Russ Stilwell: New maps & House Democrats
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4:45 AM
BOONVILLE – It is increasingly difficult to live in the ever-growing red state of Indiana if you are a working family labor advocate, a woman or someone who wants the Indiana House to boost the number of Democrats in that chamber. Let’s review these one at a time.
Working families & labor: As a longtime advocate for folks who believe in labor unions and the right to have a union, it is sad to say that Indiana has been joined at the hip with Wisconsin. I will admit that the indifferent majority Republicans performed this blood-spattered surgery without a surgical scalpel approach. They treated everyone equally. Teachers, building trades, factory workers, state workers and more were brought to the legislative slaughterhouse and stripped. And I was foolish enough to think that jobs with a union representation were the kind of jobs we wanted, jobs that pay better, jobs with health care and maybe a pension and jobs that do not allow discrimination on pay or gender. Maybe these legislative surgeons will put down their scalpels after the 2012 surgeries. My guess is they will place somebody else on the gurney as they expand the social agenda.
Women: As many political junkies do, I woke up Wednesday morning and turned on CNN to catch up on the news. Our wannabe U.S. Senator Richard Mourdock’s political mug shot was front and center. Oh, if we could take those frightful words back. Mourdock’s ill-fated statement at the end of the debate: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
And this man wants to represent me in the U.S. Senate? What is far more alarming is that he wants to represent the three million plus females in our state. A guy who set out to destroy the Hoosier auto industry is now dictating to Hoosier women who are violated that God intended it to happen. Sure hope my granddaughters never have to say that their U.S. senator is Richard Mourdock. And if they ever join the Girl Scouts, I sure hope they never come face to face with a guy in the legislature with the last name of Morris! Yes, the same lawmaker who was one of 100 House members who refused to support a nonbinding resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts because he feels the group is a “radicalized organization” that “sexualizes” young girls and promotes homosexuality. Wow, it sure is nice to know that the Hoosier M&M boys are out there protecting our Hoosier girls and women! Good grief, I cannot even believe I live in a state where we elect the likes of these M&M extreme ideologues.
Indiana House: A couple of months after the disastrous (for Democrats anyway) 2010 elections, Brian Howey asked me for my thoughts. I said that it would be nearly impossible for the House R’s to keep 60 seats and that there was not enough political talent in the state to keep them all. I went on to say the river counties (that would be the Ohio River) and Southern Indiana would have several competitive seats and things could get back to normal somewhat quickly. The river counties and Southern Indiana have historically been conservative, but somewhat reliably Democrat at the local and statehouse level.
I want on to inform the Howey Report that, “Southern Indiana is a gun-toting, Bible belt conservative blue collar area that doesn’t think kindly of folks who don’t think like they do; and they will punish you at the ballot box every time from top to bottom.” They sure proved this point in 2010 when they linked the entire Democrat ballot with the then unpopular president and Obamacare.
A whole lot has changed since I made those ill-fated comments. What a difference mapmaking, the disintegration of the Democrat caucus and a decided money advantage can make!
I have always believed that Democrats cannot control the House without the South. It will not happen this election year, or anytime soon, until a firm leadership team is in place that has a strategy much like that of former Speaker Michael Phillips. They went from 27 seats to a majority in a little over a decade.
The new House maps, coupled with unprecedented retirements of a dozen long time Democrats, have made 2012 impossible. When you factor in the money advantage, the race for the House is a Republican House quorum-proof election.
As recently as 2008, House Democrats had a 19-5 Southern Indiana advantage. Today, that relates to a 16-8 Republican advantage. If the R’s run the slate on tossup races in this area, then they will have the same advantage House D’s had for decades. With 25% of the House seats in Southern Indiana, you cannot win the House if you lose the South! There must be a Democrat Southern Indiana strategy before one even thinks about increasing the caucus numbers.
The Republican caucus has the money to win elections. Unlike close financial parity in years past, the R’s own the political money chest, and they are passing out their booty in a lot of races and a lot of places.
Even in HD74, the seat of LG candidate Sue Ellspermann, and the only R seat that got more Democratic (54%), House R’s have dumped nearly $100K in late television and mail in a district where the challenger was selected by a caucus only a couple of months ago. It appears that they are not only trying to win the House with the South, but to win a quorum-proof chamber in the process.
Stilwell is the former Indiana Democratic House Majority Leader.