Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: Local Democrats facing uphill battle in 2022

·3 min read

Sep. 17—Labor Day is normally considered the start of the fall election campaign season.

During the summer months, candidates for both political parties have been walking in parades and attending festivals hoping to procure votes.

But with Election Day less than two months away, the local Democratic Party has a steep hill to climb.

There are 12 county offices up for election this year, and Democrats hold only two of them.

Six of the 10 incumbent Republicans are seeking re-election and three of them — Circuit Court 6 judge, prosecuting attorney and assessor — are unopposed.

The only Democrat running for re-election is Fred Reese in the 3rd District for the Madison County Council. He is running against Republican Jodi Norrick.

There are no incumbents running in five of the contests, four of which are currently held by the Republican Party.

Those offices include sheriff, clerk, recorder, commissioner and the 1st District seat on the county council.

The Indiana House races have five incumbent Republicans running for re-election — two are running unopposed.

State Sen. Mike Gaskill is running for re-election in a newly configured Senate district that now includes all of Madison County against Democrat Tamie Dixon-Tatum.

The contest for the District 36 seat is a rematch between incumbent Democrat Terri Austin and Kyle Pierce.

Two years ago, the two candidates spent close to $400,000 with Austin receiving 53% of the vote.

For local Democrats there is the task of trying to unseat incumbents or defeating candidates with name recognition, including Olivia Pratt for commissioner and Linda Smith for clerk.

Aside from Austin, the only other Democrat with some name recognition — but not necessarily on the ballot — is Joey Cole, who is running for sheriff against Republican John Beeman.

Beeman's grassroots campaign resulted in what some saw as an upset victory in the primary election over the party-endorsed candidate, Anthony Emery.

Another obstacle facing local Democrats is the fact that in the past two countywide elections, there were 3,000 more straight party votes cast for GOP candidates in 2016 and 5,000 in the 2020 campaign.

Those are huge numbers to swing in a county which is seemingly leaning more Republican with each passing election cycle.

When I first started covering politics in 1978, it was the precinct committee organization that made Democrats difficult to defeat in municipal and countywide elections.

The GOP organization back then was nowhere near as strong.

Another disadvantage for Democrats is the amount of turnover in local party leadership. Tim Funk is the fourth party chairman in just over two years. It could take Funk several years to restore the party.

Although there are warring factions on the Republican side, it's not likely to hinder the party's performance on election day.

For Democrats, there is hope in 2023 with incumbent mayors Thomas Broderick Jr. running in Anderson and Todd Jones in Elwood.

The rallying cry for Democrats could be "wait till next year."

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4863.