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Thursday, October 15, 2015 9:20 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    
INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence kicked off the infrastructure debate with a $1 billion proposal to repair state highways, interstates and bridges. Local government officials want the governor and General Assembly to take it several steps further, and provide what the Indiana Association of Cities & Towns calls a “sustainable” funding source. IACT President Matthew Greller told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that the Pence plan is a good start. “The big thing is it’s good the administration is addressing infrastructure in a very serious way with a very serious proposal and a lot of money. But it includes no money for city and town streets and county roads. I’m disappointed because the vast majority of road miles in Indiana are maintained by local governments.”
  • Atomic: GOP win in Georgia; Gov in Paris; Mayor Pete late nite

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. GOP rebuffs Dems in Georgia: Your hump day power lunch talking points: President Trump and House Republicans dodged a bullet in Georgia’s 6th CD last night, with Karen Handel pulling out a 4% victory over Jon Ossoff in a race that drew $50 million. The president rubbed it in on the Democrats, who made vote gains in Georgia, Montana and Kansas special elections, but don’t have a victory to show. “Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0,” Trump tweeted. A loss by Handel would have been analyzed as a harbinger for a volatile 2018 cycle that could cut into or eliminate GOP majorities in Congress, particularly if it set off a wave of retirements and proved to be a boon for Democratic recruitment. But her win gives the Trump administration not only a reprieve, but some momentum on the health care reforms the Senate will unveil on Thursday, and the massive tax cuts that Vice President Mike Pence told the National Association of Manufacturers are in the pipeline.

  • Atomic: Georgia showdown; Long's upset; Donnelly, GOP spar
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Georgia on our minds tonight: Here are your taco Tuesday power lunch talking points: With a bow to Hoosier songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, Georgia is on our minds tonight as the $50 million 6th CD race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel comes to a head. Four late polls show the race a statistical dead heat, though Handel appears to have the late momentum. If there’s a wild card, it may be a Super PAC TV ad using the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise against Ossoff. It has been denounced by both sides. The election is seen as a referendum on President Trump, who tweeted this morning, “Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn’t even live in district.” Health care could be the decisive issue, with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution showing 81% of likely voters describing the issue as extremely or very important “priority” to them. And the Washington Post reported that many voters wanted to give TrumpCare a chance.

  • Atomic: Pence's I-69 fiasco; hospitals fret; 'witch hunt' annotated

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. More tarnish for Pence gov legacy: Your Monday power lunch talking points:  The IndyStar’s Mark Alesia and Kaitlin L. Lange published an investigative piece in the Sunday edition that raises questions about oversight of the European consortium Isolux Corsan in the troubled I-69 project between Bloomington and Martinsville. The project is two years behind schedule, and the prolonged construction has increased traffic accidents by more than 40% and lengthened commute times, as well as bogged down traffic to the state’s flagship university. Isolux had little prior experience in the U.S., and no experience building roads and bridges in the U.S.; the group bid $325 million, about $73 million less than the closest competing bid and $22 million less than the state's own cost estimate. The Star posed this question: How did this once-touted project – pitched and promoted by then-Gov. Mike Pence as a model for smart infrastructure planning – become such an embarrassing mess?

  • A tough health vote for House GOP, then Trump calls it 'mean'
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – After Vice President Mike Pence, his legislative liaison Marc Short and with cajoling from President Trump mustered 217 votes to pass the American Health Care Act on May 4, the Indiana Republican delegation sprang to a defense. “The American Health Care Act protects patients with pre-existing conditions, ensures access to quality, affordable health care, and gives states the flexibility they need to enact innovative reforms like those in Indiana,” insisted U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski. U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks said, “Most importantly, this legislation ensures that no one can be denied coverage, including people with pre-existing conditions. In addition, no one, regardless of health status, will be charged higher premiums if they maintain their coverage.”
        
  • HPI Interview: Attorney Gen. Hill weighs drug, cyber threats
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Last week Howey Politics Indiana reported that new Attorney General Curtis Hill has been approached about a U.S. Senate run in 2018. In this HPI Interview, we talked with Hill at the Statehouse about his first five months after spending nearly three decades working in the Elkhart County prosecutor’s office, the last 14 in that elected position. He entered the attorney general office this year with some seismic issues ranging from an opioid and methamphetamine epidemic, to cyber security issues that are hitting Hoosier businesses and consumers in the wallet.
        
  • Atomic: Buttigieg for prez? Scalise shot; 'Mean' GOP plan
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Mayor Buttigieg heading to Iowa: Your hump day power lunch talking points. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is heading to Iowa where he’ll headline the Progress Iowa Corn Feed on Sept. 10. It is prompting Democrats to speculate that he might be pondering a presidential run in 2020. “You don't go to Iowa unless you're thinking about running for president,” said Chris Sautter, a Washington-based Democratic media consultant and a Howey Politics Indiana columnist. The Des Moines Register reports that Buttigieg will be joined by another potential 2020 candidate, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Merkley was the only Senate Democrat to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016. The Des Moines Register notes: The pair are just latest Democrats with national profiles to make auspicious trips to Iowa in 2017. Also appearing in the state or scheduled to make visits this year are 2016 presidential candidates Sanders and Martin O’Malley; and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota.

  • Atomic: Mueller 'You're fired!' Worm diplomacy; iconic justice scene
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Terminating Mueller? Your Tuesday power lunch talking points. Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax, said on PBS Newshour last night that his friend President Trump … well, we’ll let him say it: "I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option.” With Trump’s Gallup approval at 36%, a repeat of a Watergate style “Saturday Night Massacre” would not only send the president into the 20th percentile (or lower), but will prompt more and more people to ask, “What’s he hiding?” U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said on NBC’s Today Show, “If there is nothing there, then why do you keep impeding it?” Former Bush speechwriter David Frum said on MSNBC last night, “If President Trump really does fire Robert Mueller, he might as well just hire a skywriter to trace in smoke over the White House ‘I am super guilty.’”

  • HPI Analysis: Indiana's coming $100 million U.S. Senate race
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – In 1998, the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Evan Bayh and Republican Paul Helmke ended up in the $4 million range. In 2010, Republican Dan Coats and Democrat Brad Ellsworth spent $9 million. And in 2012, Sen. Dick Lugar, Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly saw a combined $51 million course through their campaigns, including $32,844,0452 from outside groups. Howey Politics Indiana added up the total cost of the 2016 showdown between Republican Todd Young and Democrat Evan Bayh, along with Democrat Baron Hill and Republicans Eric Holcomb and Marlin Stutzman, and it topped $75 million. With the Senate balance in the 2018 mid-terms potentially hanging on U.S. Sen. Donnelly’s reelection, Hoosiers are probably looking at a $100 million race. U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita are expected to post around $2 million when the second quarter FEC reports are filed next month.
  • Fired director Comey's rebuke of Trump
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – It was a stark assessment from the fired FBI Director James Comey: The president of the United States is a liar. In the May 9 dismissal by President Trump, Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee in sensational testimony Thursday, “The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI, by saying the organization was poorly led. Those were lies, plain and simple.” At least five other times, Comey questioned the truthfulness of President Trump. It brought about this response from White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar. It’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”
  • Indiana reaction to Comey testimony
    Howey Politics Indiana
        
    INDIANAPOLIS –  Here is reaction from the Indiana congressional delegation, academics and commentators to the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday. Sen. Joe Donnelly told I-Team 8 Thursday that he was “very concerned” by former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony that President Trump asked him to “let go” of the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (Haeberle, WISH-TV). “It’s very, very concerning, but I will also defer to Robert Mueller. That’s the purpose of the special counsel in this process is to review what did happen in regards to potential criminal investigation and to make those decisions,” Donnelly told I-Team 8.
  • Atomic: Coats testifies; FBI nominee; 'President Pence? Manning?'
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Coats testifies on Trump Russia pressure: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers were pressed by Senate Intelligence Committee members this morning on whether they were pressured by President Trump to derail the FBI investigation. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner posed the question: “Is it in any way typical for a president to ask questions and bring up an ongoing FBI investigation?” Rogers said he was “not going to discuss the specifics of conversations with the President of the United States.” Coats said, “We are in a public session and I do not believe it is appropriate to reveal those conversations. It’s inappropriate for me to share that with the public. I don’t believe this is an appropriate venue to do this in this situation. When I was asked to respond to piece in the Washington Post this morning, I said I have never been pressured, never felt pressured to intervene or interfere in the shaping of intelligence in a political way or with an on-going investigation.”

  • Atomic: Cold beer wars; legalization saga begins; Comey storm
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Opening salvo in the cold beer war: Your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Over the course of four days the Indiana policy establishment is now facing rhetorical debate and a new data set over how alcohol (including cold beer!) will be sold in the 21st Century along with the beginning arguments on the legalization of marijuana, which has reached that status in 26 states and D.C. The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association poll showing 71% back wider cold beer sales and 65% favor Sunday carryout is no surprise. Most Hoosiers perceive the status quo as absurd. As we’ve often stated, the political establishment is well behind the public on cutting edge issues, evidenced by the 1988 lottery referendum which passed with 64% after a decade of inertia in the General Assembly. The defeat of House Speaker J. Roberts Daily in 1986 broke that log jam.

  • Poll shows 70% favor wider cold beer, Sunday sales
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Proponents of wider cold beer sales published a poll Monday afternoon showing 70% of Hoosiers favor giving drug, grocery and convenience stores the right to sell cold beer according to a new statewide poll. Respondents also strongly favored allowing Sunday carryout sales, and enabling liquor stores to sell a wider variety of products.

  • Atomic: Pivotal week for Trump; WH amateur hour; pot skirmish
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. A pivotal week for President Trump: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: With former FBI Director James Comey scheduled to testify Thursday morning on the Russia/Trump campaign collusion investigation before the Senate Intelligence Committee, this is shaping up as a pivotal early week for Donald Trump’s presidency. Via Mike Allen of Axios, we learned that at the Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting with Comey where he made an appeal (“I hope you can let this go”), Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave prior. ABC News reported that Trump has mulled nixing the Comey testimony by invoking executive privilege, though the president is reportedly leaning against it. Pence heads to Capitol Hill today to try and rally TrumpCare after four Republican senators – Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Richard Burr and Ron Johnson – expressed doubt any bill could pass the Senate. And on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Todd Young is scheduled for dinner with Trump at the White House.

  • Atomic: Paris reaction; Hill v. weed; jobs flatline; Russia probe
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Hoosiers react to Paris pullout: Your final power lunch talking points: Reaction to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords stayed along party lines here in Indiana. Vice President Mike Pence, his longtime pollster Kellyanne Conway, and Trump legislative liaison Marc Short were internal West Wing voices urging Trump to withdraw. U.S. Rep. Jim Banks tweeted, “I am glad @POTUS is following through on his campaign promise and pulling the United States out of the flawed Paris agreement.” U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita added, “The @POTUS made the right decision by withdrawing from the #ParisAgreement. Negligible impact on environment, crushing impact on jobs.” And U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon called the accords “flawed" and "unfair to American workers and puts our country at an economic disadvantage to the benefit of countries like China, Iran and India." And U.S. Sen. Todd Young told the Muncie Star Press, "This is really, to my mind, not news. This is just more of a public statement as much as anything else." Young said the “real issue” is President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which he said would adversely affect lower income Hoosiers, senior citizens and industry because they would pay more for electricity."

  • Atomic: Pence and climate 'myth'; the covfefe code; aiming at Joe
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Pence to join Trump to climate pullout: Your Thursday power lunch talking points. Vice President Mike Pence joins President Trump at 3 today in the Rose Garden for the widely anticipated announcement that they’re talking the United States out of the Paris climate accords. The U.S. is joining Syria (in a civil war) and Nicaragua (which didn’t think the accords went far enough) as the only nations opting out. During the 2016 campaign, Trump called man’s impact on the climate a “hoax.” He believes that Paris accords unfairly impact the U.S. economy.

  • Atomic: Trump bolts Paris; White House 'covfefe'; Pistole to FBI?
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Trump to pull out of Paris climate accords: Your hump day power lunch talking points: President Trump is poised to pull out of the Paris climate accords that have been signed by 175 nations. The United States of America will join Syria and Nicaragua as nations not signing the agreement. North Korea formally backed the agreement in April 2016. According to the NASA Global Climate Change website, 16 of the 17 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2001. The year 2016 ranks as the warmest on record. Trump was lobbied by G-7 leaders and Pope Francis to stay in the agreement, but it appears senior adviser Steve Bannon, who argued that the accords will harm the U.S. economy, won this one. Trump campaigned on pulling out of Paris throughout his 2016 campaign, making it a key pitch in coal-producing states, though a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll showed 67% back the Paris accords.

  • Atomic: Sato's great win; Trump 'castastrophe'; Frye out in 6th CD

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Sato’s win great for Indy, Japan: Takuma Sato’s daring and thrilling win of the 101st Indianapolis 500 further cements the splendid relationship between Indiana and Japan. The fact that Sato won his first Indy 500 in car with a Honda motor plant is icing on the cake as Honda has a sprawling plant in Greensburg and its supplier network employs thousands of Hoosiers. “I’m really happy for Honda. They worked really hard to get us here,” said team owner Michael Andretti to the Japan Times. “I know how big this news is going to be tomorrow when they wake up in Japan. It’s going to be huge. I’m really happy for them, that we were able to give them a win with our Japanese driver here.” Sato added, “This is going to be mega big. A lot of the Japanese fans are following the IndyCar Series and many, many flew over for the Indianapolis 500. We showed the great result today and I am very proud of it.” The fact that more than 200 Japanese companies do business and employ Hoosiers makes this victory altogether appropriate.

  • HPI Analysis: The coming 'impeachment election'
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Singer David Byrne, appropriately a real Talking Head, asks rhetorically in song, “How did we get here?” in an era of scandals engulfing the White House and inertia gripping a polarized Congress. Look no further than the morning of May 3, 2016, with Donald Trump poised to win the Indiana Republican presidential primary that night, and thus the party’s nomination. But Trump wasn’t optimistic, upbeat or sanguine. Instead, he went on Fox News and cited a National Enquirer story tying Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said on Fox News early election morning.
  • Horse Race: AG Hill, Braun eye Senate race; Delph decision coming
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – The early rounds of the Republican 2018 U.S. Senate race has centered on a potential showdown between U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita. But there are several new names surfacing. Informed and reliable GOP sources say that Attorney General Curtis Hill is making phone calls gauging support for a potential run. He is also staffing up his campaign side, with Suzie Jaworowski coming on board. She was a key player in President Trump’s Indiana campaign. Another name reportedly making calls is State Rep. Mike Braun, R-Jasper. Currently Atlanta businessman Terry Henderson, Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt and New Albany educator Andrew Takami have officially entered or have formed exploratory committees. State Sen. Mike Delph told HPI on Wednesday that his oldest daughter Abby is getting married on June 25. “I will address 2018 after we get through this very important family event,” Delph advised.
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  • Sen. Young 'officially undecided' on GOP Senate health bill
    “I am officially undecided. I’m still reviewing the package. I’ve been in contact with the governor. We’re having conversations with with him and his folks. I’ve been in contact with our insurance commissioners, state actuaries. We’re trying to get a sense now that text is available. We’re in touch with health care providers, patient groups. I’m just trying to make the most informed decision I can. I know this: Doing nothing is not an option. We’ve got 70 million Americans who live in geography where there is no choice.” - U.S. Sen. Todd Young after Howey Politics Indiana asked if he was a certain yes vote on the Senate Republican health care bill. HPI asked, is there any scenario where you would vote against it? Young responded, “Yes. Absolutely. After studying it if I don’t think it’s right for Hoosiers, then yes, certainly. I’m very open minded." Read the entire HPI Interview with Sen. Young in the next weekly edition on Tuesday.
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  • President Trump and bovine scatalogy
    Here in Indiana, when someone talks big, says unreliable things they can’t back up, Hoosiers call that person, pardon our language, a “bullshitter.” Or as Sheriff Joe Squadrito might put it, a purveyor of “bovine scatalogy.” Well, with President Trump’s claim that he has no audio files of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey made via Twitter on Thursday, when last month he suggested he did, our assessment is that our president is a BSer. And because he has told hundreds of lies since taking the oath of office, do we believe him this time? This is a dangerous dynamic, because at some point in his presidency, Donald Trump is going to face a crisis where he is going to have to level with the American people and we are going to have to decide whether he is being truthful. What we have in President Trump is someone who is a serial liar and his chaotic administration runs on fantasy, half truths and alternative facts. We want to believe our presidents, but this one is in a realm all his own. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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