EDITIORAL:  REFLECTIONS ON THE EVANSVILLE CITY ELECTION OF 2015

first_imgWe at CCO want to offer our analysis of the resounding victory won on Tuesday by our incumbent Mayor Lloyd Winnecke.  We think it is worthwhile to try to learn from every campaign we witness, and we congratulate both political camps on their efforts.  By comparing those efforts, we hope future candidates can learn to run more successful campaigns that will draw out larger percentages of eligible voters.The contrasts between the parties’ efforts on behalf of their candidates could not be more stunning.  Like most incumbents, Mr. Winnecke began running for re-election on the first day of his first term as Mayor.  Mrs. Riecken’s campaign began rather late in the election season which placed her at the disadvantage in fundraising.  She had a few months to raise a treasury that could compete with the one the Mayor had amassed over four years.  The Democratic Party had little to offer in the way of financial support to her, and the Republican Party had full coffers for their candidates to draw on.  The power of the incumbency also provided more free media opportunities to Mayor Winnecke, who made full use of that advantage by showing up at ribbon cuttings, beauty contests, and groundbreakings.  He even managed multiple groundbreakings for the proposed hotel and IU Medical school across from the Ford Center.  Local news media jumped at  every chance to label Gail’s questions concerning the City’s finances and choices of how our money is spent as “negative,” when we see them as sensible.  Mrs. Riecken had virtually no opportunity to launch a media campaign because of the lack of funding and the fact that the Winnecke campaign had media buys “locked up.”The Mayor also made brilliant use of “surrogates.”  Kelley Coures showed the brighter side of his sometimes abrasive personality when he managed to find federal money at every turn to use to court non-profits and favored contractors.  By passing out Façade Grants, making generous gifts of buildings to be renovated by certain builders, and other “pork barrel” projects, he did a grand job of building good will for his boss.  The same is true of Police Chief Billy Bolin.  In spite of the legitimate questions about Bolin’s competence to lead EPD, he was deployed to various civic fundraising events where he managed to convince many voters that he is such a good guy he deserves to keep his job.The biggest difference in the two parties’ efforts was the well-organized unity and intense focus on their goal exhibited by the Republicans, versus the fragmentation of the Democrats.  There is no evidence that the Dems have taken a first step toward reunification under the “leadership” of Chairman Rob Faulkner.  It is fair to say that a number of Democrats did find unity and leadership under the Republican Chairman, Wayne Parke.  We’re not just talking about the obvious Winnecke Democrats, Council candidates Missy Mosby, Jonathon Weaver,  James Brinkmeyer, and City Clerk Laura Brown Windhorst.  It appears that Democratic County officeholders are also getting on the Republican boat.  We noticed Sheriff Dave Wedding and Assistant Coroner Steve Lockyear joined the celebration at Tropicana. We also watched with interest that former Mayor Jonathan Winezapfel sit on the side line and never offer any help to Mrs. Rieckens campaign.The timing of the news conference to announce the money that DMD awarded the “politically neutral” Reverend Adrian Brooks in order to reopen the for-profit grocery on Lincoln Avenue that had recently closed due to a lack of businesses.  How odd that one of the most powerful people in the Central City appeared on TV with the Mayor and Coures days before the election in which a Republican supported Independent made an impressive run against Connie Robinson.The last minute budget cuts to nonprofit organizations sponsored by City Council Finance Chair, Conor O’Daniel at the eleventh hour seems suspect, too.  We understand that O’Daniel, who lost in his Council seat in the Primary, is interested in seeking a nonpartisan judgeship. The last minute axing of popular community projects and the Mayor’s politicization of the cuts hurt Democrats in general and Mrs. Riecken in particular, and she was powerless to change that.The splintered Democrats seemed to cause their candidate difficulty even when they were apparently trying to support her.  If outgoing City Councilman John Friend had translated his budgetary proposals into language that was understandable to everyday people, he could have been an asset to the Riecken campaign.  Instead, he used “CPA jargon” that muddied the issue in the minds of some voters.  Outgoing Councilman Al Lindsey’s lasting feuds with the Fire Chief and some of his fellow Democrats cost him credibility, and likely made some voters stay away from the polls located in the 6th Ward.We give all due credit to Wayne Parke and Lloyd Winnecke for elevating the local City Election to the level of a typical gubernatorial race.  The campaign went on twenty-four hours a day, and had a professional air about it.  The huge war chest held by a united Republican party will make the Democrat party impotent for years to come unless they can free themselves of Faulkner, unify, and regain appeal to their usual allies.  At this point, we see little hope for Vanderburgh County Democratic candidates for years to come.  The party is broke financially and broken spiritually.We are sorry to hear that Gail Riecken is retiring from politics at the end of her term in the State Legislature, but we surely understand it.  We do hope that she will remain active in the community in the same way she has been all of her life.  Her work to ease the lives of the poor, defend children who are at risk, and speak for the voiceless is a precious gift she has given this city during her entire life, and it will be missed if she opts to step completely out of the public eye.  Whatever her decision is, Gail Riecken’s is a life truly well lived, and our hats are off to her.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more