Another election season is in the books, leaving us all weary of the name-calling and anger promoted by too many candidates. It would be nice if negative campaigning didn't work, but the evidence in too many races across the nation says otherwise.
In northeast Indiana, we heard endless TV ads attacking Indiana's U.S. Senate candidates – not just from the political action groups, but from the major-party candidates' own campaigns. We saw mailers falsely depicting legislative candidates as violent protesters supporting socialism and open borders. We endured a seemingly unending barrage of ads that made us want to turn off the TV permanently.
By contrast, there was the contest for Indiana's 3rd congressional District between incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican, and Democrat Courtney Tritch. Banks won handily, but he did it with an advertising campaign focusing on his record and without ugly campaign ads smearing his opponent. Likewise, Tritch waged a campaign laser-focused on issues and what she stood for, without resorting to name-calling and meaningless labels.
Voters weren't forced to choose between the lesser of two evils in the congressional race, but instead selected from candidates who presented clear and profound differences – as it should be.
Though both of their campaigns were sometimes less than edifying, Mike Braun and Joe Donnelly agreed on something important Tuesday night.
“We need to make sure we work to bring our country together, rather than to divide it, to make sure every American has a chance,” U.S. Sen. Donnelly said in his brief concession speech.
As he acknowledged his victory, Braun reiterated a concern he had expressed in an interview with our editorial board in the closing days of the race.
“It's gotten way too nasty, on both sides,” Braun told his supporters. “It should be about ideas. It should be about what you bring to the table.”
Donnelly set the standard for the right kind of approach to government during six years as a congressman and six as a senator.
Braun showed impressive political chops in his first statewide races this year, vanquishing two sitting congressmen in the primary and an incumbent senator. Having weathered those tough campaigns, the senator-elect may now be as committed to bipartisanship and civility as his predecessor. We hope so, as Braun begins his term during a time of unprecedented division in Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence's name wasn't on any ballot, but he was a big winner in Indiana Tuesday. His brother, Columbus businessman Greg Pence, easily defeated Muncie Democrat Jeannine Lee Lake, in spite of never having sought or held office before. Greg Pence declined most media interviews and made almost no public campaign appearances, relying on the vice president's clout and fundraising acumen to claim the seat his brother held for seven terms.
There's a chance the Pence brothers could find themselves voting in tandem on some major issue. The vice president cast nine tie-breaking votes in the U.S. Senate over the past two years – the most tie-breaking votes cast by a vice president since Thomas Marshall, a Democrat from Columbia City who served from 1913-21. Greg Pence, however, lands in the minority in the House, which will be controlled by Democrats.
The vice president had another win with the balanced-budget amendment on Indiana ballots. It came from a measure he proposed as governor in an early State of the State address. Hoosiers, who have now voted in each of the last two statewide elections to amend the Indiana Constitution, approved the measure by a nearly 72 percent to 28 percent margin.
If you think you have a break before the next election season – think again. With municipal races on the ballot in 2019, the contest for Fort Wayne mayor is well under way. City Councilman John Crawford, a candidate for the Republican nomination for mayor, debuted his first TV and online ad on Election Day. The good news is that it sticks to a positive theme.
For the sake of area voters tired of the mudslinging, let's hope he continues to take the high road – and other city candidates do the same.