Council Democrats' majority shrinks as Evans switches to GOP

Jose Evans (R-Indianapolis)
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A shake-up in Indianapolis politics means a slimmer majority for City-County Council Democrats, and a big win for local Republicans.

Jose Evans announced Tuesday his decision to switch to the Republican party. Evans, who was first elected to the council in 2007 as a Democrat, is now a Republican.

Evans' move doesn't flip control, but makes it a lot tighter. Instead having a 16-13 majority, Democrats have 15-14 (or one-vote) majority.

Evans, who briefly ran for mayor in 2011, wanting to take on Republican Greg Ballard, says he's been thinking about the switch for a few years. He says he wants a bigger voice and Republicans who've done poorly among Hispanics at the polls want more diversity in office.

The switch also gives the mayor a better shot with his agenda. As for what finally prompted Evans to flip parties?

"This is a decision based on having more of a voice, being more vocal and having a seat at the table to be able to represent my constituents," he said.

Kyle Walker, the chair of the Marion County GOP, said the switch definitely helps the mayor.

"I think it's an additional vote, obviously, in many cases for his agenda. I think that's important. It's an additional voice to support the efforts the mayor has already undertaken and continues to in the neighborhoods, and Jose will be a strong supporter of that," said Walker.

Council President Maggie A. Lewis issued this statement: "Today, Councillor Jose Evans announced his decision to leave the Democratic party. We thank him for his service and wish him well in his endeavors."

The announcement came as Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus touched down in Indianapolis as part of his "listening tour."

After Mitt Romney lost the presidential race to Barack Obama, Priebus has been looking for ways to win over Hispanic and other minority voters.

Gil Hernandez owns a Mexican restaurant just east of downtown. He's not political. He's not even sure who Jose Evans is, but he is glad Republicans are reaching out to Hispanics and other minorities.

Hernandez said, "This is good for everyone, good for the country. Everybody is hoping this country gets better and better."

Getting Evans to jump the aisle, wasn't just about making inroads in the council. As Indiana Republican Party Chair Eric Holcomb said, "Jose is of a specific community where we need to grow and develop relationships, so he'll be able to introduce us to folks we've not met before."

But as Holder pointed out, with just two Hispanics in the General Assembly, (one a Democrat, one a Republican) both parties need to do a better job of recruiting minority candidates.

He called that number "unacceptable."

Roberto Curci, a professor at Butler University, couldn't agree more.

"Democrats and Republicans need to bring more Hispanics to serve in different capacities. It's a matter of understanding the needs and expectations of different communities," said Curci.

He hopes the courting of Hispanics goes beyond winning the next election.

"I understand winning elections is important and a driving force, but we have to take a longer view," he said. "It's not just a pat toward residency or citizenship but it is really about opening doors for these individuals to be successful living in the community."

One Hispanic Republicans are unlikely to recruit? Democratic Councilor Zach Adamson.

"They're just repackaging the same idea, an idea that's repelled people from aligning themselves with the Republican party," he said.

Still as Republicans work to broaden their base, Democrats may have to work harder to keep theirs.