Could the blue bubble of Bloomington have a reddish tinge in City Council District 2?

When maps of election results in recent Indiana statewide races are color-shaded—with reds or blues where Republicans or Democrats won more votes—the Hoosier state is a sea of red with some blue islands.

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The few patches of blue for Indiana are consistent with a robust national pattern: Rural counties are stronger for Republicans; counties with higher urban populations, especially those with universities, are stronger for Democrats.

By way of example, in the 2018 Braun-versus-Donnelly U.S. Senate race, the Republican candidate (Mike Braun) carried most of the counties in the state. Monroe County, which is home to Bloomington’s Indiana University campus, went decisively Donnelly’s way, so it’s a dark shade of blue.

But inside Monroe County, the picture for that race is a little more nuanced.

Precincts in the eastern half of Monroe County, except for the southeast corner, are clearly blue, even if a lighter shade. The western part of the county trends light red. Precincts inside the city of Bloomington are all darker shades of blue—but the darkest of them are toward the center of the city.

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Inside Bloomington’s city limits, the uniform dominance of a Democrat like Joe Donnelly is consistent with the current composition of the Bloomington City Council—all nine seats are held by Democrats.

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Is the dominance of the Democratic Party inside the city for a statewide race last year a good predictor for city elections this year? Maybe so, given that only one Republican candidate has filed for any city office this year, compared to 22 Democrats. Andrew Guenther, a Republican primary candidate for the District 2 city council seat—will be the lone Republican Party choice on the November ballot, unless some other Republicans are “caucused in” by the June 30 deadline.

Guenther will face the winner of the three-way May 7 Democratic Party primary, which will be contested by Daniel Bingham, incumbent Dorothy Granger, and Sue Sgambelluri.

District 2 is the last district to elect a Republican to the city council. That was in 2007, when Democrat Jillian Kinzie lost to Republican Brad Wisler by 11 points less than a percentage point. In the District 2 contest four years earlier, Susan Sandberg—now a councilmember who holds one of the three at-large seats—lost that 2003 race to Republican Jason Banach by an 18-point 8-point margin.

It’s worth noting that in 2003 and 2007, the geographic area of District 2 was not identical to the current District 2. The councilmanic district boundaries are reset every 10 years, after the census.

But District 2 today includes all of the area of the previous decade’s District 2, plus two additional pieces of the city. One extra piece lies to the west, a wedge that includes Lemon Lane and Fountain Drive near I-69. The other is to the east, a slab of the university campus north of 7th Street. Here’s a link to an animation showing the contrast. (Some of the variation on the fringes is due to annexation, but some is due to the fact that the earlier map was manually digitized from a map in the Indiana University Wells Library collection.)

Comparing the 2003 and 2007 District 2 races, Republican support was less strong in the more recent race. It’s not possible to say for sure if that diminished support reflected a downward Republican trend, because no Republican ran for District 2 in 2011 or 2015.

The statewide public question on the November 2018 ballot—which changed the state constitution to require a balanced budget—could provide some evidence that District 2 still leans a little conservative, that is to say, Republican.

The constitutional balanced budget question passed statewide with 71.3 percent support. Inside the city of Bloomington, though, just 52.7 percent were in favor. In District 4, votes against the question votes narrowly outnumbered those for it by 2,655 to 2,636.

In District 2, though, it received 62.6 percent of the vote, which was 9 points better than the next highest district. District 2 was the only district in the city where the constitutional question received a majority of support in every precinct.

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Among the six Bloomington city council districts, District 2 seems like it might be the friendliest to a Republican candidate.

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