Derek Blicz spent a couple of hours in the hot sun to see Hillary Rodham Clinton speak at a rally for her presidential campaign. He came away with a Clinton sticker on his shirt and a decision to vote for her in Indiana’s May 6 primary.
But as he left the event last week at the American Legion Mall, Blicz admitted he didn’t know much about the other races he would find on the Democratic ballot — for offices such as governor and Congress on down to local races for legislative seats, county judges and surveyor.
“I see advertisements and I don’t even know what party they are,” said the unemployed 31-year-old man.
Blicz is far from alone: The campaign between Clinton and Barack Obama has left candidates in many other races starved for attention from voters and the news media.
Without the presidential race, the matchup between Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination would get the most attention, but the two candidates have struggled for headlines and crowds. A poll published Sunday found 46 percent of likely Democratic voters undecided between the two.
“It certainly is a new phenomenon in Indiana politics,” Long Thompson spokesman Jeff Harris said. “We’ve even taken advantage of the events that the presidential candidates have staged. She’s been to several of those events shaking hands, and we’ve had volunteers there handing out literature and signing them up as volunteers for Jill.
In other years, the crowded field for the Indianapolis congressional seat held by Democrat Julia Carson before her death in December would capture headlines. Attention has been sparse, though, even though Carson’s grandson, Andre Carson, is trying to keep the seat he won in a March special election. The field also includes state Reps. Carolene Mays and David Orentlicher and former state health commissioner Woody Myers, who has funded his campaign with more than $1 million of his own money.
Mike O’Connor, the Marion County Democratic chairman, said the Clinton-Obama race has crowded out the others.
“I think it has taken a lot of available oxygen where people might ordinarily be talking about these other races and they’re rightfully preoccupied with the presidential race,” O’Connor said.
Schellinger and Long Thompson have been airing campaign commercials for weeks and polls show a close race between the two — among voters who’ve made up their minds — in their bids to face Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels in the fall. Daniels is unopposed in the GOP primary.
Republicans lack a high-profile statewide race this spring, making it possible that some Republicans will take Democratic ballots in the state’s open primary to vote in the Clinton-Obama matchup.
Randy Head of Logansport said he has heard some of that as he has campaigned for the Republican nomination to a state Senate seat in northern Indiana.
Head, a former Cass County Republican chairman, said the frequent Indiana visits and television ads by Clinton and Obama have increased the interest in politics among both Republicans and Democrats.
“I think the threat of Republicans crossing over to vote for Hillary is going to be kind of like Y2K and the Asian bird flu,” he said. “They’re not all happy, but they are talking about politics.”