The Republican wave of 2002 seems so far away now...
Monroe County Republicans waged a hard campaign, and raised important issues in local elections. But other than Judge Ken Todd, we did not win a single contested race. Our fortunes have turned dramatically since 2002, where we unseated an incumbent county commissioner, won two more district seats for a 5-2 majority on the county council, and won the secretary of state contest countywide despite having the mayor of Bloomington as the Democratic candidate.
Other than Todd, Jeff Ellington did the best, coming very close to keeping his job as county recorder. William Ellis arguably campaigned harder than anyone and busted his tail earning Level 3 certification as an assessor. But despite all of that work, Republicans came up short by a lot in every race other than Recorder and Judge. So what happened, and where do we go from here? Is Monroe County a lost cause?
Part of the problem is Democratic votes have increased over the last fourteen years while Republican votes have stayed relatively flat. Bush, McCain and Romney were all within arm's reach of each other, but the votes for Democrats have been steadily increasing, peaking in 2008. There was a significant dropoff in Obama's numbers from 2008 to 2012, but not nearly enough to prevent Romney from getting steamrolled in Monroe County.
Monroe County, Presidential Vote Totals, 2000
Bush - 19,147
Gore - 17,523
Monroe County, Presidential Vote Totals, 2004
Bush - 22,834
Kerry - 26,965
Monroe County, Presidential Vote Totals, 2008
Obama - 41,450
McCain - 21,118
Monroe County, Presidential Vote Totals, 2012
Obama - 33,436
Romney - 22,481
It did not help that we saw a drop in Republican turnout from two years ago to now. As I pointed out last week, Richard Mourdock got 17,633 votes in Monroe County in 2012, below Romney's numbers by about 5,000 votes. If we just turned those Mourdock voters out against the 2014 Democratic turnout, we would have won every single contested race. But after a Herculean effort by local candidates who were pounding the pavement every day, how can we motivate those people to come out and vote? It looks like our biggest enemy in 2014 was apathetic Republican voters.
I do not believe Monroe County is a lost cause - not in deep red Indiana and not with only twelve years removed from a landslide win. But the fact of the matter is that Democrats have done a tremendous job registering new voters and getting those voters to the polls, while Republicans have been stagnant. We had the better candidates this year by a wide margin, but we will never win as long as they keep dropping this demographic bomb on us.
Our realistic focus should be on taking the county back in the 2026 mid-term elections. In order to do this, we will need a non-stop effort and a strong campaign every single election between now and then. Token opposition will only cause the Democrats to widen their lead and make it even more difficult to win elections. We have to somehow break the apathy and/or defeatism of Republican voters and get them to the polls every election. Most importantly, we have to register more voters to expand our base. If we do not do that, everything else we do will be a waste of time.
I am not giving up. I am going to keep fighting for what I believe in regardless of the election results. I hope my fellow Republicans will join me in this battle.