Ahhhh! Time to wake up and smell the democracy! In Marion County, both parties have intriguing matchups that will test their organizational strength.
On the Republican side, Bart McAtee is running for sheriff against the party's slated candidate, Dennis Fishburn, a guy who until the party stalwarts started chipping in, had raised only slightly above the square root of zero. On April 9, 2010, however, Fishburn reported raising $54,000 in the quarter with $24,000 cash on hand (c-o-h).
Fishburn's report makes for interesting reading. On the upside, every living Hoosier with the name Fishburn donated, so at least you know the family reunions are cordial. Unfortunately, Indiana law requires candidates to identify by name and address every donor who gives $100 or more, and Team Fishburn botched up that operation. There are several names who break the reporting threshold but no address is provided. (For example, Dave Young and Randall Elliott gave $700 and $500 respectively, and we have absolutely no information about them. But my personal favorite entry (and I am not making this up) reads simply:
Nice to know a potential candidate for sheriff is getting cash from guys with hitman nicknames.
Also, on April 9, 2010, Fishburn actually reports a total of eleven donations of $200 each from “anonymouses” (if that’s the plural). Oh, Dennie! Your treasurer screwed the pooch, my friend. You were obviously trying to keep these donors below the radar, but unfortunately, they can only donate up to $99 to do that. Yes, you filed an amended report claiming that it was just $2,700 in "unitemized cash," but we already know you're lying because you broke them down into $200 increments on the initial report. (I'm guessing these are guys working for McAtee now who can't stand him?)
For his part, McAtee has been a money horse. He started the quarter with $89,000, and raised another $76,000, and he spent it all by 4-9-2010 securing radio time and paying his media consultants well in advance. Then in the eleven days after the 4-9 deadline, he filed 6 supplemental reports for large donations, pulling in a total of $26,500.
McAtee's radio ad, which has been in heavy rotation on WXNT shows like Glen Beck, is typical, tough guy hockum that revs up the law and order crowd. In the ad, McAtee states that he will never release a prisoner without a court order..."even if they have to sleep in my office." Great idea! Maybe if you can also teach them some computer skills, they can go into the workforce upon release.
This is a test for the Marion County GOP because last go round, McAtee (gasp) endorsed Democrat Frank Anderson and, according to a wickedly funny mailer sent out by the GOP, finagled almost $500,000 worth of McAtees onto Anderson's payroll. If McAtee prevails, it will tell you pretty conclusively that either Republicans think Frank Anderson is a pretty good sheriff or Marion County GOP party muscle is more atrophied than Abe Vigoda's biceps. I vote for A & B.
The Democrats face a similar showdown in their contests for sheriff and prosecutor. In the Sheriff's race, slated Democrat Colonel John Layton has been going like gangbusters on the money chase with $133,000 c-o-h after the April 9 deadline, and he has cut his own "I'm a general bad(expletive)" law enforcement ad:
While most people in party circles (myself included) are impressed with Mark Brown, Layton seems a more natural fit as a guy who had 35 years experience in the sheriff's office and a leadership role under Anderson's entire tenure. (Brown is a 24-year veteran of IPD).
The most bizarre aspect of this contest, though, has been the blowback some African-American leaders, including Congressman Andre Carson, have received for supporting Layton, a caucasian, over Brown, an African-American. This nicely cements my belief that black folk bear race burdens white people will never have. When I made my decision to support Carson over David Orentlicher, nobody white said anything, even in a whisper. Ironically, some African-American leaders in the party wanted David O.'s head on a plate because he ignored the slating decision and ran against Carson in the primary. The idea that now some of these same folks are upset because the Congressman is respecting the slate is the epitome of crazy. (You do you, Congressman. I, and a multitude of others, have your back!).
In the prosecutor's race, Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes has released a barrage of Youtube ads. Each starts with some catchy Muzak playing while Bowes' logo is displayed on top a background of a blurred, undulating flag (think being really drunk at a VFW hall). Then a title screen appears, which states, "Greg Bowes Talks About...(Justice)(Freedom)(The Constitution)(Leadership)(Hard Work)(Public Officials & White Collar Crime)(Apple Pie).
Okay, I made up the thing about Apple pie, but you get my point. When you use these kind of topics, you have to expect a degree of schmaltz and some platitudes, and Bowes does not disappoint.
Of course, the ad format of a candidate talking to an unseen person is genius, which is why this approach is commonly employed by service industries. First, you don't suffer the bad acting that you normally get in ads where a candidate is looking straight into the camera. Second, it's somehow easier psychologically to accept that Bowes isn't trying to con you because, even though we all know his ads are made for public consumption, we're more like tourists observing than part of the conversation.
The problem is that unless you have Michael Bloomberg money, there's no way you can get these ads anywhere except on Youtube or on your website. Each of Bowes' segments are between 90-120 seconds in length, and most local campaigns are lucky if they can do two or three 30-second ads during the entire campaign. Will people who see these like Bowes? Probably, but those hundred people will also roll their eyes because only half of the segments have dairy-free "scripts." You can see them all here.
Bowes' opponent, Terry Curry, held a dominant fundraising lead over Bowes on April 9, and more importantly, has been the beneficiary of a phone banking program, proving that slating has its benefits. If both Curry and Layton carry the day as expected, even with inferior ballot placement in both cases, it will show the Marion County Democratic Party is stretching its legs.
On the GOP national side, the GOP's day, I fear, will come to epitomize the phrase more equal less. Dan Coats is expected to win the five-way fight for the GOP nomination, but not because he's wowed anybody, rather because nobody else in the fiel can get a higher plurality. The same thing will likely be true in Dan Burton's Congressional seat. Sigh.