Campaigns are a funny thing. There’s really no way to tell how you’re doing until election day with polling being potentially less reliable than it once was. Furthermore, the dichotomy of elections could not be more conspicuous: either a candidate loses or she wins. The question that every candidate, campaign manager, or supporter asks after a loss is: “Why?”
This article reflects on an Indiana State House race in which the candidate was qualified, ran hard, fundraised sufficiently, and spent wisely but – unfortunately for her – she never stood a chance.
Paula Finch was the Republican State Representative candidate for Indiana’s House District 87, which is comprised of the Northwestern-most section of Marion County (i.e. Washington and Lawrence Townships), which is home to the state’s capital of Indianapolis. Until 2012, this district was considered was represented by mostly Republicans. Even though Democrats won the district in 2012, 2014, and 2016, their margins of victory were less than 5% (50.1-49.9% in 2012; 51.5-48.5% in 2014; and 52.2-47.8% in 2016).
This year, however, Finch lost to the incumbent, Carey Hamilton 62.2-37.8%! Why?!
The truth is, no Republican was going to win HD87 this year absent Hamilton making a Murdoch Comment or some other stupid mistake. Here’s why:
First, when doing this postmortem, it’s important to consider another election: the U.S. House, District 5 race. Rep. Susan Brooks is a very popular U.S. Representative in Indiana. Her district is comprised mostly of Hamilton County, which sits directly North of Marion County, but it also includes a section of Marion County; the section of Marion County it includes is mostly within HD 87.
1. In 2018, Brooks lost Marion County 59.2-40.7%, but won reelection 56.8-43.2%; in 2014, the last midterm election year, she won Marion County 53.5-46.5%, and won her election with 65.2% of the total vote.
2. In 2018, turnout in Marion County for Brooks’ race increased by 89.6% from 2014.
3. In 2018, turnout in Washington Township increased by 93.0% from 2014.
4. In 2018, turnout in Lawrence Township increased by 87.8% from 2014.
5. In 2018, Finch received more than 11,000 votes, which is approximately 2,8000 more than Christina Hale (D-winner) and 3,200 more than Michael Freeman (R-loser) received in 2014.
6. However, turnout in Finch’s election increased by nearly 88% from 2014!
Democrats have been trending in Marion County as a whole over the past decade, despite remaining relatively stable in Washington and Lawrence Townships. 2018 was a different story.
In 2014, straight-party voting countywide was split: D’s: 58.5% vs. R’s: 40.6%. Washington Township was split: D’s: 59.0% vs. R’s: 40.5%, and Lawrence Township was split: D’s: 49.8% vs. R’s: 49.2% (Note: remainder is accounted for by straight-party Libertarian voters).
In 2018, straight-party voting countywide was split: D’s: 65.6% vs. R’s: 33.6%. Washington Township was split: D’s: 70.2% vs. R’s: 29.1%, and Lawrence Township was split: D’s: 61.1% vs. R’s: 38.2%.
What’s more, Countywide turnout increased 23.1% in 2018!
With high turnout and the Democratic trend-lines exploding, Finch’s race would have been nearly impossible for any GOP candidate to win. This was a terrible year to be running as a Republican in Marion County… for anyone.
This article was authored by Political Bank Co-Founder & CEO, Adam H. Berry.