Scott Tibbs
Published at Hoosier Review
November 6th, 1999

Back to opinion columns.

A Democratic landslide? Hardly.

The Republicans running for City Council had a disappointing night on November 2. With the election of rabid leftist Andy Ruff, the Democrats now have a 7-2 advantage on the City Council, as opposed to the 6-3 advantage they had for the last four years.

But to assume that the results of this election were any kind of mandate for the anti-growth, pro-tax, pro-regulation candidates that now sit on the council would be a major mistake. The Indiana Daily Student headline November 3 proclaimed this election a "Democratic landslide". Perhaps the IDS should get a dictionary and look up what a landslide actually is.

In City Council districts 4, 5, and 6, the Republicans lost by a total of only 266 votes. Another 269 Republican voters at the polls would have resulted in a 5-4 Republican advantage. Add that to the fact that Republican At-Large candidate Joyce Poling missed landing a seat on the City Council by only 100 votes and this election could have very easily resulted in a 6-3 Republican advantage. Libertarian Micheal Schmitt can take the most credit for Poling's defeat, with his surprisingly strong showing of 934 votes. Schmitt received more votes than the total number of people who voted in District 6, and had nearly as many votes as the total number of people who voted in District 2. Schmitt showed that there are plenty of people in Bloomington who believe in free-market economics and limited government. Had Schmitt run as a Republican instead of as a Libertarian he might have won.

So what happened?

The simple fact is the GOP had no message this year. They failed to offer any substantial difference between themselves and the Democratic candidates. In addition, the GOP candidates ran as a slate, which did not offer the opportunity for any candidate to distinguish themselves from the field. No Republican candidate took a position on anything unless the other eight took the same position. This strategy probably hurt charismatic and open-minded District 6 candidate Robin Vuke the most because she was a little-known candidate who wasn't allowed to speak for herself.

The "slate" strategy may have actually backfired. As an IDS columnist noted, it is very difficult to get two people to agree on all issues all the time, much less nine. With this in mind, a little skepticism by the voters would have been understandable.

Plus, the GOP council slate gave conservatives in Bloomington no reason to come out and vote Republican. From their opposition to I-69 to their campaigning at a gay bar known as "Uncle Elizabeth's", it seemed the GOP took conservative voters for granted while pandering to Leftists. Had the $6.88 million MCCSC tax hike not been on the ballot to get conservatives to the polls, we could have nine Democrats on the City Council.

While incumbent Democratic Mayor John Fernandez got 66% of the vote, there was no Republican on the ballot to oppose him, and Albert Clemons received 27.7% of the vote running as an Independent. Fernandez was extremely vulnerable this year and the fire issue alone could have elected a Republican Mayor had the GOP chosen to run one. As it was many Bloomingtonians are very concerned about the readiness of the Bloomington Fire Department, and the Firefighters Union endorsed Clemons. The fact that the Firefighters Union would endorse Clemons when it was obvious Fernandez was going to win shows just how dissatisfied Bloomington firefighters are with this administration.

The GOP should be satisfied with their showing this year, and it gives them much to build on for 2003. But they cannot win without a message, so perhaps they should try to find one over the next three and a half years.