KOKOMO – One of the characteristics I admire most in a human being is loyalty. There is a comfort when entering a barroom brawl, either literally or figuratively, that no matter what, someone has your back. To me, this is true whether it is in personal, business or political relationships. The way I judge a man is to determine whether I’d want him next to me in a foxhole.  

Unfortunately, the world of politics is filled with the insincere, the selfish, the ungrateful and the disloyal. When the sun is shining the disloyal person will hide in the shadows and protect their secret failing.  When times are tough and the call of unity in manning the walls is made, the disloyal will come slithering out of the woodwork.

I’ve got some experience in living and dealing with the politically disloyal. For nearly 12 years I served as a Republican county chairman. For those of you who don’t know the job of the county chairman, it is to serve as the fire hydrant at the Dalmatian convention. You are expected to devote countless hours to the job, raising money for candidates, organizing mail and door-to-door campaigns, recruiting talent and developing strategy. When you are needed, you are the most revered person in the world, but after the votes are counted, you are relegated to the corner of a cold and lonely office until the next election rolls around.  

I’ve seen some doozies in the category of ingratitude while serving as a party chairman.  My first experience came during my first term as chairman.  When I became party chairman in Howard County, it was no secret that Kokomo was generally viewed by anyone in the halls of political power as merely a speed bump on the long trip from Indianapolis to South Bend. Many representatives, senators, governors and politicos of all stripes visited Kokomo, usually while driving 70 miles per hour. We tried to arrange more prolonged visits by installing traffic lights every 200 yards.  In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, former Speaker Pat Bauer and the Republican establishment agreed to spend millions to bypass our bypass and all of our traffic lights went for naught.

My strategy for making politicians take notice was to work diligently to elect two Republican state representatives and a Republican senator from Howard County, make sure that they were well-funded and were allowed to build seniority in the Indiana Legislature. Since Howard County was served by two United States representatives, it was also our goal to work our tails off to elect two good people to send to Congress. Finally, we regularly reached out to our state wide candidates in an effort to foster good relationships with our governor, United States senators and the remainder of our state ticket.

This was not a secret strategy. I shared it with my central committee, our Republican Steering Committee, our candidates, office holders and party faithful.  I felt it was important to make sure that everyone bought in to our ultimate game plan.

During Gov. Mitch Daniels’ first term he advocated for a plan to reduce the size of local government by trying to move Indiana into the current century.  Gov. Daniels’ plan called for the elimination and consolidation of many local offices from township trustees to other sacred cow county elected positions. Needless to say, this plan made many conservatives very happy. It also made many local elected officials furious.  

I didn’t discover the nature of some of my loyal Republican friends until one morning when I was sitting down for coffee with one of Gov. Daniels’ people.  After I had poured out my very impressive strategy for increasing the governor’s vote total in the next election and pledging to work tirelessly as a team to reelect Mitch, his staff person then pulled out a letter from his pocket and said, “Then can you explain this?”  Here is what the letter said:

“Dear Governor: We Republicans in Howard County don’t like you or anything that you do. We will do whatever is necessary to make sure that you lose the next election.
Betty Jo Bobbinwatcher, Howard County Elected Poobah.”

Needless to say, I was embarrassed and learned a valuable lesson in political loyalty or lack thereof. I also learned as Republican chairman that when you take the job, it is your duty to support your entire team, no matter what your personal political differences may be. Love all of your candidates or not, the job required that you support each and every one. That didn’t mean that I never held my nose when I went to vote, it just meant that as far as the public was concerned, we were a team and it was all for one and one for all. That is how I approached our candidates and that is what I asked of our candidates in return.

This is why last week I was shocked and sickened by the lack of fidelity demonstrated by State Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymour. It is no secret in the corridors of the Indiana Statehouse that Rep. Lucas is a loose cannon when it comes to what comes out of his mouth and what gets churned out on his social media. Republicans have had to choke down some of his racist rantings and tolerate his public whining all in the name of a House super majority. Republicans have raised money for his campaigns and worked hard to get him to a place where he can entertain himself with his ridiculous antics. Lucas has not endured the pandemic very well. Not being in a position of direct responsibility, Lucas never had to make a life or death decision when it came to COVID-19. This enabled him to spout a daily dose of venom at Gov. Holcomb and the state’s lockdown, quarantine, mask and distancing policies.  

Lucas found a few like-minded rejectniks who puffed him into thinking he was a gifted leader of the people and knew better than the health experts and Gov. Holcomb. As the weeks have rolled by, Lucas’ vitriol against the governor steadily rose.  Finally, last week, Republican Rep. Lucas very publicly endorsed one of Gov. Holcomb’s opponents. Not only did he endorse the Libertarian candidate, he has aggressively promoted the Libertarian ever since. A loyal Republican with those feelings would have just gone into the voting booth and voted his conscience. Lucas actively worked against his own governor. For this, in my book, he deserves a special place in political purgatory.

Rep. Lucas, in my opinion, is no longer a Republican in good standing. If he was an upstanding man, he would resign his office. He won’t. It will be up to someone in his district a year and a half from now to challenge his candidacy and status as a Republican. If I was the district chairman, Lucas could permanently caucus with his assault-rifle-toting, dope-smoking Libertarian buddies. He does not belong in the Republican Party. It might be advantageous to draw his legislative lines a little differently and dump a few more thousand Democrats into his District. However it is done, Lucas must go!

Perhaps if they ever do a remake of “The Godfather,” Rep. Lucas can be cast as Fredo, the hapless, incompetent and lost member of a proud family.  He has the disloyalty part down pat. Who better to take out fishing on the political waters?

Dunn is the former Republican chairman of the Howard County Republican Party.