Beer, bratwurst and bravado were laid on thickly when the 2003 mayor and City-County Council election campaign kicked off at the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce HobNob.
Libertarian City-County Council Candidate the Rev. Greg Dixon confers with other be-buttoned men at the Chamber of Commerce Hobnob Thursday night.
The HobNob was held last Thursday in the Indiana Historical Society building and attracted several hundred people. It was your typical political rally with lots of red, white and blue balloons, banners, stars and badges. The Dan Reeves Trio provided some Dixieland background music and “Abraham Lincoln” meandered around posing for pictures. At the candidate booths you could not only pick up a flyer professing the qualities of the politicians, but also candy, pens, fridge magnets or stickers. Out in the crowded foyer the handshakes were handed out with reckless abandon, forced smiles were on show and the political rhetoric was flowing freely. If there were babies present you might have feared for their lives lest they be kissed to death. The evening’s cliché highlights included: “My focus is on the future.” “Level playing field.” “Work together to find solutions.” “I will listen to your concerns.” “I am not your typical politician.” And so on ... Although it would be easy to simply dismiss the HobNob as purely political propaganda, it was a genuine opportunity for Marion County voters to meet candidates up close and personal. All you needed to do was pay the $10 ticket fee, find a candidate (not overly difficult to do), introduce yourself and ask where the candidate stood on particular issues. All three parties stressed fiscal responsibility, economic development and focus on the future. All three showed concern about the potentially low level of voter turnout. Marion County Libertarian Party Chairman Sam Goldstein described the lack of voter enthusiasm succinctly when he said, “I think people are apathetic about this election. Unless something amazing happens in the next six weeks it’s going to be a low turnout. I hope we get more than 30 percent voter turnout.” All three parties also mentioned how far individual personalities would go towards deciding the future council makeup. Individual issues like funding the Colts (Democrats more in favor), the living wage (some Democrats support, no Republicans or Libertarians do) and property taxes (Republicans and Libertarians taking a more slash-and-burn approach) seem to be the only differences between the somewhat fuzzy party platforms. After a long-winded introduction by Chamber of Commerce President John Myrland (during the night he managed to have more microphone-time than all the speakers put together), the local party chairmen took to the stage and were interviewed by WIBC reporter Tony Felts. Given that the Republicans and Democrats are currently involved in a court battle that may decide whether the elections are actually held on Nov. 4, there was more than a little tension on stage. Quite simply, the legal battle revolves around the voting system presently in place — the Democrats are not happy about it, the Republicans are. It seems the Democrats feel the electronic ballot is illegal because it groups candidates by office rather than by party and is too complicated. Marion County Republican Central Committee Chairman John Keeler was not overly sympathetic towards his opponent’s concerns. “Take the ballot challenge inside,” he said. “If you’re still confused then we’ve got remedial kindergarten for you.” Cue jeers from Democrats in the audience.
Hooray for us
All three party chairmen mentioned how their candidates were the best. All three said they expected good results from the elections. John Keeler introduced the Republican candidates as the A-Team (but with no Mr. T. in sight). Local Democrat president Ed Treacy countered by introducing his candidates as the B-Team, or the Bart-Team. Libertarian Sam Goldstein kept his team name to himself. Keeler went on to say how the elections, both mayoral and council, would be fought on issues like property taxation and economic management. Treacy said it would almost come down to a referendum on Mayor Bart Peterson and his last four years in office. Goldstein was more pragmatic, saying how he hoped the 29-seat council would be made up of 14 Democrats, 14 Republicans and one Libertarian — ideally the Rev. Greg Dixon from the 23rd District. That way the Libertarians would play an integral role in every council decision. If this ideal world did not eventuate, Goldstein hoped for a Republican controlled council. “If the Democrats take control of the council we would see things that are anti-freedom and anti-business passed, like the living wage ordinance,” he said. “We would see Bart Peterson happily give $10 million or so just to keep the Colts here.” The mayor’s race appears more clear-cut, with all three parties seeming pretty much resigned to the fact that Bart Peterson will be re-elected. Although Republican candidate Greg Jordan may have other ideas, he was well and truly out-politicked by the incumbent mayor when it came to public speaking. Where Jordan stumbled over words and read his pre-written speech awkwardly, Peterson was ever the consummate politician, blending jokes, sporting references and political rhetoric smoothly. Jordan began his speech by referring to his opponent as “a mayor who was elected by Republicans, and we only make mistakes one time.” He then outlined his economic plan for the city that includes job development in advanced manufacturing, life sciences and information technology industries, and the appointment of a deputy mayor who would be in charge of economic development. “The kind of economic development plan that we have is going to be vital in the next four years,” Jordan said. “I think that is the No. 1 issue that is facing our citizens and the highest priority that this local government needs to have. We have to make sure we are doing our job, bringing jobs back to Indianapolis.” Peterson’s speech concentrated on his record as mayor to date and only briefly touched on his re-election platform. “My focus is on the future, about jobs, about education, about quality of life in our city,” he said. “You can’t do economic development without a plan and we have a plan.” Some of the topics Peterson mentioned were cleaning up neighborhoods like Fall Creek, promoting diversity, transportation and expanding airport operations.
Hear them for yourself With just over a month to go until the Nov. 4 elections, the Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans have all scheduled several events where Marion County voters can meet their candidates. Some of the events include: League of Women Voters of Indianapolis City-County Council 2003 Candidate Forums • Oct. 2, 7-9 p.m., Decatur Middle School at 5108 S. High School Road (for City-County Council Districts 13, 14, 19, 22 and 23) • Oct. 7, 7-9 p.m., Beech Grove High School at 5330 S. High School Road (for the City-County Council Districts 16, 20, 21, 24 and 25) • Oct. 9, 7-9 p.m., the Indianapolis Press Club at 150 W. Market St. Mayoral debates • Oct. 9, 7-8 p.m., Wayne Township Fire Department, 700 N. High School Road • Oct. 10, 7-8 p.m., Far Eastside Community Center, 8902 E. 38th St. • Oct. 14, 7-8 p.m., Robin Run Village, 5354 W. 62nd St. • Oct. 16, 7-8 p.m., Laikin Auditorium, 6701 Hoover Road For more information, contact the Marion County Democrat Party at 637-3366 (www.marioncountydemocrats.org), the Libertarian Party of Marion County at 920-1994 (www.indylibs.org) and the Marion County Republican Party at 635-8881 (www.indygop.com). —MW