Candidate Marmaduke’s letter concerns Greenwood District 5 voters

As the primary election rapidly approaches, one Greenwood City Council candidate took unconventional steps to reach potential voters. Some of those voters responded with concern.

Dale Marmaduke, who is running for the District 5 seat on the council, sent out letters to voter households throughout his district. The letters focused on Marmaduke’s main concerns with the city, which he says are “low-paying jobs,” crime, “dropping quality of life” and the number of non-English speaking students that are “overwhelming” local schools.

His goal was to recognize people for voting in the past, while encouraging them to talk to neighbors — whose names and addresses he included in the letter — to vote this year.

“As you know, I ran four years ago for mayor, and it was very disappointing how few people know of any issues who actually voted. They voted on all of the other elections, but not the local elections, which has the greatest effect than any other,” he said. “(The letters) were to encourage those who do vote, and ask them to vote again, especially in the city election.”

Marmaduke is running to unseat incumbent J. David Hopper, who has represented District 5 since 2012. The district is Greenwood’s most western district stretching from County Line Road in the north to Whiteland Road in the south, mostly centered around State Road 135.

The Daily Journal was made aware of the letter by several anonymous concerned voters. When asked about it, Marmaduke sent a copy of it to the Daily Journal.

Throughout his campaign, Marmaduke has focused on many of the same concerns about the city that he outlined in the mailed letter, he said.

“We do not want Indianapolis problems of high crime, poverty jobs and poor schools. We have had a school bus stop murder, poverty-level jobs, street crime and a dropping quality of life. Tax-subsidized warehouse jobs feature turnover, low wages and disruptions. Greenwood alone will have 800 limited English speakers in our schools. That is too many for quality education!” the letter reads.

A copy of the letter sent by Dale Marmaduke, candidate for Greenwood City Council District 5, to voters. Names of voters have been redacted.

Marmaduke said those issues are typically what people look at when judging the quality of a city.

“It’s something that’s spotlighted everywhere. When people choose where they live and what school they go to, how good their school is, you look at the school records. You look at the test scores,” he said.

He acknowledged that some people did not agree with his focus on the non-English speaking students in the letter.

“Any time you take a stand, there’s someone against it. There are people who are against me saying that 800 students is too many for a school system of Greenwood’s size,” he said.

Marmaduke sent the letters out to multiple voters in District 5, using information on voters provided by the Johnson County Clerk’s Office. The spreadsheet, known as a walking list, is public information and can be requested to learn about the voting history for a precinct. Walking lists are often used by candidates to send out mailers or other information.

The mailers were addressed to all people of voting age in the household and included a section where they were encouraged to reach out to registered voters around them who had not voted in past municipal elections.

“Your neighbors voted. Please talk the issues and encourage them to vote. The good ones … We love hero voters,” the letter reads.

When asked about including the information, Marmaduke wanted to encourage conversation about the issues.

“I think it’s important to have people get together and talk, instead of having a sign in your yard that tells you who you’re voting for, but not why or what they’re standing for,” he said. “It conveys what’s going on, it tells them their neighbors are also hero voters.”

Along with the letter, Marmaduke included a packet asking questions about how voters might feel about particular issues, including how infrastructure is handled, the direction the downtown revitalization is headed and taxes. Many of the questions focused on Mayor Mark Myers and his handling of the city, despite the fact he is running against Hopper.

Marmaduke added information that questioned the integrity of political contributions for Myers coming from outside of Greenwood, and presented data that he said shows Greenwood’s tax-increment financing growing out of control.

Marmaduke emphasized his packet was not intended to pressure people to vote and simply to inform them. However, he received complaints about the approach, some of which he provided to the Daily Journal. Those voters were concerned about acquiring their voting records, including children who do not live in the household in the letters, and including the focus on English language learning students.

Hopper said he has heard from a dozen or more voters in District 5 regarding the information distributed, and their reactions have ranged from anger to disbelief to appalled. He pushed back on many of the assertions Marmaduke made in the packet of information, calling them, “misleading at best and outright lying at worst.”

In particular, he decried the letter sent in the packet, calling it “disgusting.”

“If he thought it would gain him voters to call out friends and neighbors, I think he is monumentally mistaken. If it drives up voter participation, those folks will overwhelmingly vote for me. Exercising the right to vote is a private matter and your decision to vote or not vote should not be broadcast to your neighbors,” Hopper said in an email. “It is just another example of how clueless and out of touch he is with people.”