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Outsider appeal, moderate stance helped Ballard win

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard maintained an appeal as a political outsider and moderate Republican that drew enough Democratic support to secure him a second term Tuesday, experts said.

Democrats beat Republicans in Marion County straight-party ticket voting by more than 12,000 ballots in Tuesday’s election, enough to shift control of the City-County Council to Democrats, who now hold a 16-13 seat advantage. But Ballard’s win, with 51 percent of the vote compared to Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy’s 47 percent, in the midst of those dynamics signaled voters picked candidate over party. About 181,000 Indianapolis residents voted, a turnout of close to 30 percent of registered voters.

“This is personal mandate for Greg Ballard,” said Robert Dion, a professor of political science at the University of Evansville who followed the Indianapolis race. “It wasn’t an expression of party loyalty. It was a mandate on his leadership.”

Republican officials—and Ballard himself—attributed that mandate to efforts he’s made in his first term: repairing roads and sidewalks, holding the line on spending and reforming the Department of Public Safety.

“We have provided that fiscal responsibility, the safer streets, the stronger neighborhoods—all that and more,” Ballard said during his victory speech Tuesday night at the Murat Centre. “I know the progress must continue.”

But Adam Kirsch, executive director of the Marion County Democratic Party, said the outcome was hardly an endorsement of Ballard’s agenda, since Democrats campaigned on a contrary platform and won a majority of the council races.

He said Ballard’s incumbent status gave him a sizable boost, and Kennedy’s attempt to became the first female mayor could have made it more difficult for her to gain traction among some voters.

“Female candidates for mayor have had trouble in Indiana,” Kirsch said, pointing also to other offices, such as governor and U.S. Senator, that a Hoosier woman has yet to occupy.

Brian Vargus, a political science professor at IUPUI, agreed that Ballard had done a “good enough job,” particularly given financial constraints. But Vargus attributed his appeal more to the first-term mayor’s lingering status as a political outsider—a dynamic that plays well with voters in the current climate. Ballard never held a political office before being elected mayor in 2007.

“He’s not considered your typical politician. He’s not smooth; he’s not articulate,” Vargus said. “He escaped the label of politician, and right now politicians are not popular.”

By contrast, Kennedy, who served as deputy mayor under former Mayor Bart Peterson, appeared the more political of the two, Vargus said, particularly because she ran unsuccessfully for prosecutor in 2006.

Ballard’s moderate stance—buttressed by his support for green initiatives like bike lanes and his opposition to measures such as allowing guns in public parks—also is appealing in a predominantly Democratic city, experts said.

Based on early data, Republican insiders said Ballard over-performed in typically Democratic areas such as Pike and southern Lawrence townships and in swing areas such as parts of Wayne Township and southern Central Township. He also had support from a handful of African-American ministers, which bolstered his appeal among some black voters, who typically vote Democratic.

Jennifer Wagner, a Democratic communications strategist, said Ballard’s likability plays well among most voters. She compared the outcome of the Indianapolis race to the 2004 presidential election, in which the folksier incumbent President George W. Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry, who was perceived as having a better mastery of policy.

“I think Melina made the case that she could be a competent, hardworking, visionary mayor," Wagner said. "But the case wasn’t necessarily made to throw Greg Ballard out of office.”

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  • The Republicans Tactics
    This female Democrat was lukewarm, at best, for Melina. She would not be my first choice for the first female mayor of Indpls. Further, this Democrat almost always tries to vote for at least one R in order to satisfy an internal desire to be "fair". Ballard was still in the running for me. However, the week-end before the election, a member of my family who was recruited by the Republican Party to work the polls received most disturbing piece of mail. It was a piece of propaganda that implied that voter fraud was a huge problem and therefore thought it necessary to provided "instructions" on what to look for to detect voter fraud while working at the polls. Attached to the instructions was a list of all the voters in the polling area my family member was working that had already cast their vote. While such a list would be provided on the morning of the election, the Rs felt it necessary to send the list of voters (names, addresses, phone numbers and reasons for voting early) to EVERY R POLL Worker in the county. I took this mailing to the Elected Marion County Clerk personally and she was aware of the mailing. Her response to me was that it was a very confusing document that would cause confusion to the training that the County Clerk's office mandated every POLL worker take. She said that her office was most disappointed. Then to read on Monday that the Republicans planned on challenging over 700 voters, will with that news, I knew I would vote straight D. It is unfortunate that a "non political" good fella, like Greg Ballard has to be associated with an organization that is so cynical and operates in such a sinister fashion. Sorry Greg, its a NO vote.
  • ballard
    ballard does not have to be articulate to get his point across or the job done. kennedy does not have to tear down to get her point across or show her leadership.
  • jobs back at you
    Those JOBS are already started and as of today there are 53 and more coming. you better know the facts before you have CROW for dinner.
  • "politician"
    It is interesting that a 4 year term as Mayor still makes Ballard less of a "politician" than a woman who served 4 years as a deputy Mayor in the eyes of voters. I think the "slickness" people like to assign to Melina Kennedy, in my view, means only that she is an accomplished speaker, unlike what Mayor Ballard portrays with his admittedly bumbling speech. Why does her accomplishment have to be a bad thing? As far as mudslinging, Ballard got plenty of that in, but no one chastised him for it.
  • two weak candidates
    Kennedy didn't offer anything different. She was a weak candidate, nothing progressive about her.
    Ballard on the other hand is somewhat of an embarrassment...I listened to him a few times, and the man is inarticulate. If that's the meaning of "he connects to Hoosiers", than God bless, we have what we deserve.
  • Jobs
    In truth, NO politician will be creating any real jobs. The majority of voters were turned off by Kennedy's ads and just didn't want another slick talking lawyer as mayor.
    Ballard connects with Hoosiers, she doesn't.
  • Jobs
    Today is DAY ONE on the countdown for all those GREAT JOBS that Mr. Ballard, Mr. Daniels and Bob Yanagihara touted so conveniently right before the election and that so many people actually fell for!
    • mandate for Greg Ballard
      How is 51% a "mandate," personal or otherwise? Ballard "squeaked by" with 51% of the vote.
    • Correction
      You're right -- my bad. Thanks!
    • Reply to Independent Voter
      Just FYI, those shootings happened in Tucson, not Phoenix. Tucson is 2 hours away from Phoenix, so that would be like trying to attribute shootings that happen in Gary to Indianapolis.
      • Where's the civility?!
        Reader's comment that the only reason Ballard won is because those who voted for him are uninformed and believe whatever they read or hear (rubes, in other words) is an ad hominem insult as well as being quite at odds with the facts. After the Phoenix shootings, the Democratic party called for a new era of civility. I guess that only applies to those with whom they disagree, leaving them free to hurl invective.

        It's clear that Ballard got a lot of cross-over and independent votes.

        And it's certainly clear that the Democrats beat the Republicans by a number of 12,000 straight ticket votes.

        Straight ticket voting is more suggestive of those who put party loyalty above the quality of the candidates or the issues at hand. That is where you will find those who are less well-informed and more likely to vote for the candidates that are supported by their union bosses or pastors.
      • Reply to Reader
        I am picturing you with your thumb on your forehead, sticking out your tongue, and wiggling your fingers around. Thanks for the political insight and the intellectual judgment.
      • Ballard
        Well, people obviously believed Ballard and that shows complete and utter stupidity!

        IDIOT!
        • More Tax and Spend
          Oh yes, more tax and spend, tax and spend and tax and spend from the Democrats. No more balanced budget. At least for the past four years this city was on the right track and many great things were accomplished. We can forget about it now.
        • if they believed
          If they believed everything they heard or was said Kennedy would have been elected.Obviously they didn't believe what she was saying
          • Disappointed
            Ballard won because(uninformed)voters believe everything they read and hear. The Dems have the real power now in the City-County Council now which is what really matters.

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