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Wednesday, November 27, 2019 9:43 AM

INDIANAPOLIS – The spook’s eyes at the Londonskaya Hotel bar burned holes in me. Every time I glanced in his direction, they were trained on me. I had entered Odessa, Ukraine as part of the last hurrah of Sen. Richard Lugar’s old Republican internationalist order in this pre-partitioned nation. 

It was 2007. Vladimir Putin held only shadow power in the old Soviet remnants. His fractured standing belied a reeling nation, the former Soviet Union, in steep demographic decline. High rates of alcoholism, suicide and plunging birth rates defined this former empire. Donald Trump was a gadfly, wannabe presidential aspirant who owned a couple of Gary riverboat casinos and a New York real estate empire.

It would have been impossible to foresee how this churn of events would play out a dozen years later in Moscow, Kiev, Washington and even Indianapolis. The old Republican internationalist order that once thrived in Indiana has ended, begging the question in the emergent era of the Trump cult of personality, so what if it has?

The Indiana aspect of this story can be told through the hyper-supplicant Pences, with the vice president accepting full ownership of that cult; and Indiana’s two Republican senators, Mike Braun, who owes his station to Trump, and Todd Young, a former Lugar staffer who, had he taken a different career path, might have found himself briefing the Senate in a manner similar to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Last week Vindman, former Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and State Department Ukrainian expert Dr. Fiona Hill testified before Congress of a disinformation campaign echoing Putin’s Kremlin that it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who meddled in the 2016 US elections. The Republican senators received a briefing on the Ukrainian fiction as multiple sources discredited the story. In the wake of the sensational impeachment testimony which appears not to have swayed public opinion, the question for Hoosier voters remains, does it matter? Do people care? I don’t think they do. Hoosier voters appear to be giving President Trump the benefit of the doubt, preferring to decide his future at the ballot box next year. Two recent polls in Indiana, the Old National/Ball State and Bowen Center poll, put Trump’s approval at 52%, while a Morning Consult poll had Trump’s Indiana approval at 50%.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — For the past four decades, I've covered the Indiana General Assembly as a reporter and monitored it as a columnist and publisher. What occurred on the House floor and out in the Statehouse hallways last week has been described as a "racial" clash. And I will tell you upfront that while there has been racial tension throughout Indiana's two centuries of statehood, this is the first time in my memory that it bubbled up so publicly at the Statehouse. It appears to have begun during a debate about a St. Joseph County school transportation bill with State Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, objecting and then walking off the House floor. State Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary had declared the United States to be a "racist nation." That was met with booing and catcalls, with Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas stalking off the House floor. Multiple reports described a hallway shouting match between State Reps. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, and Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis. "Everybody over there is racist and discriminatory," Summers told the IndyStar of House Republicans. "Those that aren't and are not standing up for what's right, they’ve got white privilege and they’re racist too." Rep. Lucas's involvement came after he had posted several racially-motivated memes on his Facebook page as recently as last summer. This came under the first-year leadership of House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, who quickly described himself as "embarrassed" by the incident, adding, "I’m committed today to increase focus on maintaining decorum, civility and professionalism in this institution.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS – There’s a reason that President Truman had a sign on his desk reading “The Buck Stops Here” that became ingrained in American culture. There’s a reason that a statue of Gov. Oliver P. Morton along with two Union soldiers guards the east entrance to the Indiana Statehouse. These reasons all point to one critical thing: Leadership. In the case of Morton and Truman, they rose to power and made crucial and astute decisions during the Civil War and World War II with no playbook. Just like Gov. Eric Holcomb and 49 of his American counterparts did beginning about a year ago with the COVID-19 pandemic. Holcomb is now faced with an Indiana General Assembly trying to whittle away what little power an Indiana governor has. There are efforts to crimp the governor’s power that he exercised 55 times via executive orders since the pandemic began in March 2020.  Included in this legislation would be exemptions for churches during pandemic shutdown orders.  “It’s just at any time during those extensions, the legislative body may say, ‘OK, the third extension we need to come back and at least have a discussion,’” said House Majority Leader Matt Lehman. Other legislation by State Rep. Bob Morris would prohibit the governor from placing restrictions on any business’s capacity or operating hours. It would block the governor from suspending elective surgeries at hospitals. A Senate committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 407, which would give a governor a 30-day executive order which he could then extend another 15 days, unless the General Assembly has convened or he calls a special session.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – When Donald Trump sent out a tweet in July 2016 saying that Mike Pence would join him on the Republican ticket, it commenced one of the most extraordinary political odd couples in history. Here was the evangelistic, conservative Midwestern governor linking up with the profane, Manhattan billionaire. Friends of Mike and Karen Pence warned them of the risks in joining the volatile Trump, whose personal history is littered with spoiled professional and personal relationships, with many ending with either “You’re fired” or in a legal suit. No one could have predicted that the eventual rupture between President Trump and Vice President Pence would end in a literal life or death scenario. But when Trump unleashed his mob of insurrectionist supporters on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, that’s what occurred. On Saturday, the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump 57-43 (67 votes were needed to convict) with U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun voting not guilty. Seven Republicans - Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, Pat Toomey, Ben Sasse and Richard Burr - voted to convict. According to video and testimony heard during Trump’s unprecedented second impeachment trial this week, the president’s mob was just seconds and steps away from the vice president, wife Karen and daughter, security video revealed. A bloodthirsty crowd was seeking revenge after being goaded by President Trump into attempting to subvert the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – For those of us in Indiana who know Mike Pence, Wednesday’s video timeline was absolutely chilling. It is by chance that he survived the Jan. 6 insurrection, that this didn’t become a mass casualty event. The mob was just seconds and steps away from the vice president, wife Karen and daughter, security video released during Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial revealed. A bloodthirsty crowd was seeking revenge after being goaded by President Trump into attempting to subvert the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote. U.S. Rep. Stacey Plaskett, one of the House impeachment managers, stated, “According to an FBI affidavit submitted to the court, the group that was with him at the sack of the Capitol confirmed  they were out to murder anyone they got their hands on,” Plaskett said. “Here’s what the FBI said: ‘Other members of the group had talked about what they had done that day. Anyone they got their hands on, they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi, and they would have killed Mike Pence if they had gotten the chance.’ They were talking about assassinating the vice president of the United States. During the course of the attack, the vice president never left the Capitol. He never left the side of his family.” “They were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family, and they were just feet away from the doors of this chamber where many of you remained at that time,” Plaskett said.

    INDIANAPOLIS – The fissure snaking through the Republican Party comes down to what appears to be Donald Trump’s chaos wing, and Mike Pence’s constitutional GOP. And in Pence’s hometown of Columbus, Ind., the party loyalty appears to be divided. As former president Trump faces his second impeachment trial beginning Feb. 8, this much has come to light: Beginning in early October through the Nov. 3 election, Trump plotted with key aides. Once the “red mirage” of an early Trump lead had been forecast before much of the mail-in vote was counted, Trump planned to declare victory Election Night until Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden that gave him the Electoral College victory, according to “fly-on-the-wall” reporting from Axios’s Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu. This would become known as “the big lie.” In late December, a TV ad by the Lincoln Project aimed at an audience of one –Trump - suggested that Pence would essentially be the one who would terminate his presidency. “The end is coming, Donald. On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin,” the ad’s voiceover said. Trump’s efforts to, as he put it, “overturn” the election reached a crescendo on Jan. 6. According to Axios, Trump called Pence late that morning to take one last shot at bullying the vice president into objecting to the certification of Biden’s victory. Unsuccessful in convincing Pence to join this conspiracy, President Trump goaded his supporters at a “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse that he had promised would be “wild” into a march on the U.S. Capitol. Pence was presiding in the Senate over what had been a perfunctory congressional counting of Electoral College ballots certified by the 50 states.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – The day President Biden was inaugurated, a record 4,131 Americans died of COVID-19. That was 4,130 more than Jan. 20, 2020, the day of the first U.S. death. Here is the most critical challenge facing Biden: Vaccinate as many of the 320 million Americans as soon as possible. While the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed helped develop the COVID-19 vaccine in record time, most of the manufactured doses haven’t been injected into the arms of Americans. And until that happens, the staggered U.S. economy won’t shake off this pandemic and return to normal. According to the CDC, as of Tuesday, 3.3% of the Indiana population had received one dose, 0.6% had received two doses. There have been 642,425 doses received, 260,310 doses injected, or 41% of the total. By Friday, 5.1% of Hoosiers had received one dose, 1.1% the second, for 839,925 doses distributed, 414,127 shots given, or 49% of the total. Nationally on Tuesday, 3.2% of the population have received one dose, 0.5% two doses, with 31,161,075 doses distributed, 12,279,180 given and 39% of doses used. By Friday, 4.9% of the U.S. population had received one shot, 0.8% the second, 39.89 million doses distributed, 19.1 million shots given, and 48% of doses used. The urgency is that the virus is mutating into a more infectious mode.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – If it were not for the rise of Donald Trump in 2016, there wouldn't be a Gov. Eric Holcomb. When that year began, Holcomb was running third in the Republican U.S. Senate primary field. His political fortunes began to improve when Gov. Mike Pence picked him to replace Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. When Republican presidential nominee Trump tabbed Pence as his running mate, Holcomb won the Indiana Republican Central Committee caucus late that July. With Trump and Pence atop the ticket, winning the state with a 19% plurality, Holcomb's 100-day campaign was swept up in that wave and he defeated Democrat John Gregg. Their political fortunes have since diverged. Trump was defeated for reelection last November, while Holcomb won a second term in a landslide. During his presidency, Trump lost the House in 2018, his own reelection last November, and he kicked away two Georgia Senate seats earlier this month with sophomoric antics, giving up the Senate majority. Under Holcomb, the Indiana GOP has thrived, controlling 88% of all county elected offices, nine of 11 congressional seats, a record 71 city halls, all of the Statehouse constitutional offices and with super majorities in the Indiana House and Senate.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday Jan. 6, the whole world will be watching Vice President Mike Pence. He will find himself in the most conspicuous set of circumstances that any Hoosiers ever has. As president of the U.S. Senate, he will preside over a joint session of Congress, taking what would normally be about a half hour to count the Electoral College votes for the 2020 president race. The 50 states and the District of Columbia have certified 306 votes for Democrat Joe Biden and 232 for President Trump. This is a critical component for this cornerstone of our democracy and the fragile American experiment: The acceptance of defeat by a losing presidential candidate prior to the peaceful transfer of power. When this process went awry in 1860, seven Southern states seceded from the Union, resulting in the Civil War and more than 600,000 deaths. The reason the world will be transfixed on Pence is that President Trump has expressed his intent to "overturn" (as he tweeted) the will of the American people. "GREATEST ELECTION FRAUD IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!!!" this sophomoric president tweeted. He told WABC on Dec. 21, "It’s the most corrupt election this country’s ever had, by far." “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted earlier this month in an appeal to his supporters. Trump's unsubstantiated allegations and his use of the Twitter pulpit have had an impact. A Fox News poll found 77% of Trump voters believe the election was stolen. A Reuters/Ipsos Poll found 68% of Republicans believe the election was "rigged." Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump and his allies have filed more than 50 lawsuits contesting the results, winning only one case. In case after case, judges assailed the Trump campaign for providing no substantive evidence of any vote fraud.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – President Trump is scheduled to leave office at noon, Jan. 20. He has had an extraordinary impact on the United States and Indiana and will leave behind a deeply divided nation. The 2020 election was basically a referendum on … him. As his presidency draws to a close, let’s take a dispassionate look at the metrics of his impacts: Elections: Trump won the contested 2016 Indiana presidential primary 53% (591,514 votes) to 36.6% for Sen. Ted Cruz and 7.7% for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump carried 87 counties to five for Cruz. He won the 2016 General Election 56.5% to 37.5%, with 1,557,286 votes and helped Sen. Todd Young defeat Evan Bayh 52.1% to 42.4%, and Gov. Eric Holcomb over John Gregg 51.4% to 45.4%. In 2020, Trump defeated Joe Biden 57.1% to 41% with 1,729,516 votes, carrying 87 counties. He won the Electoral College 306-232 over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and lost it 306-232 to Biden on Dec. 14. Indiana Republicans now control 88% of all county offices, 70 mayors (an all-time high), nine of 11 congressional seats, all Statehouse constitutional offices, and hold super majorities in the Indiana House (71 seats) and Senate (40). Trump approval: Trump never cracked 50% approval in Gallup. He reached 49% in January 2020. It stood at 46% in the final preelection poll. In the October Ball State Hoosier Poll, Trump’s approval was 41% and disapproval at 45%. GDP under Trump: Candidate Trump predicted Gross Domestic Product rising into the 4 to 6% range. Here’s a look at annual U.S. GDP growth during Trump’s presidency. The 2020 estimate comes from the Federal Reserve: 2017: +2.3%; 2018: +3%; 2019: +2.2%; and 2020: -3.7%.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – As the Democratic presidential race wound down just as the pandemic was gearing up, there was no secret that Joe Biden had a lot of respect and affection for Pete Buttigieg. When the former South Bend mayor endorsed Biden in Dallas, the now president-elect said that Buttigieg reminded him of his late son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. "Like Beau, he has a backbone like a ramrod. I really mean this. I think about it." The worst kept secret in American politics is that if Biden defeated President Trump, he would select Buttigieg for his cabinet. Over the past few weeks, Mayor Pete's name was floated out as a potential United Nations ambassador, the head the Veteran's Administration, or as envoy to Beijing. His supporters preferred a conspicuous posting that would allow him to burnish his policy chops and his credibility with the Black voters that eluded him during his meteoric presidential run. On Tuesday, the word was that Biden would nominate the 38-year-old Buttigieg to head the U.S. Department of Transportation. And that is the perfect post for the first Millennial to be nominated for a presidential cabinet. Some may view DOT as a backwater for a man who aspires to be president. But I look to history and an appointment President William McKinley made in 1897, which was to install Theodore Roosevelt as assistant secretary of the Navy. That's not a posting that has been a breeding ground for future presidents.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – I am no barfly, but the contours of my social life have come inside dozens of Hoosier restaurants and taverns and social clubs. Whether it was midnight at Santino's after putting the Elkhart Truth  to bed with the presses roaring in the background, a breezy summer day on the top deck of Matey's in Michigan City, catching a couple sets of jazz at the Chatterbox in downtown Indy, or watching a Thursday night NFL game with Coach and crew at Big Woods in Nashville, these watering holes served up beer and comfort food for me, my colleagues, friends and family over the years. At the Rathskeller in the Athenaeum, when I walk in, Wayne the bartender automatically serves me up a medium Spaten lager. The Truth's election night team always met for dinner at Casey's before the polls closed. I can take my dogs for dinner at Plump's Last Shot in Broad Ripple, stop in at the institution of sorts also known as Frog Tavern on a channel off Lake Wawasee, enjoy prime rib at the Heston Super Club, debate politics and sports at Nick's English Hut in Bloomington, or grab a late dinner at Rick's Boatyard after a day of Hobie catting on Eagle Creek Res. But the pandemic has brought dark, dark days for many of our most cherished local gathering spots. According to an Indiana restaurant impact survey by the National Restaurant Association, 20% of Hoosier restaurants have closed since this pandemic began. Another 33% say they likely won't be in business six months from now.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We are now enduring one of the biggest high casualty events in Indiana history. In the second month of the mysterious COVID-19 pandemic last April, a consensus developed among epidemiologists: Because this highly contagious and deadly virus transmitted from one human to another via tiny aerosol droplets, the best way to contain the disease was to wear a face mask. Officials ranging from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Health Commissioner Kristina Box, National Institute of Health Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield have repeatedly emphasized that face masks save lives. In a July 1 Facebook video, Holcomb explained, "Wearing a face mask is one of the simplest, most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus, but we need everyone to do their part to keep our state safe."  On July 14, Dr. Redfield said, "We are not defenseless against COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.” President Trump decided not to lead by example. On Aug. 13, while an unexpected second wave swept across America after Trump repeatedly suggested the pandemic would just "disappear," he used his powerful bully pulpit to say, "We have urged Americans to wear masks, and I emphasized this is a patriotic thing to do. Maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Whether it was North Side Gym in Elkhart or the Southport Fieldhouse, or packing Evansville’s Ford Center with 11,000 supporters in September 2018, President Trump was at the spearhead of a populist movement. His MAGA rallies filled Indiana’s basketball palaces, with thousands who couldn’t get in standing outside. In contrast, at a solo Oct. 22 campaign rally at Fort Wayne International Airport, Vice President Mike Pence drew a very, very modest 400 supporters. Both Trump and Pence lost the Nov. 3 election, with Democrat Joe Biden polling more than 80 million votes in a 51%-47% victory. Yet 74 million voted for Trump despite the pandemic and the ensuing economic meltdown. Within hours of his loss, Trump was telling friends he is considering a comeback in 2024, just as he kicked off his reelection bid just days after his 2016 upset victory over Hillary Clinton. Conventional wisdom had it that if Trump lost, somehow, some way it would be Pence who would become the frontrunner. Yet other recent veep losers (Walter Mondale in 1980 and Dan Quayle in 1992) weren’t able to make this comeback. Pence is now chained to however the Trump legacy bears out. A Politico/Morning Consult Poll released this past week had Trump leading Pence 53%-12% in a hypothetical 2024 primary matchup, with Donald Trump Jr. at 8%. Other GOP rising stars such as Nikki Haley and Tom Cotton barely registered.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – When new Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston walked out of the Indiana House of Representatives on March 11 with the COVID-19 pandemic just beginning to get a death grip on his state, he recalled, “I remember leaving this chamber believing something historic could be taking shape.” On Nov. 15, the White House coronavirus task force posted this warning as the U.S. death toll hit 250,000 and Indiana closed in on 5,000: "There is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration. Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies."  This warning came as hospitals are being swamped and front line medical workers are disheartened, drained and weary, while folks ranging from nurses to the governor pleaded with people to wear masks. “I want to thank all of the incredible health care professionals, who continue on the front lines of this pandemic,” Huston said. ”Doctors, nurses, and so many others in hospitals and health care facilities across the state; they have fought and are fighting so hard for each of us.“

  • INDIANAPOLIS – On Sunday, the news we had waited almost 10 months to hear came true: Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech said their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla hailed the development as a “great day for science and humanity.” But after a weekend when the Indiana State Department of Health reported almost 10,000 new COVID infections and nearly 100 deaths, Brian Tabor sounded the alarms, stating the obvious as Hoosiers moved from elections to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. “All Hoosiers should be alarmed at the COVID-19 trends we are seeing across the state,” said Tabor, president of the Indiana Hospital Association. “In recent weeks, new cases have reached the highest level to date and hospitalizations have increased by 143% since October 1. Many hospitals are reporting staff shortages as the pandemic takes its toll — Hoosier nurses, doctors, and other front-line hospital staff have been working non-stop since the early spring. “Please give these courageous health care heroes some much-needed relief by wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and staying home when you are sick. We need everyone to take these steps to relieve the enormous strain on the system at this critical time,” Tabor concluded. By Thursday, Indiana logged 6,654 cases in one day, and 51 deaths, bringing the death toll to 4,563 since March.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – Gov. Eric Holcomb may equaled a modern plurality record with his 55.5-32% win over Democrat Woody Myers and Libertarian Donald Rainwater, who notched 11.5% (with 97% of precincts counted). In 1992, Democrat Gov. Evan Bayh defeated Attorney General Linley Pearson by a 25.1% margin, though Holcomb’s 1.688 million votes bests Bayh’s 1.382 million votes. While Bayh had to deal with a split 50/50 House and a Republican Senate following his landslide, Gov. Holcomb enters his second term with super majorities in the House and Senate, the GOP holding every Statehouse constitutional office, a 9-2 advantage in the congressional delegation, 71 out of 115 mayors, and north of 80% of county courthouse offices and above 90% of county commissioners. “I couldn’t be more grateful that our neighbors, families, friends, and Hoosiers from all across Indiana put their trust in us to lead our great state for another four years,” Holcomb said a couple of hours after he was declared the winner just after 7 p.m. Tuesday. “There’s no beating around the bush; COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge that slowed us down. But Hoosiers are the most resilient people in the world. We’re getting back on track, and our victory today is the first step toward getting our state back to setting records.” “We’ve reached the apex, setting a high water mark,” said Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer, who served as Holcomb’s campaign manager. “When you have 70 state representatives, 71 mayors, I don’t know where you go from here.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Our election that culminates on Nov. 3 is about two things: A referendum on President Trump, and the coronavirus pandemic. Here in Indiana, the other executive seeking reelection is Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is a clear favorite. Trump is on thin, thin ice and poised to join Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush in the defeat column. Trump would rather be talking about anything else than the pandemic. Why? Let’s go back to late last winter and spring. On March 10, President Trump told Republican senators, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” Three days later at a press conference, Trump became the anti-Truman, telling the nation, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” President Truman, whose White House desk featured the sign, “The buck stops here,” had been an obscure Missouri haberdasher and then senator when President Franklin Roosevelt elevated him to the ticket in 1944. Within a year, he had not only become president with FDR’s death, but launched the planet’s only atomic attack. By April, when epidemiologists began to understand this mysterious microbe, they determined that the simple act of wearing a face mask when in public could save tens of thousands of lives. On April 3, Trump said, “The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure. So it’s voluntary. You don’t have to do it. They suggested for a period of time, but this is voluntary. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
  • SHELBURN, Ind. - At this writing, Indiana reported a record high 2,880 new COVID-19 cases. This comes as Hoosiers are in the midst of deciding whether to rehire Gov. Eric Holcomb, or change course with Democrat and former health commissioner Woody Myers, or Libertarian Donald Rainwater. Myers entered this race with what appeared to be the perfect resume, having served when AIDS first surfaced. Yet on his final 2019 finance report, he posted just $14,000 while the Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly are tiny, having endured super minority status for the past four years. There are no Libertarians in the legislature, Rainwater has few if any relationships there, and it's hard to see how he would stock a new administration. In a sign of how strange an election year this is, Rainwater has raised enough money to run statewide TV and radio ads over the final two weeks; Myers was sitting on a mere $80,000 at the end of the third quarter and is radio silent. Political fundraising shouldn't be the prism under which to make a choice, but it is a factor when it comes to choosing a governor who would have the political support and governing components. Last Saturday, I traveled with Gov. Holcomb on a rare pandemic campaign swing. We both wore face masks the entire time.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – About two hours before Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly pandemic press conference Wednesday, Indiana University Prof. Aaron Carroll took part in a “Keeping IU Healthy” webinar. He was asked about the 1,700 COVID-19 cases the state reported earlier in the day: “Will the state hover around that or get worse?” Dr. Carroll, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, responded, “I think it will get worse over the next few weeks and then after the election I hope we start ratcheting things back. We can, as we have in the past, limit the spread of disease and make it safer. That will require governments to act and they often act slowly. “Even in the bad second wave, Arizona, Florida, Texas they got hold of it. They had to take action. They had to do some unpopular things, but they were able to ratchet it back to achieve a better level of success,” Dr. Carroll continued. “It will take Indiana taking action. I believe they will, it just may be a couple weeks off because the election, frankly, makes it harder to do a lot of stuff. Without laying blame or casting aspersions, ask me again in two weeks.” Gov. Holcomb was asked by the press about a possible reinstitution of lower stages. The governor became animated, saying, “Stage 5 has zero, nothing to do with any campaign. This has got to do with safely getting back to school, getting this economy reopened safely.”

  • CARMEL – There’s a political reason that, should he be reelected, Gov. Eric Holcomb will appoint a superintendent of public instruction. Look no further than the nationally watched 5th Congressional District, where former Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction. Suellen Reed endorsed Democrat Christina Hale on Wednesday in her race against Republican Victoria Spartz. Appearing in a TV ad with her husband, Phil, the Reeds introduced themselves as “lifelong Republicans.” Supt. Reed then says, “Cooperation, collaboration and compromise, that’s the way we get things get done.” Later, Reed adds, “She seeks common ground. That’s how democracy works. We’re voting Republican ... and for Christina Hale.” Reed’s endorsement makes it two out of the last three Republican superintendents to back Hale, who has been endorsed by current Supt. Jennifer McCormick. Former superintendent Tony Bennett has not weighed in. Governors of both parties have long salivated over the opportunity that likely faces Holcomb after the election. Reed was the Republican who served with Democratic Govs. Evan Bayh, Frank O’Bannon and Joe Kernan. Gov. Mike Pence served his four years with Democrat Supt. Glenda Ritz.

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  • Commerce Sec. Schellinger resigns
    “Today, I reluctantly received and accepted Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger’s resignation. He informed me it was the right time for him to step down immediately and I have accepted his decision. During Jim’s time at the helm of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, our state has experienced record-breaking job commitments, increasing average wages and strong capital investment. I am tremendously grateful to Jim for his long service to the state of Indiana. We will move quickly to name another great leader for this all-important agency, so we don’t skip a beat with the momentum we’ve established to make Indiana a great place to locate, start and grow a business.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, announcing the resignation of Commerce Sec. Jim Schellinger.
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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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