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Monday, November 20, 2017
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Outgoing House Minority Leader Scott Pelath talks at his decision at a Chamber luncheon Monday. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Outgoing House Minority Leader Scott Pelath talks at his decision at a Chamber luncheon Monday. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Monday, November 20, 2017 2:50 PM

INDIANAPOLIS - Out-going House Minority Leader Scott Pelath will not endorse a successor who will be chosen during Organization Day on Tuesday. But the Michigan City Democrat believes his timing to step down from leadership was right, the caucus has a deep bench, and his party can retake the majority if an anti-Trump wave develops and enough challengers wage credible campaigns leading into November 2018.

“You have to remember five years ago Glenda Ritz won 74 different House districts,” Pelath said of former the former superintendent who upset Republican incumbent Tony Bennett in 2012. “There’s a lot of places where people are willing to vote for the right kind of Democrat who matches the district. Sen. Donnelly won half of the Indiana legislative districts in the House when he ran the last time. So what’s key is you have to create a larger vision and a broader environment and sometimes that argues for a little less targeting, having a lot of good people running in a lot of areas. Given the frustrations with Washington, some of them are going to win if they just run a good race.”

Pelath shocked his party on Sunday when he announced he was stepping down from leadership and would not seek reelection in 2018. His decision set off a scramble with a number of Democratic sources telling HPI that State Reps. Cherish Pryor, Ed DeLaney and Dan Forestal of Indianapolis, Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne, Assistant Minority Leader Chuck Moseley of Portage and Terry Goodin of Crothersville are in the running. House Whip Terri Austin told the Anderson Herald-Bulletin she will not seek the post. 

As of Monday afternoon, no clear favorite had emerged. The Black Caucus is expected to back Pryor, sensing its first opportunity to hold one of the four caucus leadership positions in the state's 201 year history. Forestal is seen as an energetic rising star, Austin and Moseley are running as a continuum of current leadership and Goodin is one of the few Democrats representing a rural district. Legislative Democrats have been mostly relegated to Indianapolis, Lake and St. Joseph counties, and university cities.

Pelath defended his decision, saying, “I will not sell out my caucus with a lame duck leader. It’s an extraordinarily important election cycle and I knew unambiguously that  was the right thing to do. When everyone knows you’re not coming back, people stop listening to you as much, they’re not exactly who they’re supporting and that uncertainty is not good. Even for the caucus members sorry to see me go I made it very clear that was the right decision. They will pick a new and energetic leader and that will be good for the caucus.”

Asked by HPI if he would endorse a successor, Pelath said, “No, I’m not, for a very simple reason there are many people who I know very well who have all the right capabilities to do the job.  They all have different skill sets like all human beings have pluses and minuses and it’s up to the caucus to pick what pluses they want. And then it’s up to the other caucus members to help with the minuses.

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    MERRILLVILLE – Only in Indiana. Only in Indiana does the Legislature attempt to pull the state out of the Dark Ages but just gets half the job done. Indiana is the last state in the union to bar the sale of carry-out alcohol on Sunday. It isn’t a religious thing but shows the collective power of package liquor stores around the state. The package stores now have a monopoly on the sale of cold beer and they don’t want to be open on Sunday. But studies show Sunday is the second busiest shopping day of the year and grocery stores would like to be able to sell alcohol. The Sunday prohibition may be about to end, based on the recommendation of the Alcohol Code Revision Commission, which has been studying the state’s liquor laws for several months. Unfortunately the commission stopped a bit short when it made its recommendation to open things up for Sunday sales.You will be able to pick up beer at the grocery store on Sunday, but it won’t be cold. Nope, this is Indiana where change comes very slowly.
    INDIANAPOLIS – On Tuesday night, President Trump, after an 8½ hour flight from Hawaii which closed out 12 days of travel and work and many meetings in five different countries crossing 20,295 miles, concluded a highly successful Asian trip. He started by paying respect to American service members at Pearl Harbor and ended after strengthening military and trade alliances across the Indo-Pacific region.  The president met with leaders of several different nations, he attended three important trade summits, gave flawless speeches in each country and became the first foreign leader to be honored with an official dinner in the Forbidden City since the founding of modern China. Perhaps most importantly, he reinforced a brilliant strategy in dealing with the nuclear threat of North Korea. He pulled our partners further along with sanctions, showed the world our military might and encouraged diplomacy, as it was announced immediately after the trip that China was sending a high-level special envoy to North Korea.
    SOUTH BEND – Republican strategists plotting to defeat Sen. Joe Donnelly have attacked the incumbent Democrat as standing in the way of President Trump’s agenda. Q. Will that strategy change after the results of the election Tuesday, especially with the anti-Trump flavor of the big Democratic wins in Virginia? A. No. At least not yet. Q. But will the Republican nominee who runs against Donnelly really want to be viewed as foursquare for Trump’s agenda? A. Right now, the two Republican congressmen regarded as top contenders for the party’s nomination, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, battle for support of the Trump base, so sizeable in the presidential vote in Indiana, with both claiming to give that foursquare support. Each tries in an already nasty battle to find some inkling of disloyalty to Trump by the nomination opponent.
    INDIANAPOLIS – Once upon a time, if you asked the average Hoosier, s/he would have told you, farming was the backbone of Indiana’s economy. But eventually reality did make an impression. Today, it is common to acknowledge manufacturing as our dominant economic activity. Of course, that may be changing, but let’s not go there. Instead, let’s look more closely at manufacturing’s transformation from 2005 to 2015 (the most recent data available from the Annual Survey of Manufacturers). Nationally, during that turbulent decade, two million (15.2%) of manufacturing jobs disappeared. Indiana’s loss was over 61,000 (11.5%). Production workers in manufacturing accounted for 75% of those job losses in Indiana compared to 71% nationally. Those declines were proportionate to the 2005 levels of production jobs in manufacturing. Despite these job losses, total payrolls in manufacturing rose nationally by 9.8%; yet the total wages of production workers fell by 16.3%. In the Hoosier state, manufacturing payrolls advanced by 7.1% with a corresponding 11.6% decline in the wages of production workers.
    FORT WAYNE – In the late ’60s and early ‘70s, I was a counter-culture college student, battling the leftist lemmings who condemned America and trashed our flag. The Evil Empires were Red China and Bolshevik Russia. In 1970 the movie “Patton” was released, one of my favorite movies. My Young Americans for Freedom friends and I would stand up and cheer to the irritation of everyone else present when Gen. Patton delivered these memorable lines, “Well, the war shouldn’t be over. We should stop pussyfooting about the goddamn Russians! We’re gonna have to fight them sooner or later anyway. Why not do it now, when we got the army here to do it with?  Instead of disarming these German troops, we oughta get them to help us fight the damn Bolsheviks!” His military and political superiors were even less supportive than the irritated movie theater crowds were when we stood up and cheered. So, when I walked around Red Square in 1998, it was with severely mixed feelings. As a kid I had watched on our family’s black and white TV set as Soviet military forces paraded down Red Square, aware that in our basement we had an area with a survival kit to hopefully survive a nuclear hit from the Evil Empire. By the 1990s, major changes had begun occurring in Russia. 
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  • Atomic! Who follows Pelath? Pentagon jaw droppers
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Pelath’s bomshell: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Legislators are returning to the capital and all of a sudden a routine organization day takes on some drama with House Minority Leader Scott Pelath’s Sunday bombshell that he was stepping aside from the position and not seeking reelection in 2018. It comes at an absolutely critical time as Democrats are facing two “must-win” election cycles to claw out of their super minority status prior to the 2021 redistricting. If they can’t make significant inroads in a potential 2018 anti-Trump wave year, they may be a super minority party for the next decade. State Rep. Linda Lawson sounded the alarms, telling NWI Times’ reporter Dan Carden, "Scott has been our leader and he's got a good name with labor and other contributors, so it would be great if he stuck around until (next) November. I pleaded with him and it didn't do any good, so we have to move on from that. It's not just raising money, it's dealing with staff issues, it's dealing with the legislators themselves and their personal issues and their concerns, it's traveling all over the state and it's keeping your own life in order. It's multifaceted and it's huge."
  • HPI Analysis: Pelath exit comes at critical time for Democrats

    INDIANAPOLIS - Sunday’s bombshell that House Minority Leader Scott Pelath would step down from that post and not seek reelection next year comes at an absolutely critical time for General Assembly Democrats. They face two "must win" election cycles in an attempt to erase Republican super majorities in the House and Senate and then the redistricting process in 2021. With a potential anti-Trump wave poised for 2018, Pelath was seen as a critical player in this comeback. But this weekend, Pelath was consumed by family issues with a new baby son and his mother Becky in declining health after suffering a stroke. “He told me he was strongly considering it on Saturday,” said former LaPorte County Democratic chairman Shaw Friedman. “He confirmed it to me this morning. He has served with extraordinary dedication and commitment, but it is understandably difficult with a new young son and his mother’s declining health and that was becoming a real problem for him. The fatigue and travel for this job are extraordinary.”

  • HPI Analysis: Following our Hoosier mayors

    INDIANAPOLIS  – The contrast between the inertia in Washington and what’s being accomplished in cities across Indiana is striking.  Traveling throughout the state this past year, I found fascinating pockets of innovation and growth from the new parks and amphitheaters forged by Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., and Joe Stahura of Whiting, the creation of new city centers in Mayor Jim Brainard’s Carmel, Scott Fadness in Fishers and Andy Cook in Westfield. Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and Fort Wayne’s Tom Henry have evolved and renewed their downtowns with stadiums and the type of amenities that attract a younger workforce. Mayor Lloyd Winnecke is transforming downtown Evansville with a $380 million transfusion bringing a new convention hotel, one of the state’s first land-based casinos, several new businesses, and a medical education and research facility. These are Republican mayors leading Democratic majority cities, and vise versa.

  • Atomic! Pervnado! Messer calls for heads; tax reform & deficits

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Gnaw Bone, Ind.

    1. The ‘Pervnado’ keeps twisting: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: The “Pervnado” as the New York Post headline writers are calling it, is claiming more and more victims, from Harvey Weinstein, to Louis C.K., to Presidents Clinton and Bush41 and now U.S. Sen. Al Franken. It has men and women in the political realm going through their minds to review any potentially ribald past behavior. It prompted U.S. Rep. Luke Messer to tell Fox News, “I think both Roy Moore and Al Franken should both step down. The (Franken) photo was inappropriate. It should be investigated. Whatever his recollection, that picture is a picture.” Messer said that “Roy Moore should step aside. That would be the best thing for the state of Alabama and our country.” And, yes, the Franken picture is a doozy. As Stuart Smalley might say, “You’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough and, doggone it, senator, people really don’t like you.” 

  • Horse Race: The politics of cold beer

    INDIANAPOLIS –  Indiana legislative Democrats are wandering the desert, gripped in super minority status, and presumably thirsty. Could cold beer be part of their answer for electoral redemption? Late last week, the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and the Indiana Retail Council cut a deal in an attempt to ward off broader sale of cold beer in an issue almost certain to surface in the 2018 General Assembly. It’s one we’ve been predicting for a couple of months now. The trade-off is Sunday sales in exchange for cold beer to remain only in liquor stores and craft breweries.
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  • Speaker Bosma backs Sunday alcohol sales
    “I’m anxiously awaiting the commission’s findings on all of those issues. Last year we enacted that legislation and I don’t want to make pronouncements to try and set the agenda. I have long been a proponent of Sunday sales. There is no good reason for us to not allow that in some fashion. Actually I enjoy a cold beer every once in awhile and did so yesterday when I was cleaning out my garage.” - House Speaker Brian Bosma, asked about Sunday alcohol sales and wider distribution of cold beer at Monday’s Indiana Chamber Legislative Preview luncheon. As for cold beer, Bosma said, “I’m smart enough to buy it at a package store Monday through Saturday.” 
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  • The slitherly slope and redemption
    Here are some thoughts on the “Pervnado” that is sweeping Hollywood, Capitol Hill, newsrooms and statehouses, though things at the Indiana Statehouse have been quiet.

    Does it make a difference when a decades-old allegation comes up that the perpetrator apologizes? Particularly if there’s no specific evidence? We’ve watched Kevin Spacey, Sen. Al Franken and comedian Louis C.K. seek some measure of atonement for their inappropriate behavior, while Republican Alabama U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore, who has been accused of pedophilia, has not and remains defiant? Ditto for comedian Bill Cosby.

    As any crisis communicator will tell you, coming clean and being contrite is the better long term strategy even if one takes big losses in the short-term. And Americans have a penchant for redemption, as past controversial figures ranging from Muhammad Ali, Jane Fonda, Kobe Bryant to Barney Frank and even Presidents Clinton and Nixon eventually were restored some degree of trust and popularity.

    Is it inconsistent for U.S. Rep. Luke Messer to call for the resignation of Sen. Franken for one ribald photo and an inappropriate and slithery pass a radio personality Leanne Tweeden, while President Trump escapes a similar assessment despite a dozen or so similar complaints and the Billy Bush “Access Hollywood” tape?

    Just asking, as we watch many powerful figures tumble down the slithery slope.  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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