Friday, July 7, 2006

Open spots on the ballot

The deadline to fill ballot vacancies has come and gone, and there will be two major holes in the Republican ballot this November. No Republican bothered to file for the District 60 State Representative seat now held by Peggy Welch, and the GOP was unable to find anyone willing to take her on this fall. This says a lot for Welch's political power, considering she represents a district with a sizeable Republican majority. Welch's personal likeability and her conservative stances on social issues like homosexual marriage and abortion have contributed to her thumping three consecutive Republican challengers after winning a close race against Jeff Ellington in 1998.

I do not like seeing seats unchallenged, especially a higher office like state representative. Even if the Republican challenger wound up being a sacrificial lamb, it is better to give the voters a choice. The Republican Party is not at fault here, because the GOP was looking for someone to challenge Welch as early as last summer. Unfortunately, no one was willing to take her on.

I have praised Welch on many occasions for stances she has taken in Indianapolis, and I am grateful that she agreed to speak at the 2006 Rally for Life. The reality of the State Legislature, however, is that party affiliation means a lot. Welch may be asset to conservatives when Republicans have the majority, but she is a liability to conservative causes when her vote allows Democrats to control the Speaker's chair and committee chairmanships.

Having a Republican candidate would also give more opportunity to scrutinize Welch's voting record, which is always a good thing for an incumbent legislator. If nothing else, having an opponent forces an incumbent legislator to be accountable for the way he or she votes, and Welch has sponsored some nanny state legislation of questionable value.

Specifically, I am disappointed that Welch sponsored legislation to give three Indiana University fraternities special privileges under the law. The legislation was declared unconstitutional by the Indiana Supreme Court. Whether or not a clear precedent existed as to the constitutionality of such special legislation when the law was passed, I am opposed to special privileges for certain groups. It is the responsibility of those three fraternities to make sure their paperwork is done and turned in on time, and it would have been a significant hardship to Monroe County government had those taxes been refunded.

Things are different in District 61, where IU student Adrianne Dunlap will challenge Matt Pierce for his seat in the Indiana House of Representatives. Dunlap is the first Republican to challenge for that seat since 1998. The Libertarians contested Pierce in 2002 and 2004, pulling an impressive 25% of the vote in 2002. Could Miss Dunlap be elected State Representative before she turns 22 years old? While the voter registration numbers are heavily Democratic, D-61 is also a heavily student district, and Dunlap has a chance of pulling off an upset.

At the top of the ballot, Democrats were also unable to find anyone to challenge Richard Lugar for his U.S. Senate seat this fall. Realistically, Democrats have almost no chance of unseating an extremely popular Republican Senator in a Republican state, but it is unfortunate that no one stepped up to the plate. A co-host of the AM 1370 Afternoon Edition suggested that former Bloomington Mayor John Fernandez run against Lugar back in January. While I think Democrats can do a lot better than Fernandez, virtually any candidate would be better than having a gaping hole at the top of the ballot.