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Monday, September 20, 2021
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Sunday, September 19, 2021 1:09 PM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - I called it “Frankendistrict,” the old 4th Congressional District that existed between 2001 and 2011.

“Frankendistrict” was drawn by Indiana House Democrats, the scraps from the other eight districts stitched to make an ugly ninth that gave the concept of “Gerrymandering” a bad, baaaad name. It straddled western Indiana, stretching from three counties south of Lake Michigan to three counties north of the Ohio River.

It was so demonized that it prompted then Secretary of State Todd Rokita to propose the map drawing concepts into the 2011 process, which were to create districts that were “compact” in size, nestled within county lines, while maintaining “communities of interest.”

The 2011 maps drawn by majority General Assembly Republicans were guided by these principles, creating some of the most uncompetitive congressional and legislative districts in modern times. For the first time in Hoosier history, not a single congressional incumbent was defeated for reelection over the past decade. Republicans have created an unprecedented era of super majorities in the General Assembly, beginning in 2012.

A study by Dr. Christopher Warshaw, associate professor of political science at George Washington Universit and released by Women4Change, observed that Republican candidates received 53% of the vote in statewide elections since 2012, but  Republicans have won 78% of congressional seats and 80% of state Senate seats due to Democratic voters being “packed” into fewer districts. “Indiana is one of the most extreme examples of gerrymandering in the country,” said Rima Shadid, executive director of Women4Change. “Gerrymandering hurts Indiana. It makes people not believe in our government.”

 In 2014, there were 54 of the 125 candidates for the Indiana House and Senate who had no opponents and voter turnout that year was 28%. In 2016, some 35 of 125 legislative races were unopposed and in 2018, it was 37.

Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer and State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (the House sponsor of the redistricting bill) point out that Indiana is a Republican state and that the party has been dominating at all levels. “When I first came here, there was barely a Republican south of Highway 40," Steuerwald said at a House hearing on Wednesday. "One of the statistics I found most compelling, there are 273 county commissioners and 255 of them are Republican. That’s telling. All politics is local and that says a lot.”

But over the past decade, the three U.S. Senate races (which are run statewide) were all within a 10% plurality and seats changed parties twice.

Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl was not impressed with the redistricting process thus far. “Indiana Republicans have once again manipulated our Hoosier democracy in this year’s redistricting period,” Schmuhl said. “Over the summer, they held shadow hearings that felt more like a comment box, promised a process that would be ‘fair’ and transparent’, and when it mattered most, manipulated the system once again to favor themselves over Hoosier voters. The Republicans’ new Indiana House and congressional maps keep in place a broken system where self-serving politicians benefit at the expense of Indiana families."

So the 39 Senate and 71 House super majority Republicans are now poised to pass the maps for the next decade within the next two weeks.

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  • By CRAIG DUNN
    KOKOMO – Every day for the past two weeks I have had to stare two ironies in the face every day. As I drive to work in the morning, I pass the local Chevrolet dealership in Kokomo and marvel at how few new cars are available for sale on the lot. In fact, most days there are five or fewer cars for sale and no pickup trucks.  In the evening my route home takes me 400 yards south of the Chevrolet dealership. There, on the very corner where inventor Elwood Haynes drove the first American-made internal combustion engine automobile on Pumpkinvine Pike, I see over 1,000 brand spanking new pickup trucks fenced in on the former Delphi Automotive plant parking lot. One might expect the local Chevy dealer to sneak down the road in the middle of the night, cut a hole in the fence and acquire some inventory, but alas, that strategy is foiled by the fact that the vehicles don’t work.  They lack critical microprocessors that make up one or more of the 1,000 microchips used in a modern vehicle to control brakes, fuel injection, air conditioning, warning lights and, well, you name it.
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – With the arrival of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the 9/11 Commission, which I co-chaired with former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean. Not just the work the commission did, but the work it didn’t do – and the work that remains to be done. The commission was formally established in November of 2002, though it didn’t start in earnest until the following spring. It consisted of five Republicans and five Democrats, all of whom had held high federal or state office, or had served the country in other fashion. We were helped by an extraordinary staff whose members had been selected on merit, not political affiliation. Over the course of 18 months, we reviewed more than 2.5 million pages of documents and conducted 1200 interviews, issuing a final report in July of 2004. There is plenty of reason to be satisfied with the commission’s work. In the midst of a hyper-charged political atmosphere, we conducted our inquiry in an open manner, pursued consensus, strove to take a cooperative, rather than confrontational, approach, and above all managed to rise above partisan differences to work together as a team.
  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – On this anniversary of 9/11, many Americans will naturally feel conflicted about our role in Afghanistan. Whatever we each feel should be tempered by the realization that our fight against the extremists who attacked us 20 years ago is ongoing. We have forces deployed to dozens of nations in a conflict that will extend through the remainder of this century. The choices we now face are how, when, and, at times, where to fight. Having spent almost a third of my adult life training, fighting and planning for war, I can assure you there are no easy choices. There are none without risk; none possessed of certainty; none that do not cost us treasure and youth. It is easy to cast blame for the collapse of Afghanistan’s government because there’s plenty to go around. I suggest we instead be concerned with drawing lessons from this experience. We must do better in this fight. We must also find ways to honor the unfinished work of those men and women, living and dead, who sacrificed in Afghanistan.
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – Ready or not, it’s time for the first quiz of the new school year.

    1. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski called for President Biden to resign because he:
          a. Went along with President Trump’s deal with the Taliban to pull out of Afghanistan.
          b. Pulled out of Afghanistan amid chaos.
          c. Tried to bribe Ukraine officials to provide dirt on President Trump.

    2. After the Florida State game, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly:
          a. Called for expanded capital punishment.
          b. Praised sportswriters for their sense of humor.
          c. Referred to an old joke about a team’s poor execution.
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – Where are all these new people coming from? Throughout Indiana, folks are asking this question. Now we have answers covering the last half-decade (2015-19) from the American Community Survey. After gathering data from 17.7 million (15%) of 120.7 million households nationwide, the Census Bureau offers the following information: 1. Of the 6.6 million Hoosiers one year and older, during the years 2015 to 2019, 85% (5.6 million) were living in the same house as a year earlier. Of those who did move to a different house, one-third stayed in the same county. That means 91% of the people living in Indiana did not change counties in that five-year period. 2. With only 9% of resident Hoosiers (416,300) moving across county lines, where did they come from? Turns out 59% of them (244,400) were intrastate movers, already Hoosiers from other counties. Thus, only 171,900 new people were crossing our state borders. Of these,145,500 were from the remaining 49 states, the District of Columbia (DC) and Puerto Rico (PR). The final 26,400 were from abroad. 3. Alert, foreigners! What kind of foreigners are we talking about? These were people who lived the year before in a foreign county, with half of them in Asia. Nearly 4,000 lived in Europe, and 3,000 each in Africa or Central America. Some may have been Americans return home after a stint abroad.
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  • HPI Analysis: Indiana's anti-vaxx movement

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Four years after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a meningitis vaccine mandate into law, he is criticizing President Biden for essentially doing the same thing, calling his COVID vaccine or testing requirement “a bridge too far. Not only is Holcomb playing politics on a pandemic that has filled up 83% of the state’s ICU beds, he’s using it as a fundraising ploy for an apparent U.S. Senate campaign three years hence. It comes in a state that not only lags in the COVID-19 vaccine sequence, but is in the bottom 10 states nationally of total vaccine rates, particularly among young school children. And it comes as national Republicans appear to be accepting a broader anti-vaxx messaging.

  • Atomic: Primaries for Crazy Caucus? Pence's hero luster; Holcomb & Braun explain vax mandates; Sanchez family aiding refugees
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Bloomington

    1. Primaries for GOP 'Crazy Caucus'

    Over the summer we had heard speculation that the House GOP's Crazy Caucus - State Reps. Jim Lucas, John Jacob and Curt Nisly - were going to be primaried in a concerted effort by more mainstream Republicans, including Gov. Eric Holcomb's political wing. So when we began sorting out the proposed House Republican maps, that effort came into focus. Lucas has been drawn into a proposed HD73 occupied by State Rep. Steven Davisson of Salem. Davisson died over the weekend of cancer. Nisly is now lumped into HD18 with freshman Rep. Craig Snow of Warsaw. Jacob's proposed HD93 is home to Democrat State Rep. Justin Moed of Indianapolis, with Jacob losing Republican-rich Johnson County. 

  • HPI Analysis: Population change produced maps
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Proposed reapportioned congressional and Indiana House maps were released on Tuesday, revealing more of a status quo than any foundational shifts. The state’s 2020 population of 6,785,528 means each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts must have 753,948 people. The biggest shifts came in the 5th CD, which would lose Democratic Indianapolis but gain more traditional rust belt manufacturing cities of Kokomo, Muncie and Anderson. Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer told HPI Wednesday morning, “By appearances, it looks to be slightly more Republican.” Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl told HPI that the 5th CD will “remain in the conversation” in the 2022 and 2024 cycles. U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz defeated Democrat Christina Hale by 4% in 2020. Hale has been drawn out of the district. “It’s very interesting,” Schmuhl said of the addition of Kokomo, Muncie and Anderson as well as Hamilton County. “Those are more traditional Democratic areas. President Biden carried Carmel and Fishers. It’s the fastest growing county and it’s changing.”

  • Horse Race: Peters forms Fort Wayne mayoral exploration
    Howey Politics Indiana

    FORT WAYNE - Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters filed exploratory paperwork with the Election Board as a first step toward examining a run for Fort Wayne mayor in 2023.  Peters stated, “Filing this exploratory committee will provide me with the opportunity to look at a mayoral run through a finer lens.  This will give me the chance to better understand the work that will be necessary to be successful in this venture and the issues that matter the most to the citizens of Fort Wayne.” “Now is not the time to take our foot off of the gas pedal.  We have made great strides on so many fronts and I have helped to develop a landscape providing great business opportunities.  We must maintain that momentum to ensure that companies will want to continue to expand and locate here.”
  • Atomic! Biden goes the mandate route; Blistering GOP response; Map Tuesday; Rep. Clere primaried

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Biden goes the mandate route: On Thursday, a peeved President Biden announced a 6-pronged approach that includes mandates to a nation that is 64.5% fully vaccinated on a day where 3,242 Americans and 50 Hoosiers died of COVID-19 and 152,212 new infections reported. “My message to unvaccinated Americans is this, what more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?” Mr. Biden said. “We’ve made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine is FDA-approved. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. We need to do more. This is not about freedom, or personal choice. It's about protecting yourself and those around you. Executive Director Christine Stinson of the Wayne County Health Department told the Richmond Palladium-Item of her county with 41% fully vaccinated, "This is so preventable. Our community needs more people vaccinated, or we will have more people die. We all have to come together and help get through this crisis, and this is a crisis."  How will Biden's new vaccine mandates go over? The July Kaiser Family Foundation Poll found 67% say they will vaccinate. But a Washington Post-ABC poll conducted last week found that many unvaccinated Americans say they’ll try to get exemption (35%) or quit their jobs (72%) if their employer imposes a vaccination mandate. Morning Consult reports that in August while vaccine hesitancy ticked down to 28%, the COVID surge had changed very few minds: "Across the Southeast and Midwest, cases have surged dramatically over the last month and a half. While that has led to a decline in vaccine skepticism in certain hard-hit states, in others – like Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee – levels of skepticism remain virtually unchanged." Among the vaccinated, there is palpable growing frustration and anger that the recalcitrant are stalling out the recovery, swamping ERs while 15,000 Hoosier school kids are infected or quarantined. 

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  • Rep. Davisson dies of cancer at age 63
    "Steve Davisson lived an extraordinary life of love, courage and service. While short in stature, Steve was a giant of a man in service to his family, community and state. He lived his life full of love and optimism, which made him such a blessing to know. Steve will be greatly missed by me and everyone who had the privilege to know him." - House Speaker Todd Huston, on the death of State Rep. Steven Davisson of Salem at age 63 after a battle with cancer. Davisson (R-Salem) was first elected to serve the constituents of House District 73 in 2010. He served as the vice chair of the House Committee on Public Health, and as a member of both the House Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee, and the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. In August, Gov. Eric Holcomb awarded Davisson the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, one of the state's highest honors, for his outstanding service to the state of Indiana. Before starting his career as a pharmacist in Salem, Davisson earned two degrees from Purdue University. He held an Indiana Board of Pharmacy license since 1981. Davisson grew up in Scott County and graduated from Scottsburg Senior High School in 1976.
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