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Friday, February 12, 2016
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Thursday, February 11, 2016 9:55 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – One of the most unusual political transitions took place this week when Gov. Mike Pence pivoted from Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who is set to resign in the next few weeks, to Eric Holcomb. While all the principals in this saga did their best to dispel speculation that this was a rift shift between Pence and Ellspermann over LGBT civil rights, those rumblings continue. And for the second time in the past two election cycles, Pence’s political maneuvering will impact an adjacent race, this time the Republican U.S. Senate primary.
In that race, the campaign of U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman was based on a three-legged stool, with Holcomb cleaving off some “Daniels wing” support that might have gone to U.S. Rep. Todd Young. Holcomb’s exit makes this a mano-a-mano showdown, presuming that Young survives an expected ballot signature showdown that Democrats, with the tacit support of Stutzman, will wage in the next few weeks. Young lauded Pence’s decision to elevate Holcomb, stating that he had “every confidence in the Pence/Holcomb team.” While Stutzman’s campaign commented, saying it expected some Holcomb supporters to steer their way, Stutzman’s response was icy silence. It had echoes of the 2014 Republican convention when the Pence political apparatus undermined the state treasurer candidacy of Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold in favor of Kelly Mitchell, with the goal an all-female ticket that would counter the so-called “war on women” that Democrats had framed.
Holcomb’s elevation to lieutenant governor pairs up two campaign trail “happy warriors,” - the new “Hanover Heavyweights” - with both Pence and Holcomb creating the friendly countenance that make them both eminently likable, even by those who disagree with their policies. Pence is facing a tough reelection rematch against Democrat John Gregg, and not only did he need an “all-in” running mate NOW, his selection of Holcomb tends to confirm speculation of a serious fissure within the Indiana Republican Party, cleaved by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the subsequent fix, and Pence’s decision to practice latent leadership in the civil rights expansion that died in the Indiana Senate last week.
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    SOUTH BEND – Indiana’s presidential primary often is as timely and significant as a Super Bowl prediction after the game is over. Any questions? Q: Why don’t Indiana voters have more significance? Are they written off as too stupid to pick the president? A: It’s no reflection on Hoosier voters. It’s the calendar. Voters in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have more clout in picking the presidential nominees because they vote first, with saturation news coverage, knocking some candidates out or at least to the side and propelling others into top contention. When Indiana votes in May, May 3 this year, nomination winners usually have already been determined. Q: Will Indiana be irrelevant again this year? A: Maybe not. Q: Really? Indiana voters might have a significant role even after that bunch of March 1 Super Tuesday primaries and all the other primaries and caucuses before Indiana? Would it be for the Republican nomination or the Democratic nomination? A: Could be both. Q: You’re predicting that? A: No. It’s unlikely that both contests will go on to May 3 without an apparent winner amassing enough delegates. But in this year of political surprises, it’s possible; very possible that at least one nomination still will be at stake.
    BLOOMINGTON – How hard are members of Congress willing to work to fix the institution and address the key issues facing our country? There have been encouraging signs that the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill wants to make Congress function again. They’ve talked about using conference committees more, allowing a more open process for rank-and-file members, enacting separate appropriation bills rather than using omnibus bills, and letting committees lead on legislation rather than hoarding all power in the leadership offices. Perhaps most important, they’ve acknowledged that Congress has many bad habits, and insist that they want to restore a healthy legislative process. This has to be heartening to any American concerned about the level of dysfunction to which Congress has sunk. The question is, how can we tell if Congress is actually fixing itself? For as promising as the rhetoric might be, there’s a long way to go before words and reality meet on Capitol Hill.
    INDIANAPOLIS – I don’t use the word evil very often. Bad, ill-advised, unfortunate, but rarely evil. Yet here’s a case worthy of that strong adjective. A pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park, on the shore of Lake Michigan in Porter County, is in considerable disrepair. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) seeks to restore the facility. A private firm (Pavilion Partners, LLC) proposes placing a fine dining restaurant on the second floor of the pavilion, plus adding a conference and banquet facility, to make this state asset more useable throughout the year. To do this they require a three-way (beer, wine and liquor) alcoholic beverage license from the state. No booze equals no concerts, wedding parties, or corporate events.  Without the alcohol permit, the park would have only a modernized facility for sun and surf bathers, hikers, and other visitors to a glorious locale. The old-time, pristine virtues of a state park would again (excuse the expression) trump aggressive commercialism. 
    MERRILLVILLE – You’ve got to wonder why we elect county recorders. And, does anyone really care who holds the office? The recorder, after all, is little more than a keeper of a variety of county records. In fact, we really don’t need a county recorder. The office ought to be combined with the county auditor. But, in Lake County, there is a considerable amount of interest in the recorder’s race. And, it dates back to the 2012 Democratic primary. Four years ago, incumbent Recorder Michelle Fajman lost by 456 votes to a fellow named Mike Brown. Brown said he spent about $2,200 of his own money in what was his first run for political office. He was so new that no one knew anything about him or took him seriously. Brown won with 28% of the vote cast in the primary that featured five candidates. But there is great debate as to why Brown won. Brown said it wasn’t a fluke, and that people knew what they were doing when they voted for him. But, ask any rank-and-file Democrat in Lake County and he or she will tell you a different story. Mike Brown, the county recorder, has become known as the “white Mike Brown.” Most Lake County Democrats will tell you that people, particularly those in the black community, thought they were voting for the Mike Brown who is county clerk. He is known as “the black Mike Brown.”
    WEST LAFAYETTE – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders may be early precursors of an upheaval over the American horizon. The United States has experienced seismic events that profoundly changed the nation about every 80 years, ranging from the American Revolution, to the Civil War, to the Great Depression and World War II, which ended 71 years ago. These candidates could be acolytes for a coming cataclysm. Just hours before the Iowa caucuses, I spent more than an hour with Purdue President Mitch Daniels at his Hovde Hall office. Daniels could have been on the Republican ballot that night if not for a fateful family decision in May, 2011, not to pursue presidential politics. He’s been on record as believing he could have won the 2012 Republican nomination, but doesn’t believe he could have defeated President Obama (I beg to differ). And he believes he would have had little chance in today’s middle-finger mood in Republican politics.
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  • HPI Horse Race: Governors race begins as a tossup
    INDIANAPOLIS – With the primary filings in, we now unveil the 2016 Howey Politics Indiana Horse Race rating. We begin with tossup races in the gubernatorial general election and the open 3rd and 9th CD Republican primaries. Governor: Republican: Gov. Mike Pence. Democrat: John Gregg. 2012 Results: Pence (R) 1,275,424, Gregg (D) 1,200,016, Boneham (L) 101,868, Harris (I) 21. Analysis: This is shaping up to be a real donnybrook. Gregg is in much better shape financially and can run attacking Pence’s record on civil rights, social issues and infrastructure. Pence will attack Gregg’s record, particularly his 2002 deal on legislative health care for life, which never came up in the 2012 campaign. Pence enters this race with reelect numbers in the lower 40th percentile, always a danger for an incumbent. He had led Gregg in head-to-head matchups, but not by much and well under the critical 50% threshold. The challenge for Gregg is that since governors could seek reelection, a Republican incumbent has never been defeated, or seriously challenged. It will be tough to topple an incumbent Republican. Gregg will have to run the kind of hit-on-all-cylinders campaign that Frank O’Bannon did against Stephen Goldsmith in 1996, then hope for a break. The other unknown is we don’t know what kind of strength and liabilities the national tickets will bring. Republicans had counted on a Democratic ticket with Hillary Clinton at the top. That is not a slam dunk now. We don’t know if Donald Trump will be an unprecedented populist juggernaut, or whether he will cross a line at some point and completely alienate independents, moderates and ethnic demographics. General Horse Race Status: Tossup.
  • Holcomb withdraws U.S. Senate candidacy

    INDIANAPOLIS - The Republican Indiana U.S. Senate race is down to two candidates as Eric Holcomb filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office withdrawing his candidacy. Holcomb filed his withdrawal less than a half hour before the noon Monday deadline. Holcomb and his campaign have not released a statement. It leaves a two-man race between U.S. Reps. Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young. Holcomb, the former Indiana Republican Party chairman, lagged behind the two congressmen in money. In the final 2015 FEC filings, Holcomb had only $280,203 cash on hand after reporting $60,096 for the fourth quarter and $508,218 for the cycle. In contrast, Young had $2.6 million in the bank and Stutzman had $1.1 million. Both Stutzman and Young are running TV ad campaigns, something that Holcomb could not do, even though he had the support of Bill Oesterle, who formed a political action committee to back moderate Republican candidates.

  • Stutzman, Rubio win 6th CD GOP straw polls

    RUSHVILLE - Some 54 6th CD precinct officials participated in a straw poll Saturday morning with Sen. Marco Rubio winning the presidential poll, and U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman winning the U.S. Senate poll. Rubio received 22 votes (41.5%), Donald Trump 13 (24.5%), and Sen. Ted Cruz 11 (20.7%). Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina each received 2 votes (3.8%), Jeb Bush 1 vote (1.9%), while Ohio Gov. John Kasich received no votes. In the U.S. Senate race, Stutzman had 22 votes (40.7%), U.S. Rep. Todd Young 17 (31.5%) and Eric 15 votes with 27.8%).

  • Horse Race: Education issues could drive 14 House, 4 Senate challenges

    INDIANAPOLIS - Fourteen Indiana House and four Senate incumbents are facing primary challengers, including State Rep. Donna Schaibley who is opposed by Tea Party activist Greg Fettig. In other moves just prior to today’s noon primary filing deadline, in the 9th CD, Republican Jim Pfaff dropped out of that race and endorsed Attorney General Greg Zoeller, opting to run for the open HD65. Asked if there is a movement afoot in all of the House challenges, Mike Gentry of Mark It Red, and a former head of the House Republican Campaign Committee who is now a key consultant to that group, told HPI that he was just beginning to go over the challengers. “I think this may be more education issue related,” Gentry said.

  • Former Gov. Edgar Whitcomb, World War II hero, dies at age 98


    INDIANAPOLIS - Former Indiana Gov. Edgar Whitcomb, a World War II hero, died on Thursday afternoon at age 98, surrounded by his family. Whitcomb was Indiana’s 43rd governor, serving from 1969 to 1973. He had also served as Indiana secretary of state.
    Gov. Mike Pence, in officially announcing Whitcomb’s death, said, “Gov. Ed Whitcomb was a great man whose life of courage, service and adventure inspired generations of Hoosiers and he will be deeply missed. Gov. Whitcomb was a treasure to our state and I mark his passing with a sense of personal loss as will thousands of Hoosiers whose lives were touched by this remarkable leader. Ed Whitcomb’s zest for life was evident in each of his 98 years.”

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  • Kassigs appeal to Hoosiers to take in Syrian refugees
    “I ask of you, in dealing with our own fears, let us be certain we don’t blame the victims by denying them refuge. We, Americans, must take care that in our zeal and fear, we don’t do more damage than is done by the evil we are trying to prevent and they are fleeing. Given the scope of this humanitarian crisis, the question is not how or why do we go on, but how could we not?” - Paula and Ed Kassig, parents of ISIS murdered Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, making an emotional appeal to Hoosiers at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne Thursday night, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Reports are that 11% of the Syrian population has been killed or wounded in the civil war, which has produced millions of refugees. Gov. Mike Pence has attempted to ban the resettlement of Syrian refugees, citing a fear of allowing terrorists in. A federal judge will hear a bid by Exodus Refugee Immigration to block Pence’s order next Thursday.
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HPI Video Feed
Sanders accuses Clinton of 'low blow'
Sen. Bernie Sanders complains of a Hillary Clinton "low blow" in Thursday's debate in Milwaukee.

Rubio's debate collapse
Here is Sen. Marco Rubio's debate collapse on the Saturday before the New Hampshire primary, where he tanked.

2 videos
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State of the State

What grade would you give Gov. Mike Pence's State of the State address on Jan. 12, 2016?


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