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