Again, Indianapolis’ African-American voters did their job.
African-American turnout was the same rate (some 30 percent) as the rest of the city/county. Blacks overwhelmingly voted for Melina Kennedy and, more importantly, powered the election of a Democratic-majority City-County Council.
Kennedy garnered some 85 percent of the Black vote, as an estimated 45,600 Blacks voted in an election with an overall turnout of 181,171. Some 25.2 percent of the total vote came from African-Americans. Both those living in Black-majority precincts and those living in white-majority areas.
There’s been a lot of uninformed speculation and plain hot air in local media about the election. Keep these facts in mind.
We really don’t know if Kennedy’s loss was because of voters’ bias against the thought of a woman mayor. We don’t know how voters really felt about “negative” ads.
But here’s what we do know.
Mayor Ballard’s win is the third weakest of any Indianapolis mayor in 60 years. Ballard won by 7,528 or 51.3 percent. In 2007, he won by 5,312 votes or 50.5 percent. By any objective standards it’s a win; but far from a mandate as his winning percentage increased by just 0.8 percent.
Some pundits and the mayor’s propaganda machine are bragging about their “strong” victory. But in a UniGov first, Ballard is the first winning mayor to not get any of his at-large council candidates elected.
Mayor Ballard’s campaign was the most selfish I’ve seen by a Republican; a selfishness that denied his party continued council control.
Ballard spent millions on ads; none of which urged a “team” vote for mayor and council. His campaign didn’t link up with two GOP incumbents, Barbara Malone and Angel Rivera, who carried the mayor’s water on several controversial votes and proposals like the water deal.
On Black radio, Malone’s ads had her cousin vouch for her; not the supposedly popular in the Black community Ballard. On white radio, Angel Rivera’s ads featured Gov. Mitch Daniels. Obviously that didn’t help.
Ballard ran roughly 8,588 votes ahead of the district GOP council candidates and 13,725 votes ahead of at large GOP candidates. In fact, the total vote for Republican district council candidates was only up 1.5 percent or 1,252 votes from 2007.
Total Democratic vote for district council candidates was up 37.3 percent or 23,281 votes from 2007. In 23 contested council races, Democrats saw their 2011 vote increase from 2007 in all but two races. And some of the largest increases in Democratic votes came in council districts with a substantial Black population.
But despite our community’s strong showing, Melina Kennedy fell short of victory. She easily won Center Township and Pike Township (the townships with the largest percentage of Black population). But she barely won Washington Township by 2.8 percent percentage points and lost Warren Township by 538 votes.
Kennedy won 133 of the 134 Black-majority precincts in the city/county. The one she lost, Pike 3, only has a population of 28, is 50 percent Black, and only two people voted – for Ballard.
The victory of Democrats in the Lawrence mayor’s race and gains in Lawrence City Council seats, as well as an 83 percent Kennedy margin in the Black-majority 27th Ward didn’t help Kennedy win that crucial township.
So, we now have divided government in Indianapolis, for the first time since Bart Peterson’s election in 1999. Peterson was able to find common ground on many issues with council Republicans then, because Peterson reached out to the Republican majority.
The question is will Ballard’s deep seated, continued refusal to meet with Democratic, especially African-American, elected officials during his first term continue in a second term.
In the days after his re-election, it seemed Ballard was back to his old ways. He met with Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Finance Chair Luke Kenley about Ballard’s mass transit proposal.
But how soon, if ever, Mayor Ballard meets with the dean of Marion County legislators, Rep. Bill Crawford D-Indianapolis, about mass transit and the Mayor’s other legislative agenda, will signal whether Ballard is serious about bi-partisanship. Or if he’ll continue his bizarre refusal to personally meet with broadbased African-American leadership.
Some fear Mayor Ballard could morph into a Nixon and take after those who opposed his re-election; especially Black ministers, Black media and those who opposed him in IMPD.
Perhaps that fear explains the sudden retirement of IMPD’s highest ranking Black. Deputy Chief William Benjamin, well respected by our African-American community and cops left to join the NCAA.
Expect that African-Americans will play a major role in the new council leadership; perhaps with a history making choice for City-County Council president.
It’s tragic that Democrats and the Kennedy campaign allowed the Ballard campaign to brainwash media into believing Democrats ads were “race baiting,” especially that “difficult populations” radio ad.
The ad sharply raised Black enthusiasm and frightened the Ballard campaign so much they resorted to their “race baiting” scare.
It didn’t matter that each time the mayor was given a chance to walk back or explain his comments, Ballard refused. Instead they ratcheted up the race baiting rhetoric, a tactic designed to frighten white voters; especially those pre-deposed to fear of what Kennedy and “the Blacks” would do if she was elected.
Democrats and the Kennedy campaign never countered with the facts of Ballard’s repeated insults to our Black community. Facts depicted in the ads.
Then when Ballard sent out that mailer depicting a sinister-looking Kennedy, Democrats failed to loudly cry foul. Worse Democrats and Kennedy’s campaign sat mute while local media repeatedly decried Kennedy’s negative ads, when Ballard’s were more nasty and mean spirited.
Did local media employ a double standard towards a women candidate?
Maybe. That bias, especially against Black elected officials, will be watched as Democrats assume the responsibility of council leadership.
Meanwhile, as we end one election, another begins. I’ll discuss the upcoming 2012 election, a Super Bowl of elections for our African-American community next week. See ‘ya then.
You can email comments to Amos Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.