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Monday, May 17, 2021
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Friday, May 14, 2021 11:42 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Mask liberation day

It was on April 17, 2020 that President Trump issued his controversial "liberate Michigan!" tweets when U.S. pandemic deaths had yet to hit 100,000, which didn't happen until late May. It was his way of trying to force Democratic governors to reopen their states from COVID restrictions. The real "liberation" date may be seen as Thursday, May 13, 2021, when the CDC advised that those who have been vaccinated don't have to wear facemasks as the documented death tolled reached 584,000. "I think it’s a great milestone, a great day," President Biden said. "It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly."

Trump issued a statement this morning: "Without the vaccines, this world would have been in for another 1917 (sic) Spanish Flu, where up to 100 million people died. Because of the vaccines we pushed and developed in record time, nothing like that will be even close to happening. Just a mention please! The Biden Administration had zero to do with it. All they did was continue our plan of distribution, which was working well right from the beginning!"

In Indiana, St. Joseph County health officials rescinded its mask order. In Indianapolis, health officer Dr. Virginia Caine said that mask order will continue. Republican Council Minority Leader Brian Mowery called on Mayor Hogsett to end the restrictions. “The science is clear and irrefutable. Vaccines work," Mowery said. "Vaccinated Hoosiers are safe from COVID-19. Mayor Hogsett and the Democrat controlled council's decision to allow the Marion County Department of Health to ignore the CDC and continue outdated COVID restrictions is a baffling, anti-science decision that, at best, causes confusion and, at worst, creates doubt about the efficacy of the vaccines. I am calling on the mayor and Council President Osili to respect the science, follow the CDC, and remove any remaining pandemic restrictions, including the mask mandate.”

2. Hupfer on redistricting time line

Howey Politics Indiana sat down with Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer on Thursday and I asked him when to expect new legislative and congressional maps. "I'm hopeful it's in the Thanksgiving time frame or earlier," Hupfer said. "Some of these dates are still moving targets. As soon as we have the data available, the legislature will take it up and start working on the maps. I'm hopeful Thanksgiving is the timeframe." This means that prospective candidates will have a compacted window to make a decision on whether to run. "Folks will still have time to make a decision on whether to run," Hupfer said. "You could have less than 30 to 60 days to make that decision on whether to run."

3. Stefanik replaces Cheney

Two days after No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney was dumped via a voice vote, New York U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik was elected over Texas Republican Chip Roy to take her place in a 134-46 secret ballot. “I’m proud of President Trump’s support,” Stefanik said Thursday evening ahead of the vote. “He is the most important leader in our party for voters, and it’s going to be important that we work as a team to win the majority in 2022.” After the vote, she said, "House Republicans are united in our focus to fight on behalf of the American people to save our country from the radical Socialist Democrat agenda of President Biden and Nancy Pelosi."

4. Buttigieg on cyber 'wake-up call'

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that resulted in southeastern U.S. gas shortages a "wake-up call" that raises questions about whether the nation’s laws and political system are prepared for what he called "the cyber era." Bloomberg reported that Colonial paid a $5 million ransom to get encrypted software to end the attack from the Russian crime group Darkside, which apparently operates with the blessing of the Kremlin. “This has been a wakeup call on how actors anywhere in the world can impact us right here at home,” Buttigieg said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “And when you look at our political framework, our laws, a lot of them were not written for the cyber era.”

5. Sam Nunn seminar Monday

For almost five decades, former senator Sam Nunn, working in tandem with the late U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, strengthened U.S. national and global security, reduced nuclear risks, and advanced bipartisan solutions to our world's greatest challenges. At 11 a.m. (ET) Monday, the Center for Strategic International Studies will host a seminar on the new book, "Sam Nunn: Statesman of the Nuclear Age." Dr. Frank Jones reveals how, as a congressional leader and “shadow secretary of defense,” Nunn helped win the Cold War. To register for this free web event, click here

Have a great weekend, folks. It's The Atomic!

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    INDIANAPOLIS – What we’re watching these peculiar days on the Washington to Mar-a-Lago axis isn’t so much Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” but more of a Hoovering out of the Grand Old Party. But first, a bit of family history. My Grandma Cunningham used to delight the family by saying she only voted in one election in her life: 1928. She voted for Herbert Hoover. “And then look what happened,” she would say. President Trump continues to have a D.C. Stephenson-like hold on the GOP, despite becoming the first president ever to lose the House and Senate majorities (the latter coming on Jan. 5 with the spectacular loss of two Georgia seats), going 1-for-2 in presidential races while never carrying the popular vote. You would think that trifecta would have prompted Jim Banks, Jackie Walorski and Todd Young to reproduce their 10-foot poles when it comes to enlisting the future of the GOP with Trump, particularly after the Trump-inspired Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that killed five people and injured 130 cops that won’t play well in suburbia. Banks, Walorski and their Hoosier delegation colleagues are about to dispatch U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney from her party post because she keeps conjuring the bad B-roll from the Jan. 6 insurrection.
    CARMEL – There’s a storm cloud rising in Indiana Republican politics and we may get an ugly glimpse of it in the coming year leading up to the 2022 and 2024 elections. Perhaps it is because of an embarrassment of wealth and the inevitable expansion of the Republican base, but overwhelming success many times breeds discontent when the party’s leadership does not move party and public policy at the same speed and direction demanded by its new activists. In my mind there are four types of Republicans: Fully committed Republicans who do the hard work of the party and who support our candidates whether we agree with them 100% or not; casual Republicans who lean in the direction of the party but need to be courted and cajoled into contributing time, money or even turning out to vote; opportunistic Republicans, who for personal benefit seek office or party leadership because it’s just darn difficult to be a Democrat in Indiana; finally, those true believers who have a political philosophy that they attempt to use the Republican Party for purposes of spreading it to the masses. On Election Day or during the election marathon that politics has now become, each of these groups adds votes to the bottom line, so all are critical to the Republican political dominance in Indiana.
    SOUTH BEND –  Mark Torma, who directs a six-county program providing legal services for the needy, could soon perhaps provide political direction for a needy St. Joseph County Democratic Party. The need is clear for a party in a “Democratic” county in which all three elected county commissioners are Republicans. Torma is likely – though not certain – to be selected county Democratic chair on May 2. If he is, it will be an indication that the tone of a meeting at Mishawaka’s DiLoreto Club prevailed over the angry tone of battling factions in a divisive contest for chair in March. The private, informal DiLoreto meeting of party leaders on April 27 was just a little over two months after Democratic precinct committee members reelected Stan Wruble as chair after a contest featuring personal attacks, allegations of wrongdoing in the party and a nasty split between Wruble and South Bend Mayor James Mueller. With Wruble’s sudden announcement that he was resigning, moving to accept a position with an Arizona law firm, there loomed possibility of another contentious battle for chair.
    BLOOMINGTON –  I’ve always been impressed that the Preamble to the Constitution begins, “We the People of the United States.” We’ve heard the phrase so often that we don’t even stop to think about it. But as the proposed constitution was being debated in 1787, there were people who did – notably, Patrick Henry, who in a famous speech to the Virginia ratifying convention asked why the drafters hadn’t said, “We, the states.” By their phrasing, the founders made clear that they were creating a government, as Lincoln later put it, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” They were making a case that government should strive for the common good, which they went on to lay out: “Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.” Though they also laid out the rights of individuals that government couldn’t touch – speech, religion, the ability to read a free press, and so on – they made clear that there needed to be a balance. “Government is instituted for the common good…and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men,” John Adams wrote.

    MUNCIE – With Mother’s Day upon us, it is time to do what any loving son and husband must, and write about that sentimental topic of labor force outcomes for women. Of course, this year we have to dwell heavily on COVID and what it means to American women. The experience of women has differed from that of men in some key respects, some better and some worse. To begin, it is useful also to set down some pretty straightforward facts. First, women engage in formal work at a lower rate than men, but it is not a spectacular difference. Men work at about a 10% higher rate than do women. Most of this is attributable to at-home childcare, which women do at higher rates than men. Second, women on average earn less than men, but nearly all of that difference is due to the choice of occupation, educational attainment and tenure on the job. None of these facts suggests there is not job discrimination; there surely is.

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  • HPI Analysis: How police reforms passed in the George Floyd era without dissent

    DANVILLE, Ind. – “Unbelievable.” State Rep. Greg Steuerwald had to search for his words in describing House and Senate final floor votes on HEA1006, poised to be the most impactful law enforcement law since a Minneapolis cop spent nine minutes kneeing the life out of George Floyd. “I’m not sure what word to use,” Steuerwald said in his law office last week to describe HEA1006’s 96-0 passage in the House and 49-0 in the Senate on its way to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signature. “I think it went through every committee, Senate Appropriations, on the floor in the Senate, House Criminal Code, Ways & Means and the floor without a single negative vote. “That’s unbelievable,” the Avon Republican repeated. “I also think it’s a testament to Indiana, to members of the General Assembly, to (State Rep.) Robin Shackleford and the Black Legislative Caucus. While Steuerwald hadn’t watched the entire nine-minute video of the George Floyd murder on Memorial Day 2020, he was well aware of the social impacts, which included civil disturbances in downtown Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. He began reaching out to law enforcement groups and Rep. Shackleford and State Sen. Eddie Melton last summer.
  • HPI Interview: Rep. Spartz won't say how she'll vote on Cheney; opaque on 2020 election legitimacy

    CARMEL – U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz’s first week in Congress was unlike any other in American history. A few days after taking the oath of office, the Jan. 6 insurrection changed many things we had taken for granted, like the peaceful transfer of power and the sanctity of this citadel for democracy. Spartz found what she describes as a highly “dysfunctional” system in the House that she originally likened to “high school” before steadily downgrading it past “middle school” and, finally, pre-K. HPI conducted this interview with Rep. Spartz a day after meeting with State Rep. Greg Steuerwald to discuss how HEA1006, a sprawling police reform bill, passed the General Assembly without a dissenting vote. After hearing Spartz tell her initial thoughts about Congress, it is hard to fathom how anything as complicated as immigration reform or President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill will ever get done.
  • Legislature overrides another Holcomb veto as Democrats defend governor

    INDIANAPOLIS  – To the surprise of no one, the Indiana General Assembly Republican super majorities overrode Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of SEA5. The House voted 59-30 Monday afternoon while the Senate voted 36-10. State Sen. Chris Garten, the bill’s author said, “It is the local elected officials, who have been chosen by the people, from a particular community, who understand that community, have a seat at the table to determine policies that are so far reaching that they can have unforeseen consequences. Some of these include bankruptcies, which we have seen, and business closures ... and even suicides. “This bill is a check and balance,” Garten (pictured) concluded. “There must be a check and balance in place. There have been weaknesses revealed by this pandemic. SEA5 addresses those head-on.”
  • Atomic: Campaign sprouts; Pence's Trump dilemma; Vax proponents include Indycar drivers, mayors; Needles & water
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Carmel

    1. Campaign sprouts

    This is the quadrennial non-election year in Indiana, but this past week has been full of campaign futures. Freshman U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz kicked off this week by announcing she would be seeking a second term in the still undrawn new 5th CD. Then came the first gubernatorial explorer from former Greater Fort Wayne CEO Eric Doden, who also served on Gov. Mike Pence’s IEDC. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry says he is considering running for a record fifth term. Fort Wayne Councilman Tom Didier is expected to launch his Republican mayoral bid today. And Sen. Todd Young, who will be seeking a second term in 2022, has been making the rounds of Hoosier police and sheriff departments, perhaps an attempt to inoculate himself from the U.S. Capitol insurrection that left 130 cops injured while resulting in three deaths (Officer Brian Sicknick due to a stroke, two others to suicide). Doden may be the first in a crowded 2024 GOP gubernatorial field that will almost certainly include Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (who was in Kokomo lauded the state’s new official snack, popcorn), Attorney General Todd Rokita, GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer, and former state senator Jim Merritt. Others who may enter the race are “self funders” that include U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, and U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth who has self-term limited himself.  As for Mayor Henry, he appeared to have ruled out a fifth term, but told WPTA-TV, "The City of Fort Wayne has achieved several major successes in recent months. As your Mayor, and with the bipartisan support of many, we are poised to continue that unprecedented momentum. I am well aware that no person has served five terms as Mayor of the City of Fort Wayne. While it would be an honor to serve a fifth term as Mayor, no decisions have been made and all options remain open as to my political future." 
  • Atomic! Cheney, Trump on 'Big Lie'; Banks, Walorski speculation; Facebook ban decision; Spartz announces reelect
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Parsing the 'big lie': Let’s talk about the “big lie.” U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted on Monday, “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” Such candor has brought Cheney to the brink of losing her No. 3 job in the GOP House conference, with Politico  and Axios  speculating that U.S. Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski are possible replacements. Former president Donald Trump said in a statement, "The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!" Trump had been warning his supporters throughout 2020 that the election was going to be "rigged" and riddled with fraud. In the Sept. 20, 2020 edition of Howey Politics Indiana, we asked Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson if she had confidence in the state and national election process. Lawson said there was "no evidence" of any widespread voting fraud, here or anywhere. She added, “My colleagues and I across the nation know just how important it is for Americans to have faith in the electoral process. We know there may be some uncertainty on Election Night as we wait for results. We will work together to reassure America that the delay is the result of a change in process and the outcome will reflect the will of American voters.” And former Indiana senator and director of national intelligence Dan Coats wrote in a New York Times  op-ed, “The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture.” Just after Trump's impeachment acquittal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day" ... Jan. 6. Since the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, neither Lawson or Coats have uttered a word that suggests the results were tainted. Much of the Republican Party (beyond Liz Cheney) is now doing just the opposite, fanning the flames that President Biden's election was illegitimate, and endangering the cornerstone of the American experiment, which is the peaceful and orderly transfer of power. On Friday, Banks told Axios of Cheney, "This idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are, and, frankly, he has a lot to offer still.”
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  • INDems have Red State fundraising agreement with DNC
    “Since the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, Indiana Democrats have been energized to get to work to build a better future for Indiana and its families. We’ve started to do this by celebrating accomplishments like the American Rescue Plan and holding the Indiana Republican Party accountable for subscribing to an extreme agenda that’s only held our state back. The DNC’s investment will help Hoosier Democrats reach the next level, and we are thrilled Chairman Jaime Harrison has put faith in states like Indiana to do the work and elect hard-working Democrats up-and-down the ballot in future elections.” - Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl, announcing a four-year fundraising agreement with the DNC. The agreement will establish a seven-figure “Red State Fund” to put Republicans on defense and build tailored programs for traditionally Republican states. The Red State Fund includes $2 million in direct investments and grants for states that meet two of the following criteria: no Democratic senator or governor, less than 25% of the Congressional delegation are Democrats, and a supermajority of Republicans in their state legislature.
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list


    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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