Thursday, July 09, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: A mayoral petition as prologue to history.

ON THE AVENUES: A mayoral petition as prologue to history.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

In the state of Indiana, an aspirant to political office wishing to reject the chokehold of the two-party system must register a document called “Petition of Nomination for City or Town Office” (coded CAN-44) in order to see his or her name placed on the ballot.

The CAN-44 petition is explicitly intended for independent candidates, or those representing minor political parties, and it comes into play only after the May primary election is finished.

That’s because the primary exists solely to cull the herd of office seekers declaring their allegiance to Democratic, Libertarian or Republican parties, these being entities already “entitled” to have candidates placed on the November ballot.

Note that my use of “entitled” isn’t intended as sarcastic. Rather, it’s the exact word found on Indiana’s CAN-44 form. Evidently we’re all free; it’s just that some of us are a wee bit freer than others.

As an independent candidate for mayor, I’ve been required to amass signatures of registered voters according to a reasonably sensible formula: 2% of the total number of votes cast in the most recent Indiana Secretary of State election, counting from within “city” precincts also eligible to vote for mayor.

In 2014, there were approximately 7,003 votes cast for Secretary of State in the city precincts. The math works out to 140 signatures.

Incumbent 6th district councilman Scott Blair, who was elected as an independent candidate in 2011, also went through this nominating petition process, although his target was 2% of the vote total in his 6th district alone, as opposed to the entire city – perhaps 30 or so signatures.

The petition deadline was Tuesday, June 30, and we delivered our signatures a day early to the Floyd County Voter Registration Office. One week later, the county clerk called and said these had been verified.

Consequently, my name will be on the ballot, if not assigned to the invitation list for next year’s Jefferson-Jackson or Lincoln-Reagan Dinners.

I can live with this sort of trade-off. Perhaps we’ll start our own independent culinary fundraising tradition.

A Eugene Debs-Bernie Sanders Dinner, anyone?


My attention has been directed to a CAN-44 controversy in Jeffersonville, where Brett Wilson has completed his petition to be an independent candidate for city council in the 1st district, and will run against Democratic nominee Dustin White in the fall. I know neither of them personally, although Dustin is a Facebook friend, and our political tastes seem somewhat in harmony.

Because Wilson is alleged to have been assisted by Democrats dissatisfied with the outcome of the May primary, some of whom signed his petition, there have been dark mutterings among certain of the party faithful. Purges may be afoot, and even worse, dessert may be withheld from them at next year’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner… assuming they’re invited.

Even I will concede that it makes sense for local quasi-political social clubs to have loyalty oaths and various house rules against aiding and abetting the enemy, although in this instance it’s not exactly ISIS or the New England Patriots posing the threat.

CAN-44 petitions are not subversive manifestos nailed to church doors. The Ayatollah Coffey can decide which chapels are real and which are faux.

Rather, they comprise a purely democratic (small “d”) mechanism aimed at providing ballot access for those like Groucho Marx, who famously refused to join any organization that would accept the likes of him as a member.

Come to think of it, there’s a Marx branch in my own family tree. This needs to be investigated more thoroughly.

My knowledge of Jeffersonville politics is sketchy, and I intend to keep it that way. However, of those few rumblings I’ve heard as to why a Democrat (upper case “D”) would assist an independent in gaining ballot access, most have centered on disgruntlement with the central committee’s lack of objectivity during the primary.

Hmm. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.


The Floyd County Democratic Party’s governing politburo also dispensed with any appearance of impartiality during the run-up to the May primary, anointing incumbent Jeff “The Monetizer” Gahan early, often and with almost sensuous abandon, while ensuring that the unexpected challenger David White was subjected to damning slights generally reserved for lepers or redistricting lawsuit plaintiffs.

It has been suggested that in the Jeffersonville 1st district race, the Clark County party apparatus picked and played favorites in like fashion, so permit me to venture that whether your name is Tom Galligan or Adam Dickey, it’s just a bit presumptuous to demand absolute loyalty from the underlings even as you’re cynically tilting the playing field according to the backroom game plan.

Best be careful, engorged power brokers of the small pond. Folks might start thinking. Keep dealing from the bottom of the deck, and you risk instigating an outbreak of conscience – gads, perhaps even self-examination – on the part of those searching desperately for a substantive party platform, with genuine action-oriented content, and instead finding the same tired old clique bait.


Soon enough you’ll be hearing that Roger is running for mayor out of spiteful vanity, having been spurned in his quest for pet projects like comprehensive street grid reform for the betterment of neighborhoods and local businesses, when water parks open for a few weeks a year perform the same function for only a few million dollars more.

But in truth, I’m running because local party affiliation is bunk. When it comes to content, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans exist locally. I’m running because it is tiresome to hear their annual “platforms,” which consist of only one phrase: “Our club is better than theirs.”

If my participation compels them finally to bulk up and say something coherent, then we’ll have accomplished a valuable feat, except that I wouldn’t go to the trouble to complete those CAN-44 petitions and spend my spare time reading the stormwater master plan if I didn’t think we can win this damned election – and I do.

It’s not unreasonable to assume that among our petition signatories were many who think of themselves as Democrats or Republicans, even if they are de facto Marxists of the Groucho variety, and don’t formally “belong” to a political party. Let’s hope none of them get into trouble for supporting the notion of democracy in a place where traces of it can be faint at times.

Moreover, it’s important to remember that when it comes time to cast a ballot, one’s own conscience is the ultimate yardstick. There may be a Republican sign in your yard because it’s impossible to say no to a co-worker. You may always have voted Democratic because it was grandpa’s thing, and you honor his memory. Identities and affiliations can be weird human totems, indeed.

However, in the mayor’s race in New Albany in 2015, you’ll have another choice – an alternative, a candidate advocating a platform that stands on its own merits, openly, for discussion and judgment. It’s a platform that makes no mention of the traditional crass imperative of greasing one or the other political party’s wheels before considering what works best for the community as a whole.

In the coming months, let conscience be your guide. If you’re not registered to vote, we can fix that. If you have something to say, let us know; we’re listening.

Let’s try something different for a change, shall we?


Recent columns:

July 2: ON THE AVENUES: "Water on the brains: Much less for far more will keep us swimming in it."

June 25: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Red scarf, white shirt and San Miguel beer (2012).

June 18: ON THE AVENUES: These 10 definitions will help you speak local politics like a native.

June 11: ON THE AVENUES: This is Dan Coffey, New Albany’s quintessential Democrat.

June 4: ON THE AVENUES: Dan Coffey speaks for Jeff Gahan and the Democratic Party … unless they say otherwise.

May 28: ON THE AVENUES: The last of the summer beer.

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