda centered on job creation, economic development and education reform.

Please feel free to add to the conversation and post your comments or questions.

Businessman Scott Schneider to Replace Sen. Lubbers

In a crowded room filled with Republican precinct committee voters and plenty of interested observers, former Indianapolis City-County Councilman Scott Schneider defeated former State Rep. John Ruckelshaus and City-County Councilman Ryan Vaughn for the Senate District 30 seat Tuesday night.  Businessman Chris Douglas dropped out of the race Tuesday morning as we reported on Twitter (@IBRG). 

The contest took two ballots to decide a winner, but Schneider nearly shocked the room by coming up just one vote shy of a majority on the first ballot (Schneider 49, Vaughn 37, Ruckelshaus 12 and one spoiled ballot).

A caucus election is notorious for voters being deceptive when it comes to who they are going to vote for, but the Schneider camp was keenly accurate on its vote counts and only missed the mark by one vote.  It is also interesting to note that the Douglas camp was equally accurate on the vote totals before pulling out.  The Douglas vote count would have also placed him in third place on the first ballot.  Many insiders were clearly surprised that 1) Vaughn did not have the lead on the first ballot and 2) Schneider nearly received a majority of the 99 votes.

On the second ballot, the only unanswered question was how many votes would shift to Schneider to give him the victory.  The answer was nearly all.  The tally on the second ballot was Schneider 61 and Vaughn 38.  Schneider gained 12 of the 13 (Ruckelshaus and spoiled) votes from the first ballot.  Kudos must be given to Schneider for his ability to win a caucus election when most observers predicted he would finish second or third.  It is also interesting to note that all three candidates felt they had enough votes committed to them to win on the first ballot.

Schneider and his family are longtime small business owners who have been involved in politics for a number of years and have an excellent track record of winning tough races.  Schneider was introduced by Rep. Cindy Noe. IBRG worked closely with Scott and his father, Bill, to help Noe win during a three-way primary.  Schneider adds a much needed voice of understanding and business community experience to the Legislature and is an individual with strong convictions.  He will likely turn in the official paperwork to the Secretary of State and the Senate Pro Tempore today and a swearing in date will soon be announced.

Please feel free to add to the conversation and post your comments or questions.


There’s No “R” in Specter: Senator Changes Parties

Many national outlets are reporting that moderate U.S. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has switched parties and is now part of the Democrat majority. No doubt, this is a major story and has significant implications for this Congress and the agenda going forward as the Democratic Party is now one seat closer to the magical number of 60.

Reports are also indicating that the main, or at least a major, reason why Specter is switching parties is that he feels he stands a better chance to be re-elected as a Democratic candidate than a Republican candidate does. If this is true, outrage should follow by the citizens of Pennsylvania. Putting his own selfish political interest ahead of what is best for his state and country in these tough economic times is exactly why so many Americans are incredibly fed up with the politics coming out of Washington D.C.

Now, if Specter’s reason is based solely on his philosophy and belief he is now a Democratic legislator and should thus be recognized as such, fine. However, to make a switch late in the fifth of a six-year term on the heels of what is expected to be a tough re-election effort smells of the self-preserving attitude that has become far too common among many elected officials.

If this politically calculated, self-interested attitude is driving this decision, I hope that someone — a Republican or Democratic candidate — replaces Sen. Specter in 2010 and will serve the good people of Pennsylvania and the country with the wishes of the taxpayer first.

Feel free to add your comments and start a discussion on the topic of elected officials switching parties.

Editor’s note: Here’s a list of some other well-known political party switcheroos.

Indiana Chamber PAC (IBRG) is Hiring a Fundraiser

Interested in raising over a million dollars this election cycle for one of the most sophisticated and active Chamber or business PACs in the country? Do you want to be part of a top bi-partisan political team that has a strong record of success? One more item to consider — not only do we deeply believe in what we are doing in electing pro-business candidates, but we also have a lot of fun while winning a lot of campaigns! 

Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG) is hiring a Manager of Political Fundraising. This person would provide fundraising expertise to IBRG and endorsed candidates, as well as assist the President, Vice President of Political Affairs and IBRG Board members in meeting the fundraising objectives for IBRG. The Manager of Political Fundraising is the person with primary responsibility for executing the IBRG fundraising plan. IBRG’s political fundraising includes in-state PAC, federal PAC and “soft-dollar” fundraising efforts.

Still interested? Read the brief description and then view the full job description and apply.

Rock Stars Sure are Lonely in the Winner’s Circle

In a previous post, we showed how difficult it was for a repeat candidate to win in his/her second attempt at an office. Since there was so much interesting data on this topic, we decided to turn this into several posts. This second post will refine the original target audience of 81 repeat candidates down to 32 repeat candidates who ran in two straight general elections with the opponent in the second general election being an incumbent.

From this more narrow group of 32 repeat candidates, only 1 (3.1%) was successful in his bid to become a state legislator — and that was the Elvis impersonating rock star Bruce Borders in HD45.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of these 32 candidates performed worse in their second attempt compared to their first attempt.  21 of these 32 candidates (65.6%) received a lower vote percentage in their second attempt while only 11 (34.4%) performed better than their first attempt.

In contrast, first-time state legislative candidates who were facing an incumbent won 5.7% of the time (18 out of 316).  Nine of these were House Democratic candidates, eight were House Republican candidates and one was a Senate Republican candidate.

It is also interesting to note that out of these 17 first-time House candidates who defeated an incumbent, the Democratic candidates in those nine districts have won all 17 (100%) of their contests since first winning the seat from a Republican, while the Republican candidates in those eight districts have won five of 15 (33%) of their contests since first winning the seat from a Democrat.

The bottom line here remains the same:  No matter how you choose to slice and dice the numerical facts of legislative races between 1998-2008, repeat candidates who do not have something significantly different in their second attempt are clearly less successful than first time candidates. It is clear that no matter the party or chamber, recruiting a defeated candidate to run again will most likely result in defeat again … unless you have a rock star running.

Please feel free to post a comment to this blog posting and start a conversation here.

Another IBRG Vendor Takes Home Multiple Awards

IBRG, the political arm for the Indiana Chamber, has a long relationship with The Strategy Group for Media in working together to do political TV advertising for IBRG endorsed candidates. The Strategy Group for Media has been honored with 6 "Pollie Awards" and 11 "Telly Awards" for creative advertising produced in 2008. They were recognized by the American Association of Political Consultants and Public Affairs Professionals at its recent annual awards conference. The "Pollies" are widely recognized as the political Oscars. The Telly Awards were presented for creative TV produced in 2008. The Telly Awards honor "the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials."

Our favorite TV spot they produced for IBRG in 2008 was in support of the Randy Truitt for State Representative campaign. This was an open seat race that Truitt won by 26 votes after a recount. The Truitt ad came at a critical juncture in the campaign and helped to successfully shift the message to highlight Truitt’s economic development background. 

Congratulations to our friends and partners Rex Elsass, Scott Schweitzer and the rest of the talented staff at The Strategy Group for Media on your awards and producing the most creative and compelling political advertising for IBRG. They are well earned.

Early this year, IBRG mail vendor Faulkner Strategies won a Reed Award.  See that post here.

Repeat Candidates Tend to be Losing Candidates in Indiana (Unless You’re a Rock Star)

For a number of years, I have had a strong bias against challenger candidates who lose and then run again in the next election cycle. Some of you have probably heard me say this whenever one of these repeat candidates makes that second attempt. For a repeat candidate to be successful, there must be something significantly different the second time around for that candidate to have a chance to win. This difference must fit into one of these categories: 1) the second attempt occurred after redistricting and the district is now different; 2) the race was an open seat race during the second try (as opposed to challenging an incumbent); or 3) something major changes the perception of the incumbent before the rematch, such as a scandal or the incumbent being clearly out of step with the district due to votes cast.

Now, thanks to some excellent research by IBRG manager of political affairs Chase Downham, this theory, and my long-time bias, have some numbers to back it up. Over the last 10 years, there have been 81 candidates (we have only included Democratic and Republican candidates) who have lost and then made a second attempt for the General Assembly in the next election cycle. 

From this group of 81 repeat candidates, only 8 (9.9%) were successful in their bid to become a state legislator. Let us take a look at these 8 successful repeat candidates and see how many had something significantly different in their second attempt:

  • In 2000, Don Lehe narrowly lost to incumbent Claire Leuck in HD25. After the 2001 redistricting, Lehe defeated George Baranowski in the open HD15 contest of 2002.
  • In 2000, Terri Austin lost to incumbent Jack Lutz in HD36. After the 2001 redistricting, Austin defeated Andy Kincaid in the open HD36 contest of 2002. Following the redistricting, HD36 changed significantly and incumbent Lutz was moved to HD35.
  • In 2002, Joe Micon challenged incumbent Sue Scholer and lost in HD26. Following Scholer’s retirement, HD26 was an open seat in 2004 and Micon defeated Connie Basham.
  • In 2002, incumbent Vern Tincher was defeated by Brooks LaPlante in HD46. In 2004, LaPlante initially did not seek re-election following a $10,000 fine from the Indiana Election Commission, but was placed on the ballot near general election day. Following a court case, Jeff Lee was removed from the ballot and LaPlante inserted. Tincher then defeated LaPlante.
  • In 2004, appointed state senator Nancy Dembowski was defeated in the SD05 contest. In 2006, Dembowski ran for the House against incumbent Steve Heim in HD17 and won.
  • In 2004, incumbent Ron Herrell was defeated by John Smith in HD30. In 2006, Ron Herrell defeated John Smith in a recount. The significant difference here is that labor unions played a major role in 2006 after helping the Kerry effort out of state in 2004.
  • In 2006, John Barnes challenged incumbent Larry Buell in HD89. In 2008, following Buell’s retirement, Barnes won the HD89 open seat.  Continue reading

IBRG Vendor, Indiana Chamber Member Wins Political Award

Faulkner Strategies of Granger has been awarded a Reed Award by Campaigns & Elections’ Politics magazine for political professionals in the category of “Republican State Legislative Candidate.” Faulkner Strategies is the best political mail vendor in the Midwest and is a growing Indiana company with a talented staff. IBRG has hired Faulkner Strategies on several races in the last few elections to handle direct mail for our endorsed candidates in competitive races and is a company we have an excellent relationship with.

The mailing that earned Faulkner Strategies this award was for Rep. Dan Leonard’s primary election. This is a race where IBRG was heavily involved and Chase Downham, Indiana Chamber’s manager of political affairs, spent considerable time on the ground running Rep. Leonard’s competitive primary race. Rep. Leonard was a terrific candidate who has done great work for the people he represents and the mail program designed by Faulkner Strategies was effective in telling this story. It played a major role in helping Rep. Leonard win re-election.

Congratulations to Chris, Angela, Jared and the great staff at Faulkner Strategies for this well-deserved award and thank you for being an Indiana Chamber member.

Click here to see the award-winning mail piece.