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Another Caucus, Another Establishment Defeat

Tonight, precinct committeemen from Marion and Hamilton Counties met to select a new State Senator for District 30 to replace Teresa Lubbers. On the second ballot, by a margin of 61 to 38, former City-County Councilman Scott Schneider defeated City-County Councilman Ryan Vaughn (who works at Barnes & Thornburg, was endorsed by Mayor Greg Ballard, and was generally seen as the establishment choice).

Former state representative John Ruckelshaus (who lost to Lubbers in the primary in the district when it was an open seat) was eliminated on the first ballot. The margin on that ballot showed Schneider with 49 votes, Vaughn with 37, Ruckelshaus with 12, and one ballot spoiled. Vaughn gained only one vote on the second ballot; apparently either all of Ruckelshaus’ supporters voted for Schneider on the second ballot, a substantial number of Vaughn’s supporters bailed and deserted him, or there was a good bit of bandwagoning (or all of the above).

Hoosier Access streamed the caucus live online, including the pre-vote speeches of each candidate, and had interviews with all three of the candidates.

This election marks but the latest time that the Indianapolis establishment has gone to bat in a caucus, convention, or primary, only to be decisively sent packing by the party base. Indeed, Scheider’s margin of victory–61 to 38–isn’t all that different from Greg Zoeller’s 60% to 40% convention victory over Jon Costas in June of last year.

Time and again, “wiser” insiders in Indianapolis have tried to pick winners in these contests. Time and again, they have been defeated. Delph beat Randolph, Walker beat Garton, Bailey beat Kellems, Leising beat Sponsel, Zoeller beat Costas, and now Schneider beat Vaughn.

Read more after the leap.

There’s also a lesson here with endorsements. Sooner or later, that lesson is going to be learned. Apparently, it will take a few more knocks for it to get through.

Endorsements from every statewide (save Steve Carter, who was for Zoeller) didn’t help Jon Costas. An endorsement letter from Mayor Greg Ballard didn’t help Ryan Vaughn. If anything, such endorsements appear to be found to be unimpressive, even off-putting, by the party base.

Ponder, for a moment, the decisive outcome and the circumstances under which it was reached.

First, Teresa Lubbers announced her departure some four months ago, but her resignation did not go into effect until after the special session was over. Accordingly, Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John had four entire months to appoint mummy-dummies (a Rex-Early-ism for non-working precinct committeemen who are appointed just to vote in a caucus and help get a particular outcome). You could hardly conceive of a more friendly environment to force a caucus outcome if you tried.

Second, multiple candidates (Schneider and Ruckelshaus) seemed set to splinter the base conservative vote while there was only one Indy establishment candidate and a fourth candidate (Chris Douglas, a moderate) withdrew earlier on caucus day.

Third, there were echoes of the Zoeller vs Costas race. In that race, Murray Clark intended to have delegates indicate, on the machine, which county they were from when they were voting. This would allow “accountability” in terms of determining which counties had delivered as ordered (or promised) or not. This was only stopped by efforts of Zoeller supporters at State Committee (in particular Larry Shickles, who held up a critical vote required to even hold the convention until the machines were reprogrammed; Shickles later topped the target list come reorganization time and was ousted).

In tonight’s caucus, Murray Clark directed that precinct committeemen vote on three machines, determined by their geographic location (the Center Area of Marion County, the Northeast Area of Marion County, and the portion of District 30 in Hamilton County). They could have easily voted on three machines without distinction for region, but that wouldn’t have allowed them to track who had delivered and who had not.

Fourth, this isn’t a victory for “the right wing,” regardless of what sort of spin Ice Miller is sponsoring Jim Shella’s show in order for him to parrot. The epitaph of the Republican Senate majority will not be written by challenging the establishment too much, but it could be written by letting it go unchallenged entirely. Just look at Republicans in Ohio, who became complacent, decadent, lazy, and too cozy with special interests. Their once-mighty state organization was dashed in 2006 and 2008 as a result.

One of the reasons that Republicans have maintained their Senate majority in Indiana, despite the ill tide against Republicans nationally (and in this state) is the willingness of Republican caucus-goers and primary-goers in Indiana to vote out folks like Bob Garton and Larry Borst, who wanted to give themselves lifetime health care and other shady perks, and refuse to seat career lobbyists and insiders like Ryan Vaughn.

Senate Republicans are strengthened when the party is willing to cleaning its own house by sending cozy insiders packing and sending honest conservatives instead. Imagine if Republicans nationally had possessed the wherewithal and good sense to send certain crooked or shady Republicans packing instead of doubling down on a losing bet and going down with them.

Anyway, the regional results are quite telling:.

Here is a map of the district (PDF warning). The Central Marion area is the southernmost portion of the district (Broad Ripple, etc). Northeastern Marion includes Washington and Lawrence townships. Hamilton is all of Hamilton County (Delaware and Clay townships).

The results:

First Ballot:
–John Ruckelshaus: 12
—-Central Marion: 2
—-Northeastern Marion: 5
—-Hamilton: 5
–Scott Schneider: 49
—-Central Marion: 17
—-Northeastern Marion: 18
—-Hamilton: 14
–Ryan Vaughn: 37
—-Central Marion: 25
—-Northeastern Marion: 7
—-Hamilton: 5
–Spoiled Ballot: 1 (marked for multiple candidates)
—-Central Marion: 1
—-Northeastern Marion: 0
—-Hamilton: 0

Second Ballot:
–Scott Schneider: 61 (gain 12)
—-Central Marion: 18 (gain 1)
—-Northeastern Marion: 23 (gain 5)
—-Hamilton: 20 (gain 6)
–Ryan Vaughn: 38 (gain 1)
—-Central Marion: 27 (gain 2)
—-Northeastern Marion: 7 (no change)
—-Hamilton: 4 (lose 1)

Vaughn lost Northeastern Marion (with its heavily anti-establishment PCs in Washington Township) by a crushing margin. There weren’t enough votes in the Central area, his stronghold (weak though it was), to win it for him even if he carried every PC there. In the end, Tom John simply didn’t have enough mummy dummy spots available for him to be able to influence the outcome of the vote.

Hamilton County GOP Chairman Charlie White was true to his pledges of neutrality (he is friends with all three candidates); the first ballot indicates a pretty even distribution among Hamilton County PCs that eventually saw them consolidate under the (more conservative and less Indy establishment candidate) Scott Schneider. This neutral free hand goes in stark contrast to the mummy-dummy appointments seen in Marion County.

I’m told that almost half of all precinct committeemen in District 30 are estimated to be appointed “mummy dummies,” but only about a dozen of those were appointed by Tom John in the four-month period since Lubbers’ resignation opened the seat up.

Several proxies were challenged by Schneider’s representatives, but apparently the challenges were overturned. A number of Marion County precinct committeemen were apparently appointed in this district after the 30-day deadline, and were not allowed to vote as a result.

This post is also available at Hoosierpundit.

This post was tagged under: Charlie White, General Assembly, GOP, Indiana Politics, Indianapolis, Legislature, State Elections

18 Responses to “Another Caucus, Another Establishment Defeat”

  1. Joel Harris says:

    Was there any evidence that you were aware of that Tom John was actively pushing Vaughn? It was apparent that they provided personnel, etc. But has anyone indicated that John was actually pushing PCs to vote for Vaughn? One of the candidates (I can't remember which) indicated that there was not much activity in Marion Co for adding PCs, so the "Mummy Dummy" situation was basically a non-factor. I had heard that they were going to try to use Vice Chairmen to vote for PCs not present–I am guessing this is the "proxy" voters.

    There can't have been too many PC's appointed too late–there is supposedly on 107 or 108 precincts and we had 99 PC's voting.

    To second the position of White, we spoke before the caucus, but he never talked with me about any candidate or how I would vote. He was clearly hands off.

  2. Scott says:

    The reason there wasn't a lot of activity from Marion County in adding PCs was that they were all added back in January and February for reorganization. The dozen or so that were added recently were all that were left that could be added. The reason that there wasn't a whole lot of appointment activity after the resignation is that there had been a whole lot of appointment activity before it for reorganization.

    They did try to use vice committeemen to vote as proxies for PCs. It is my understanding that is what Schneider challenged, but the challenge was overruled. It does not appear to have impacted the outcome; I believe that there were only two in that category.

    Others more close to the ground than I can probably comment more substantively on who was pushing what (beyond the pretty clear indication that certain folks downtown wanted Vaughn).

  3. Dave says:

    Why is he a former city councilman?

    was he defeated? term limits?

  4. Eric says:

    Your post is spot on Scott. The "right wing" terminology used for Schneider is simply not accurate and is purely used as an attack method from the moderate county party stance; Washington Twp. folks saw straight through this and it insulted them. Maybe this is something the party should take some notes on… I really don't think they could have run their push for Vaughn any worse. He would have honestly been better off without the party backing him.

    "Mummy Dummies" is also a great way of putting it. I heard there were a total of 22 appointed PC's. Assuming all 22 "mummy dummies" even voted for Vaughn, he still only got 38 votes (That's only 16 votes that weren't appointed PCs that we already knew would vote for him)… if that doesn't send the message of the bird, I don't know what does?

  5. Michael Jezierski says:

    Dave –

    Sen. Schneider chose well before the 2007 primaries to not seek another term. It was a personal decision of his.

  6. This is first rate political anaylsis. You even picked up on something I had left out – that the reason for the extra voting machines is for "accountability." I would add that it is also to intimidate PCs that their votes could be tracked.

    Dave, after serving two terms, Schneider did not run for re-election in 2007.

    Some people have also picked up on the fact that the mummy dummies were already in place due to reorganization. I would say they were already in place because of the county convention in March and concerns Tom John had that he would flag an opponent.

    As far as Joel's comment, I was born at night, just not last night. We all sat there and watched them try to promote Ryan Vaughn. And how does he explain away the Ballard letter? Nonetheless, it doesn't matter how much you push if the mummy dummies are already in place. Come on Joel, don't try to peddle that crap on here.

  7. Abdul is trying to say the delay helped Schneider by giving him more time to get better known. The Schneider family has been active for 40 years on the north side of Indy. Vaughn is the one who wasn't well known. The delay helped him have time to get better known and gave his supporters in the party time to try to grease things for him. By the way, Joel, I've watched them do this for 23 years so I'm not buying that nonsense that Tom John did not try to rig this in Vaughn's favor.

    I also agree with the 22 vote mummmy dummy estimate suggested in one of the comments. Generally the mummy dummy figures are 20 to 25% of the total. 22 is right in the middle of that.

  8. Michael Jezierski says:

    Not jumping on the establishment/anti-establishment meme, I thought the caucus went very well mechanically. I'll have to hand it to State Party it was done within 2 hours from call to order to motion to adjourn. Shout out to Trevor Foughty the new Comms director at State GOP for his assistance with the broadcast.

    I'll also hand it to all the PC's of SD30 every one of them stuck around for the 2nd vote. Whereas in the 2008 Marion County slating convention, as the ballots seemed to drag on towards the 6 hour mark, people understandably started to leave.

  9. Joel Harris says:

    Paul,

    I can only relate what I saw. Yes, there was a lot of Marion Co Party support for Vaughn. A whole lot. The Ballard letter was a part of that support. I am sure that Tom John wanted his appointed PCs to support Vaughn–they may have even been appointed to do so. Personally, I do not hold it against a Party organization to support a candidate. This would all be moot if motivated party folk would run for PC positions, preventing the County Chair from having the slots to appoint.

    But there is a huge difference between support and "rigging". I saw no evidence of arm twisting. I heard no threats. I didn't see anyone pulled into dark corners. If someone saw or heard something that indicated that these activities were going on, then I would be willing to listen. But I did not see or hear anything.

    I think arguing that having three polling locations making it easier to hold PC's accountable is somewhat laughable. With 45, 30, and 24 PCs voting on paper ballots in each of the 3 locations, how do you really know who voted for whom without individual PC's fessing up to it? I suppose they could hold Ward chairmen "accountable".

    On an area of common ground, I agree that Schneider did not need to get "better known". First, most folk knew him fairly well before this race. Second, Scott spent a lot of phone time talking with PCs. He contacted me 4 times in addition to talking with him briefly at an event. This seemed to be his MO with all the PCs–at least those that he thought were in play.

    The whole event was fun. There did not seem to be any hurt feelings in the room. There was clearly disappointment, but no rancor.

  10. Joel Harris says:

    By the way, I would argue that the 3 voting locations was to actually make the voting process take less time. Maybe that makes me too simple minded. But it seemed to do the trick.

  11. Scott says:

    You can have multiple machines without having multiple check-in points divided on the basis of region. The time saved in terms of the voting is insignificant compared to the information they got on who voted how from each area.

  12. Johnny B says:

    Joel, I'm sorry, but there was definitely arm twisting. It may have taken the form of 'the overly obnoxious salesman', but it was present for the last two months at anything party related. The party probably wonders why they were so far off in their tally (the looks on their faces after the first round of votes was that they were completely stunned). It is because they were arm twisting, being too pushy, being downright obnoxious and it bordered on threatening… this is why people lied to them about who they were going to vote for… because they felt threatened. I'm pretty sure that thought is a consensus across the board.

  13. Joel Harris says:

    Interestingly, I talked with Scott's Dad who had the vote estimated within 2 votes of each candidate before the first round.

    From my point of view, there is nothing wrong with the 'overly obnoxious salesman' except for the fact that it doesn't work. If that is as far as the "arm twisting" went, then there is a lot of overblown rants going on.

    I consider it RESPONSIBLE for the party organization to look for a candidate that they like and then promote that person. They should use good tactics–which is sounds like they didn't. They should choose the best candidate that they can. I didn't think they did–though I could have lived with Vaughn.

    Also, I consider it RESPONSIBLE for a Party Chairman to try as hard as he can to fill PC positions. And just like in business, when you choose someone to work for you, you like for them to think as much like you as possible.

    I agree with Josh in his above post–it seemed to me like it was well-run. People generally had a good time. I didn't see any angry people.

  14. Michael Jezierski says:

    Joel –

    "I consider it RESPONSIBLE for the party organization to look for a candidate that they like and then promote that person."

    I disagree. Party organizations like the central committee should butt out. That's out of the "smoky backroom" days.

    When there is a threat of … ok let me rephrase … an air of a threat of reprisal over how a vote will go that's not democracy – that's something right out of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Now some of this could be still feelings leftover from the '08 convention. From where I sit, there seems to be this feeling of distrust between township rank-and-file GOPers and the Downtown crowd.

  15. Joel Harris says:

    Michael, just what IS the purpose of the Party organization, then?

    I would argue that it has two primary purposes:
    1. Raise money (in order to)
    2. Recruit and get candidates elected

  16. Michael Jezierski says:

    Joel –

    1. Yes.
    2. Recruit – yes. Getting candidates elected AFTER the primaries are held. NOT BEFORE! Primaries (and caucuses) are for the rank-and-file Republicans (and Democrats for the other side of the room) to choose the candidate they feel has the best opportunity to win against the other parties in the general election.

  17. Joel Harris says:

    The implication of your answer to #2 is that they should have recruited Vaughn to run and the do nothing to support him through the process. I think that hamstrings the ability of the party from being able to recruit good candidates. You are then saying, "please run, and if you win we'll help you out!"

  18. Scott says:

    I think that you're misunderstanding the recruiting process. Recruitment should not be predicated upon getting someone to run and then having to clear the field or beat a path for them. A good candidate should be able to clear the field or beat their own path without the party's help.

    A candidate that won't run without you clearing the field for them is a candidate that probably shouldn't be running at all, since they'll probably want you to do all of the work for them come November.

    If they cannot do that within their own party–working the delegates to a convention or the PCs in a caucus or the voters in a primary–how do you expect them to do it with a much larger voter pool come November?

    We're a party that believes in the benefit of free markets and competition. That should also apply things like caucuses, conventions, and primaries.

    Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let the strongest survive, because the competition will make them stronger. And they shouldn't need crutches or training wheels or strong-arms to get across such a minor early finish line.

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