Who Has Upper Hand in Mayoral Campaign Race?

By Rachel Martin

October 27, 2011 Updated Oct 27, 2011 at 6:50 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A local political analyst describes the campaigning challenges faced by Municipal candidates.

Do Challengers have an advantage over Incumbent candidates when it comes to campaigning? Political analyst, Andy Downs, Director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, said people might be surprised.

Downs said there are campaign advantages and disadvantages for both candidates.

“Almost all the advantages go to the Incumbent, it’s sad but true. If you look at re-election rates, whether it’s for Congress, for Mayors, or for Governors, we have a tendency to re-elect people at a really really high rate.”

Downs said voters re-elect incumbents 80 to 90 percent of the time, which can work out will for Tom Henry. However, he said Fort Wayne tends to be more of a Republican city.

“Fort Wayne is a city that leans republican and what we’ve seen nation-wide is there’s been a little more lean in that direction. In many respects, that’s very good for someone like Paula Hughes.” Downs said “What’s countering that is the fact that Tom Henry’s the Incumbent, so we have these two forces that are fighting against one another.”

Indiana code may limits the campaign flexibility of an Incumbent, but Downs said they have an advantage over the Challenger because the public is already familiar with them.

“There are a few parts of the Indiana Code that deal with what you can and cannot do within your official public office in terms of campaigning. A lot of people try to respect that very carefully, but the law’s relatively loose on that.”

Downs also said Incumbents tend to have easier access to the media and raise more campaign money, but in turn, Challengers may have more flexibility because they might not necessarily have job responsibilities.

“Challengers can choose to quit their job for a while, for example, while they're campaigning and devote 40 hours a week, really more like 70 or 80 a week to campaigning,” Downs said. “Elected officials can't. They still have to perform the duties of their office.”

Although Downs said statistics favor the Incumbent, with it comes to this year’s City Elections, it’s hard to tell. It will be something people will have to wait and see on November 8.

“What we have to keep in mind is that a lot of campaigning is just talking with people and making sure they know where you stand on the issues.”

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