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Wednesday, November 14, 2018
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  • Mark Souder: The big Senate showdown that wasn't

    FORT WAYNE – The U.S. Senate election in Indiana was perceived to be a pivotal showdown for control of that body. It was supposed to be another test of the Republican-lite strategy employed by Evan Bayh to carry Indiana, a method he conceived after watching his father fall in an upset to Dan Quayle in 1980. 

    What is hard to remember, even for those who remember that there were two Bayhs, is that the time span from 1980 until now is the same amount of time between Truman’s transition to Eisenhower and 1980. Things change, even in Indiana.

    Since Evan Bayh was crushed by Todd Young in 2016, the question lingered: Would Joe Donnelly become the new Evan Bayh? Republicans argued that Donnelly was an accidental senator, only winning because of Richard Mourdock’s mistake in 2012. While I felt Mourdock probably would have won, I never felt that Donnelly’s win was pure luck or an accident. The race was already close, and it should not have been.

    Donnelly had maximized his opportunity, and thus was ready when a mistake occurred. That’s different than being an accident. Recent appointments to fill a statewide slot like Dan Coats and Eric Holcomb show that you still have to capitalize on a surprise opportunity. 

    But there is no doubt that it is a lot easier to capitalize on such an opportunity if you are a Republican in Indiana. That’s important to understand, because in a general election there are many other factors at play beyond the candidates. In the 3rd CD this election, Congressman Jim Banks ran a flawless campaign on top of very successful two-year first term. He defined who he was – a veteran and social conservative who also favored economic conservatism. He stressed his military service and support in most of his ads, but was bold in stating his pro-life, pro-gun, pro-tax cut views as well. Banks also received an award for his sterling constituent service.

    However, his opponent Courtney Tritch had looked like a promising candidate. She proved to be a total flop. To illustrate that point, look at the facts: In 2016 Jim Banks won 70.1% of the vote. His opponent Tommy Schrader didn’t even file a campaign report. In 2014, Marlin Stutzman won 65.8% of the vote. His opponent Justin Kuhnle raised just $101,000.

    This year, Tritch raised $883,696. Democrats were excited. This was to be a big breakthrough. There was a blue wave coming. Donnelly would be a strong top of the ticket (he did run far ahead of Tritch). Instead, Banks only received 0.3% of the vote less than Stutzman did in 2014, when his opponent couldn’t even mount a campaign. In fact, Banks’s percentage wasn’t much higher against Schrader, a sad case of a homeless guy without a job who had been disowned by the Democrats. It was among the worst defeats in the district’s history, going all the way back to when the Fort Wayne district was created.

    Money matters, but not always. Braun essentially bought a Senate nomination with his contributions to his own campaign. He was competing against two well-funded, well-known congressmen, so Braun had to demonstrate some election experience (as a state legislator and on the school board), clear business success, and commitment to conservative values. He also had to show in the debates that he was a plausible version of an Indiana Trump. He did. But without the money, he would have been buried.

    Congressman Trey Hollingsworth certainly didn’t win his initial nomination in 2016 based on long-term community involvement, local politics, and a campaign ground game. He established his conservative credentials through his ads funded by personal investment. Republicans chose him as their preferred advocate, and then rejected any Democrat opposition. He has now defeated two credible candidates, certainly more credible than Tritch, by large margins (though not by as much as Banks’s victories).

    Issues do matter.

    Greg Pence had both name recognition with a positive association, and money, though not his own. He didn’t win through creative use of free media, though anytime the name “Pence” was aired or written anywhere in the district, no matter which Pence it was, it certainly worked to his advantage. As Donald Trump has proven, “brand” marketing, especially when associated with issues favored by a majority of voters, is a key to winning elections. Greg Pence proved that both name ID and issues matter.

    In large part, the two-party system has served America well. Sometimes it fails, but no system is perfect. For years, the assumption was that if a Republican was running for office in a Democrat area, the Republican had to move to the middle to win – vice versa for a Democrat. That is what Evan Bayh and Joe Donnelly did.

    Donnelly did as good a job portraying that image as anyone humanly could. He stressed this split personality in every way he could, short of wearing a “Make American Great Again” hat on the campaign trail. Had the Democrat nominee been a card-carrying, charismatic socialist like Bernie Sanders, he might have turned out more Democrats, but lost many of the voters Donnelly added from the middle. It is not clear whether the peak vote of a strong liberal advocate like Mayor Peter Buttigieg might have matched Donnelly’s vote. Donnelly’s 2018 tally (losing by 8 points) might be as high as an avowed liberal can achieve, whereas this election probably was toward the lower end of Donnelly’s potential vote because of other factors that also hurt him. 

    Those other factors include: 1) the female trio of Republican state elected officials – Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, and Auditor Tera Klutz – that won with from 57% to 60% of the vote. The closest race among the seven winning Republican congressional campaigns was Jackie Walorski, who won with 56.3%. The next closest was Hollingsworth at 59.6%. The Democrats won Lake and Marion counties. As big as they are, you don’t win Indiana with just two of nine districts. Not to mention the Republican state legislative super-majorities, another drag on any hope Donnelly had. 

    For Donnelly, if he hoped to straddle the middle of the road successfully, he would have needed to join with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in voting for Judge Kavanaugh. He did not. He likely would not have won anyway, and the Democrat base vote might have declined further, but Donnelly’s decision certainly undermined his credibility on abortion to many people and his claim of supporting Trump. While he viewed the Kavanaugh vote a different way, the fact is that to pro-life supporters it was “the” most important pro-life issue. It was also the last high-profile vote during the election cycle. Had the Supreme Court nomination votes been reversed, voting against Kavanaugh early and for Gorsuch during the election cycle, Donnelly would likely have gained some votes. But he voted his conscience (even if I didn’t agree) knowing the risk. 

    So, issues matter.

    Then there was the Trump factor. The president crusaded here, joined by Bobby Knight in Southport and Lou Holtz in Fort Wayne. President Obama came in to promote Democrat turnout, which just waved a red flag in front of the rest of the state. But who was Donnelly supposed to bring in – Schumer? Pelosi? Bill or Hillary? 

    Maybe Alec Baldwin?

    We Republicans can only hope that the Democrats will decide that their path to victory is to be openly liberal, instead of trying to run away from their national party. These things go in cycles, but if the Democrats want to try to veer left, perhaps – from a Republican perspective – they can extend our dominance even longer. We can always hope that they learn the wrong lessons. 

    Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana and a regular HPI contributor.
  • Brian Howey: Now for something completely different as Sessions exits
    INDIANAPOLIS – President Trump conducted a sprawling 90 minute presser Wednesday afternoon, basking his his victories, even though he lost the House.

    “The election’s over,” Trump said. “Now everybody is in love.” Well, everyone except CNN’s Jim Acosta and NBC’s Peter Alexander who the president assailed and then revoked the former’s credenitials.

    President Trump talked of a “a beautiful bipartisan-type situation” as i Nancy Pelosi was the new Kim Jong-Un. “Now we have a much easier path because the Democrats will come to us with a plan for infrastructure, a plan for health care, a plan for whatever they’re looking at, and we’ll negotiate,” Trump said, adding, “From a dealmaking standpoint, we are all much better off the way it turned out” than if the GOP House majority had held.

    When pressed on potential Democratic House investigations, Trump suggested that if those were to pop up, he would respond with a “warlike posture.”

    Asked if there were any cabinet shakeups in the works with Attorney General Jeff Sessions sitting on a speculation bubble, Trump deflected.

    Less than two hours later, Trump tweeted: We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well....”

    And with that, the country that turned out in record election numbers to partially reaffirm Trumpism (particularly here in Indiana), while a coming Democratic House will serve as a check and a balance, lurched into a new era.

    President Trump suggested he wanted Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to continue, or in his words, to “let it go on.” But then he said, “I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it.” Then he said, “It’s a disgrace. It should never have been started, because there is no crime.”

    Whittaker’s ascension immediately led to rampant speculation that Saturday Night Massacre II was just around the corner.  Appearing on CNN in July 2017 when he became Sessions’s chief of staff, Whittaker suggested that Trump could starve the Mueller probe. “So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment,” Whitaker said, “and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.” As for Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein, Whitaker said that Trump should “really try to get Rod to maybe even cut the budget of Bob Mueller and do something a little more stage crafty than the blunt instrument of firing the attorney general and trying to replace him.”

    Ahhh, stage crafty.

    “The President is absolutely correct,” Whitaker said after Trump recoiled at the idea of Mueller investigating the family finances and the family-run Trump Organization. Since then, Trump attorney/fixer Michael Cohen and CFO Allen Howard Weisselberg have turned state’s evidence. “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing,” Whittaker suggested.

    Trump should not expect all Republicans to go along with a defanging of Mueller. “I have supported the Mueller investigation from the beginning because we need answers about Russia’s attempts to influence our elections,” U.S. Rep. Jim Banks told HPI Wednesday. “I believe Mueller’s efforts should continue without political interference, but after over a year of investigation and millions of taxpayer dollars spent, I am hopeful that he will provide a report to the American people soon.”

    Mueller was lying low during the election sequence. But you’ve got to think the former FBI director had some contingency plans in place in case the president  decided to go proactive on the biggest threat he faces, like sending his investigation report and information to individual states where Trump has no pardon powers.

    Perhaps the special counsel’s most serious “stage crafty” days are just around the corner.
  • Joshua Claybourn: Punting to 2020
    EVANSVILLE – If you wondered what it felt like at the exhaustive conclusion of a First World War offensive, having moved just six inches closer to Berlin at the cost of four months and tens of thousands dead, Tuesday’s election results probably felt somewhat like that. The key differences are of course that no one is dead, we live in relative comfort, the war actually did end, and you will never make it to Berlin.

    Following the highly anticipated 2018 midterms, neither Republicans nor Democrats perceive much incentive to adjust their approach, victory and defeat having been almost perfectly apportioned to validate the most powerful forces within any institution, those militating toward the status quo.

    On the one hand, Hoosier Republicans managed to hold onto their congressional seats and kept their super majorities in the state legislature, despite some of the strongest challenges from Democrats in years. Meanwhile the national GOP took small gains in favorable Senate races (including Indiana with Senator-elect Mike Braun) and fended off high-profile governor challenges.

    On the other hand, Hoosier Democrats did make a couple of gains in Indiana House and Senate seats, most notably in well-educated suburban areas such as J.D. Ford’s district. Even when Republicans like Speaker Brian Bosma and Sen. Jim Merritt won, they did so with a smaller margin than before. And national Democrats re-took the House of Representatives with at least 34 new seats as of this writing. With a solid majority we can expect subpoenas to rain down on the Trump administration like a torrential downpour.

    Many Hoosier Democrats will nevertheless view Tuesday’s results as a defeat, particularly because of Joe Donnelly’s high-profile loss. One lesson is that Republicans will not vote against their own interests or ideology (taxes, judges, guns, etc.) because of President Trump’s character flaws. Democrats will need to offer Republicans more to cleave their partisan default.

    Another lesson may be to market (and truly believe) the Democratic ideology as applicable to everyone everywhere. Older rural white voters once formed the backbone of the Democratic base. But today the party performs worst among this large group. Without engaging in more identity politics – which turns off vast swaths of society – the message may need to be more universal in applying to all occupations, genders and races.

    Rather than equal outcomes as preached by Bernie Sanders, Hoosier Democrats could focus on equal opportunities. That message supports a broad range of policies including strong public schools, vibrant regional hubs of cultural amenities, and sensible social safety nets.

    Hoosier Democrats remain a potent force and Hoosier Republicans would be wise not to underestimate that potential. Nothing was resolved Tuesday.

    Trumpism was not rejected by the nation; and neither was the general Democratic temptation to transform themselves into the leftward version of Trumpism. Decisions on where American society goes from here were punted to 2020.

    So we can see the same battles we’ve grown weary of waging occurring all over again, starting in earnest in just a few short months. Fundraising for the 2020 contests begins now, and formal announcements of candidacies will begin in about six months. 

    The Iowa caucuses are just over 14 months away. 

    Joshua Claybourn is an attorney and author in Evansville.
  • Craig Dunn: Indiana aligns its political stars red
    INDIANAPOLIS – As much as I’d like to hear just one more Mike Braun or Joe Donnelly attack ad, a part of me is relieved that it is all over. The election results are in and Hoosiers soundly repudiated Donnelly and will send political newcomer, Mike Braun, to Washington, D.C. This serves to realign the political stars and return Indiana to its solid Red State status.

    Prior to this U.S. Senate election, I felt very comfortable that Braun would win. My official prediction was a 3% plus win for Braun. My reason for this confidence was that after serving as Indiana senator for six years, Donnelly rarely showed up in excess of 43% in the pre-election polls. My general rule for incumbent politicians is that if you can’t get to 48% in the polls before the election, don’t count on the undecideds breaking your way.

    Did you really believe that after months and months of expensive political ads that 9% of the voters were truly undecided? I didn’t. People lie to pollsters; it is a fact of life. My general rule is that 60% of undecideds tend to break for the challenger.

    In addition, I never expected the Libertarian candidate to garner 7% of the vote when the curtains closed. While voters may flirt with a Libertarian candidate, they intuitively know that the Libertarian has no chance of winning. Generally speaking, people leaning Libertarian are more likely to vote Republican when the chips are down.

    Put all this information into a blender, push the high speed button and watch Braun pour out the winner.

    As a voter, I can truly say that I have no idea what legislation Mike Braun will pursue. Whereas Joe Donnelly was a relatively ineffective senator, we can only hope that Braun will support and introduce legislation to make a real difference for Hoosiers. While he can be trusted to reliably support President Trump’s agenda and his judicial nominees, the only thing I truly know about Braun is that he likes blue shirts and he isn’t Joe Donnelly.

    This begs the question, “Where did the ‘blue wave’ go?” Personally, I don’t think there ever was a blue wave. There may have been a little blue swirl like Tidy Bowl water in a toilet in some existing blue states, but there was nothing approaching a blue wave. Let’s compare President Trump’s off-year election results in his first term to President Obama’s results: Obama lost 63 House seats in 2010! Not even the wildest Democrat analyst on MSNBC could project that kind of a pickup for Democrats in 2018.

    I am under no illusions as to the approach that Democrat analysts, politicos and media personalities will take with what appears to be a mixed bag of results. They will focus on the loss of the House as a repudiation of Donald Trump. They will also come up with a zillion reasons why the significant Republican pickups in the U.S. Senate were due to a variety of circumstances unrelated to the president.

    Make no mistake about it, the Democrats’ takeover of the House of Representatives is a pyrrhic victory. Democrats will be unable to accomplish any of their socialist agenda other than using the power of committee leadership to hound and dog President Trump. Ask Newt Gingrich how successful that strategy worked in the next election – it was a disaster. The American people don’t like that kind of continual witch hunt.

    The real winner of the 2018 elections were the Republicans. The Senate is where most of the power resides. While the Senate may not be able to move legislation any more effectively than the House, the important difference is the power a Republican Senate has to approve judges at all levels and to approve treaties. President Trump will be able to continue his foreign policy, get his trade policies approved and get non-activist judges confirmed. That’s a pretty good night.

    While I’m writing this at 11 p.m. on election night and many races have yet to be called, here is my initial summary of the winners and losers in the 2018 election.


    Mike Braun pulled off what the pundits thought would be an upset and beat a Democrat senator with a unique ability to support ultra-liberal legislation and the ultra-liberal party leadership.

    Indiana Republican and Democrat incumbent congressional representatives all held their seats. Kudos to Jackie Walorski for finally nailing down the 2nd CD.

    Republicans in the Indiana House and Senate. Although there was a loss here and there, Indiana Republicans firmly control the Indiana General Assembly.

    Speaker Brian Bosma fought off a late challenge which only emerged as a result of suspect claims made by a former intern. His place is secure.

    Sen. Jim Merritt got a big win which should put him in an excellent position to launch an Indianapolis mayoral bid in 2019.

    Fiscal responsibility. An Indiana constitutional referendum mandating balanced budgets was passed making it increasingly more difficult for future legislatures to spill the red ink.

    Democrat mad dogs who are licking their chops to use House committees to investigate and torture President Trump for the next two years. Be very careful what you wish.

    West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s vote for Brett Kavanaugh saved his bacon. Most likely to jump to the GOP.

    Florida Republicans.  Big victories in both the governor and U.S. Senate races bode well for 2020.


    Indiana Democrats. The Hoosier State gets redder with each election.

    State Senator Mike Delph. I’m not sure how sad Republican leadership will be to see him go.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. His grand strategy could not save several red state Democrat senators.

    Democrat pundits. Predicted a blue wave that never materialized.

    Democrat celebrities. Predicted a blue wave that never materialized.

    Mainstream media. Predicted a blue wave that never materialized.

    George Soros. Spent incredible amounts of his money with little to show for it.

    Whoever counts Florida votes. The election results got to 95% counted by 9 p.m. and never progressed beyond that for two hours. It seems that the same lame-brain counties in Florida can’t get it right election after election. Let’s hope it improves by 2020.

    In summary, welcome back to the world of gridlock. We elect Democrat congressmen and then give huge wins to Republicans in the Senate. In this bizarre country, we elected Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Chris Coons as extreme left-leaning senators and the same voters in those states elected Republican governors. Go figure.  I almost forgot the most important winner in the 2018 election: The American people were big winners. Perhaps President Trump will go down in history for finally being able to get Republicans and Democrats off their rears and to the polls. An active and engaged electorate is absolutely vital to our republic.

    What am I going to do tomorrow? Get the popcorn popped and watch the circus which will develop in the U. S. House of Representatives and in what will surely be an interesting (and disturbing) kickoff to the 2020 race for the White House. Can’t wait to see what the Democrat presidential candidates want to give away for free and how much it will cost me. 

    Dunn is the former 4th CD and Howard County Republican chairman.
  • Morton Marcus: Climate change response
    INDIANAPOLIS – The joy of the Internet is serendipity, the act of finding something of interest you were not looking for. It is the same joy we find in the public library or a book store wandering the stacks.

    Recently, I found a list of the “Prettiest Towns in Every State”, presumably published by Architectural Digest. Since it was on the Internet, I could not be sure it was published by AD, a magazine that describes itself as “the international design authority.”
    My suspicions were raised when I read that the prettiest town in Indiana was … wait for it… Porter in Porter County of Northwest Indiana. Porter is OK and popular with those who like the ribs and ambiance at Wagner’s. But prettiest town in Indiana? Not by a long short.
    Yet, this got me thinking about the long battle for clean air and water in Northwest Indiana, which led me to dwell on the battle over climate change.
    Whenever we talk about climate change, our focus is on the costs of preventing or repairing the damages associated with that change. How can we protect ourselves, our homes, businesses, and communities? What will preventive measures cost? How much will it cost to restore properties and lives from damage caused by floods, drought, storms, and other abnormalities caused by climate change?
    That’s not how we might think if we were rationally attached to the past. A tornado or hurricane hits a town and we want to go back and rebuild what we had. Instead it is worth thinking about the benefits of climate change. How can we prosper from the environment in which we will be living and the opportunities it presents?
    One impediment to forward thinking is our land tenure laws. We own slices of land. It may be that our homes were leveled, but we still own the land. So let’s get the insurance settlement, roll up our sleeves and rebuild. Only this time, we’ll make some improvements that would have reduced damages the last time.   
    We should, however, allow ourselves to rethink the possibilities. If there is a tendency with a changing climate for frequent, heavy downpours, how could we benefit from an excess of water? Particularly if other regions are plagued by drought, could we find a market for our excess inventory of water?
    If average temperatures are rising, what crops can we plant to increase revenues? After a tornado, could we give each landowner shares in a new corporation that would rebuild downtown in accord with today’s technologies and what we’ve learned from the past two centuries of urban life?
    Our present policies with regard to the climate are pugnacious and reactionary. Where are the imaginative entrepreneurs who make the proverbial lemonade from lemons? 
  • Mark Souder: Trump's gamble on Braun in Indiana

    FORT WAYNE - On thing will be certain next Tuesday: If Mike Braun defeats incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly, it will be Trump who won the race.

    The president is making sure that is clear to everyone by making repeated appearances in Indiana, including stops the day before the vote. Obviously, internal polling – far more frequent (probably daily), possibly by the Brad Parscale operation – is optimistic that Braun will win or it is unlikely that the president would risk his political reputation on Indiana. His advisors also clearly understand that turnout is the key, or he would not be appearing in Fort Wayne on Monday night.

    There are some interesting subtexts going on as well. Normally when a key battle is in the home state of a sitting vice president, the closing arguments would be from the vice president. Clearly, Trump wants this victory to be seen as his victory, not that of Mike Pence.

    The vice president has changed his personal emphasis since joining with Donald Trump. Mike Pence recognized the potency of Trump as a brand. In government, as he was in business, Trump is obsessed with the brand “Trump.” He wants it to be seen as his version of classy and, most importantly in his mind, be perceived as a winner. Everything must be the best ever. He makes no apologies. He just keeps moving forward with new greatest things and assumes people will forget any past mistakes.  

    When Pence joined up with this brand, he knew that he would be, in a way, like the backside of an old 45 rpm record that had a number one hit and something else on the B- side. Vice presidents mostly are supposed to wait quietly unless the president dies or happens to call, filling in at funerals and traditionally campaigning in smaller states or those where their political party is strongest. Presidents go to big states with larger populations. 

    In 2018, the battle for control of the U.S. Senate ironically has led to many key battlegrounds coming in non-swing states President Trump won by significant margins that normally would fall to vice presidential political duty. But we have a president who loves to campaign, loves the simplicity of sloganeering to cheering fans, and loves to have a day when winners are clear. Especially if it is him winning.

    As for governing, it’s not much fun. People are always telling him that it is complicated, giving him things he’s supposed to read, and suggesting that perhaps he should listen more. Governing to this president seems to be by gut feel, emotion, certain preconceptions, advice from randomly selected acquaintances, and reinforced by people who know how to tell him variations of what he wants to hear. All presidents do this – all of them. But this president probably quadruples the normal mix of those factors compared to listening, reading and experience dealing with key issues.

    The vice president has essentially traded his independent image for the right to quietly influence the government’s policies in several critical ways. Most importantly, he helps guide the president through details and personnel to implement things the president said he’d do or wanted to do. Some of those things were said because they were politically useful (e.g. socially conservative positions) and others for a blend of his previous views and political value (e.g., court appointments). In Donald Trump’s previous life, these things were not a big focus.  

    There are also many smaller things. President Trump has opinions on health care, though historically they have been all over the map from left of Bernie Sanders to a more traditional conservative, free market approach. The secretary of the agency that has to actually guide the details of the massive agencies under Health and Human Services is Alex Azar of Indiana, along with Seema Verma of Indiana, whose area oversees 26% of the federal budget.  

    The Hoosiers in the government are not the noisy ones. Think Dan Coats, who oversees national intelligence. They are smart, honest people who work to make things happen without stepping on the president’s credit when things go well. This is also true in foreign policy and military issues, and largely with views that match those of pre-Vice President Pence.

    So here, in the days before Election Day, it is Donald Trump riding in to rescue Mike Braun and defeat the incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly, in a state where Donnelly – if he wasn’t Joe Donnelly – could be losing by 30 points.  Braun has almost no effective grassroots enthusiasm. His ads veer wildly between awful, mediocre and sometimes very good. He basically had two themes: I am a businessman and I wear a blue shirt, not a coat and tie.  

    Donnelly mostly tried to sell that he wasn’t some crazy liberal Democrat, that he tried to get people to get along and find some sort of a middle way, and that he actually would sometimes work with the president. He also constantly harped about Braun’s blue shirt, which appears to have persuaded few but which actually reminded them that Braun wasn’t a stuffy businessman or politician. Some of his attacks on Braun’s specific business practices, however, did have an impact in spite of the blueness waste-of-time. The Mexico Joe and China Mike nonsense also just confused people. The attempt to turn the issue into about who was the biggest hypocrite failed as well. If they are such hypocrites, why did the recent poll show Donnelly with 52-41 favorable/unfavorable rating and Braun with 47-39 favorable/unfavorable? That is a rather astounding rejection of the campaign approach of both sides. Did people find these ads so false that they assumed if each man was being called hypocritical by the other, then both must be pretty honest men?

    And why did the same poll that showed 52% viewing Donnelly favorably show him losing the race? It suggests that even though Donnelly is likable and viewed favorably as a senator, they want Republicans to control the Senate. That also is what seems apparent when talking to voters. As Election Day gets closer, the polling becomes more accurate and seeming poll contradictions can more easily be reconciled if supplemented by listening to voters, as well.

    Mike Braun, like some other candidates, has been shielded from intense cross-examination. I would suggest that most Harvard graduates who build highly successful businesses are not stupid, incapable of answering questions. The problem was more that Braun is likely blunt and inexperienced in the nuances of campaigning. He also may be warm with his family and people he trusts, but no one is calling him gregarious and chatty. In other words, had I been his campaign manager, I too, would have stressed a simple strategy: Don’t make mistakes.  

    It appears to me that Mike Braun will win because he didn’t make any significant mistakes in a heavily conservative state that also is a strong pro-Trump state. Turnout will decide it, but President Trump has done everything he possibly can to boost it. In the critical Republican area of northeast Indiana, the Democrat candidate for Congress has turned out to be very weak compared to Congressman Jim Banks. She raised lots of money, but a big win by Banks would likely back-off Democrats from repeating such a mistake again. Donnelly has no ballot assistance here, at any level, and the congressional candidate will likely be a drag on his vote here. 

    Furthermore, Sen. Lindsay Graham, a month ago, was announced as speaker for the Allen County GOP Bean Dinner that was being held five days before the election. It was immediately sold out. Now with President Trump is also appearing here Monday night, a few days after Graham. Media coverage of the Trump event has been non-stop every day since the announcement. If these events, plus Congressman Banks and down-ballot GOP strength in all the region’s counties, don’t propel turnout, it is not clear that anything would have.  

    If Republican turnout holds, President Trump will have gambled correctly. So, will Vice President Pence.
  • Chris Sautter: Waves often develop very late
    WASHINGTON – Unforeseen events and dramatic moments can wreak havoc with political forecasts. Talk of a “blue wave” dominated discussions about the midterm elections until the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings woke up the Republican base. Suddenly House races that favored Democrats tightened and toss-up Senate races in red states began to trend toward the Republican candidate.

    Now another series of unforeseen events is changing the dynamics. The package mail bombs sent by a Trump supporter to prominent Democrats followed by the massacre of eleven at a Pittsburgh synagogue have changed the national conversation. President Trump’s favorability ratings dropped four points in a week back down to the low 40s. There is turmoil and ugliness in the country and Republicans are in control. Voters are again considering whether to elect Democrats as a check on the excesses of a divisive President and a supplicant Congress. 

    The inevitable question, then, is: Do Trump’s falling favorable numbers mark the return of the blue wave? 

    Four former U.S. House members gathered at a forum hosted last week by the National Archives in Washington, D.C. to discuss wave elections. Of the four former members participating — Jim Blanchard from the Watergate class of 1974, Marjorie Margolies of the “Year of the Woman” class of 1992, Tom Davis of the “Republican Revolution” class of 1994, and Ann Marie Buerkle of the huge Republican class of 2010 — only Blanchard sensed that he was part of a wave before the votes were counted. Margolies, who won an open seat in the Philadelphia suburbs by just 1,373 votes, remarked that she was completely surprised she even won.

    All four agreed that a pick up of 35 or more seats in the House would constitute a wave, although they split on partisan lines in their predictions as to whether Democrats would take control at all. Blanchard, who was elected governor of Michigan in 1982, predicted a Democratic pick-up of 40 while Margolies predicted a margin of 50 seats.

    Blanchard pointed to the LBJ landslide of 1964 as proof that wave elections can make a critical difference in the direction of the country. Landmark legislation including Medicare, Medicaid, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Higher Education Act, and the Freedom of Information Act were all made possible by the wave election of 1964 that gave Democrats a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.

    Among the notable freshman in that 1964 class was Indiana’s Lee Hamilton, one of the most respected and thoughtful members to have served in Congress.  Hamilton has remarked that he too was surprised to have been a part of a wave when he defeated Republican incumbent Earl Wilson by a little more than 12,000 votes. Hamilton has added that the votes he cast that first year he served in 1965 were the most significant ones during his entire 34-year career in the House.

    Another beneficiary of an election year wave was Phil Hayes of Evansville who defeated incumbent Roger Zion in the 1974 Watergate election that gave Democrats a net gain of 49 seats. In an interview, Hayes said he decided to run for Congress in early 1973 as the Watergate scandal began to bubble up and the Vietnam War continued to drag. “It was obvious that this (Watergate) was going to get bigger. But I also saw it as a personal opportunity.” At the time, Hayes served as a state Senator in an at-large district that represented 40% of the 8th district population. In addition, while in the Senate, Hayes had achieved a strong legislative record, becoming involved in several high profile reform issues of the time, including co-sponsoring passage Equal Rights Amendment in Indiana.

    Hayes, like Michigan’s Jim Blanchard, said he felt relatively confident he would win in the fall of 1974 after President Gerald Ford pardoned the disgraced former President Richard Nixon. “Republicans were in denial,” he said. “They were certain they could get by because they were raising five times the money we (Democrats) were.” Hayes said he won 54% to 46% because of the culture at that time. “Money wasn’t really a factor,” he said. “Local TV news coverage was important then, which isn’t the case anymore. Newspaper endorsements carried weight.”

    Twenty-eight year old David Evans, a public school teacher, spent only $14,000 in knocking off incumbent 12-term incumbent William Bray in an Indianapolis area district in 1974. Evans, who had lost badly to Bray in 1972, decided immediately after losing that he would challenge Bray again. “That’s when I went full out and starting knocking on what would be 55,000 doors,” he said in an interview.

    Evans said that the turning point in the campaign came three weeks before the election when the state Republican Party attacked him and his campaign for selling raffle tickets allegedly in violation of state law. The story ran on the front page of the Indianapolis Star and was covered on local television news. Evans rebuffed the attack by noting that congressional elections are governed by federal not state law. Evans said the story immediately boosted his name recognition, so much so that voters began calling out to him on the street, “Hey Dave, do you have any raffle tickets?” After the election, one Republican insider lamented that the GOP attack clearly backfired and cost them the seat. Evans garnered 52% to 48% for Bray, who had completely dismissed him as a serious challenger throughout the campaign.

    Nearly all Democratic candidates running in the 1960s and early 1970s were influenced by the idealism of John and Robert Kennedy. In early 1960, Lee Hamilton agreed to hold a fundraising event in Columbus for a presidential candidate he admits he had not even heard of Sen. John F. Kennedy. Ted Sorenson, Kennedy’s speechwriter, later joked to Hamilton that his was the worst event of the entire 1960 campaign. Despite the fundraising debacle, Hamilton was inspired by the young president to run for Congress four years later.

    Dave Evans said JFK was his inspiration as well. “It was my ambition since high school in Shoals to be both a school teacher and to serve in Congress,” he said. Evans served four terms until the Republican controlled General Assembly gerrymandered him into a district with fellow Congressman Andy Jacobs. Jacobs would defeat Evans in the 1982 Democratic primary.

    Reflecting on his motivation to run for office in the early 1970s, Phil Hayes pointed to Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Indiana presidential campaign when Hayes served as RFK’s Vanderburgh County coordinator. “Having a responsible position in a campaign like that was critical,” he said.  “Distributing petitions for Kennedy and managing the campaign in southwest Indiana, I was put in a one-on-one position with voters. I got to know constituencies, including union leaders and union members who were very important at that time.  Most of all, what I learned from Bobby Kennedy was not to be afraid in politics: don’t be afraid to say and do what you believe.”

    That lack of fear may have contributed to Hayes’ decision after just one term to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Vance Hartke, whom many Democrats believed would be a drag on the ticket in 1976 “Hartke was already down by 20 points against Lugar when I decided to get in,” Hayes said. “I lost the primary against Hartke by just 5,000 votes, winning every county but two—Marion and Lake. I might have actually won those as well,” Hayes joked referring to their reputations at the time for manipulating election outcomes. Richard Lugar would defeat Hartke 59% to 40% in the 1976 general election. 

    Hoosier Democrats gained five seats in 1974, one of the largest pickups of any state in the country. That is not remotely likely this year as only a couple of districts are being seriously contested.  Then again wave elections are called waves because they usually sweep into office candidates no one thought had a chance. 

    Sautter is a Democratic consultant based in Washington.
  • Jack Colwell: 2nd CD unlikely to change color
    SOUTH BEND – Let’s look at the color of the counties, all 10 in Indiana’s 2nd CD. In 2016, nine were red and one was blue. That combination gave the district a deep red hue as Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski won big in reelection to her third term.

    Only St. Joseph County was blue that night. And even so it was a very pale blue. Walorski darn near carried the largest and most Democratic county in the district. She also won big, very big, in 2014, with a similar color scheme across the district, nine red counties, one blue.

    It will be a closer race this time, as Democrat Mel Hall, unlike her two prior Democratic challengers, has the resources and organization to threaten a possible upset of the entrenched incumbent.

    Walorski, realizing the threat and responding to it, agreed to two televised debates this time — winning the first, losing the second — and has found it necessary to hit her opponent with negative TV ads to counter the positive image Hall established earlier in the race.

    Could the district change its color? National analysts think it unlikely. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which didn’t waste resources on doomed Democratic challengers in the two prior elections, now designates the 2nd CD as part of its “Red to Blue” program. That’s the effort to flip districts from Republican incumbents to Democratic challengers in the quest for control of the House.

    The designation may have come on late, but it is significant. The DCCC doesn’t spend a cent in a district, no matter how great the party’s nominee seems personally, if there’s no chance to win. Decisions are pragmatic, not sentimental. The candidates have polls, but they won’t divulge results publicly. However, the Hall campaign provided results of its professional poll to the DCCC before the committee decided that Hall was close enough to merit priority consideration. If Hall is to win, he needs to do a lot of coloring. He must turn St. Joseph County from pale blue to bright blue, and turn the portions of LaPorte County and Starke County from red to blue. Elkhart County, which in 2016 provided Walorski with a plurality nearly 10 times the size of the Democratic margin in St. Joseph County, will nearly guarantee a Walorski win if it remains such a vivid shade of red. Hall needs both a blue tsunami in St. Joseph County and a way to hold back some of Elkhart County’s crimson tide.

    The other six counties, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall, Miami, Pulaski and Wabash, have been voting strongly Republican in congressional contests, just as Republicans envisioned in the Republican-controlled redistricting process. While some of these counties are relatively small in population, each one of them provided a bigger Republican margin than the Democratic margin in St. Joseph County during the last election.

    It’s highly unlikely that Hall will carry any of these six counties. And he certainly won’t carry Elkhart County. His hope in campaigning in those areas is to add a little blue coloring to turn some key areas a bit purple.

    His plan relies on a lot of moving parts: Swing voter issues, especially health care; reaction to negative TV ads, which usually work; views on President Trump, whether to empower or restrain him; and the Senate race, particularly whether Sen. Joe Donnelly runs strong in his former House district.

    How the 10 counties are shaded, and whether those reds and blues are vivid or pale, will determine the color of Indiana’s 2nd CD when the TV networks light up the map on election night. 
    Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune. 
  • Rich James: Lake County retirements are never final
    MERRILLVILLE  – You can say one thing about Lake County Democratic elected officials – retirement is never final. For instance, Lake Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Arredondo, 77, stepped down from the bench 10 years ago only to run an unsuccessful campaign for attorney general two years ago.
    But he’s back and is unopposed to become clerk of the Lake Circuit Court.

    One can say much the same about Frances DuPey, 79, who retired a few years back as a county commissioner. She is back on the ballot running for St. John Township Board, which is controlled by Republicans, as a Democrat. She was a resident of North Township when serving as commissioner.

    And speaking of longevity, U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky is a lock to win a 13th term in the House of Representatives. He would become the longest serving congressman in the state of Indiana, surpassing Lee Hamilton and Ray J. Madden. Visclosky also sits near the top of the Appropriations Committee when it comes to seniority.

    In terms of statewide races, there is a stronger Northwest Indiana presence.

    Former East Chicago resident John Aguilera, a Democrat, who served on the Lake County Council and was a state representative, is running for state treasurer against incumbent Republican Kelly Mitchell, a Valparaiso University graduate.

    Valparaiso attorney Jim Harper, a Democrat, is challenging Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson.

    Locally, Democrat Lisa Beck is challenging Republican Rep. Julie Olthoff in the 19th District that previously was represented by Shelli VanDenburgh. The district in mid-Lake County is one of the most notable swing districts in the state.

    For the first time ever, Democrats are enthused about having a chance in the Lake County Council 7th District race.

    Republican Eldon Strong, the incumbent, was ousted in the primary by two votes by Christian Jorgensen.

    Democrats feel they have a chance with Phillip Kuiper, a former Lowell town councilman.

    In Porter County, the current and former county prosecutors are facing off. Incumbent Republican Brian Gensel is seeking a fourth term and is challenged by Democrat Gary Germann, who served as prosecutor for one term when he was elected in 1978.

    Perhaps the most interesting race in LaPorte County is for county commissioner. Former Michigan City Mayor Shelia Brillson, a Democrat, is hoping to get back in elected office and is challenging incumbent Republican Connie Gramarossa, who was named to fill a commissioner vacancy in the spring.  

    Rich James has been writing about politics and government for almost 40 years. He is retired from the Post-Tribune, a newspaper born in Gary.
  • Mark Schoeff Jr.: Beware the allegators in the lobbying swamp
    WASHINGTON – In one of the most hard-hitting ads of the 2018 election cycle, Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd CD, castigates her Democratic challenger, Mel Hall, for his association with a Washington law firm that also does a substantial amount of lobbying.

    The ad mentions a pharmaceutical manufacturer that it asserts engaged in price gouging on a medicine that prevents premature births. “Mel Hall’s D.C. firm lobbied for this evil drug company,” the narrator says.

    The D.C. firm alluded to in the ad is Dentons, which has become the largest law firm in the world under the leadership of former Indiana Democratic Chairman Joe Andrew. In Dentons’ sprawling operation, you’ll find many different activities, including lobbying.

    But that doesn’t mean that everyone under the Dentons roof is a lobbyist. In fact, a Dentons spokeswoman said in an Oct. 8 statement said that Hall worked as a senior adviser to the firm from 2012 through 2014 after he left Press Ganey in South Bend.

    “During the time with our law firm, Mel was not a registered lobbyist,” the spokeswoman said.

    The Walorski campaign said that it is irrelevant that Hall never lobbied because it never asserted he did.

    “Mel Hall’s campaign just confirmed what we already knew: He worked for a big D.C. firm that lobbied for a fraudulent pharmaceutical company, predatory payday lenders and other special interests,” Walorski campaign manager Stephen Simonetti said in an Oct. 9 statement.

    He added: “Mel Hall is…lying about the campaign contributions he’s taken from lobbyists.”

    But when you throw your opponent in the lobbying swamp, beware of alligators that could bite you.

    If an association with or taking money from a lobbying firm links you to all its clients, most politicians will run into trouble. Take the explosive situation with Saudi Arabia, a country being accused of brutally assassinating a dissident journalist earlier this month.

    Walorski is one of many Hoosier politicians who have received campaign donations from lobbying firms that have had contracts with the Saudi government, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

    In addition to Walorski, Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th CD, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-9th CD, Republican House candidate Greg Pence, Republican Senate nominee Mike Braun and Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly have all raised money from lobbying firms such as Glover Park Group, BGR Government Affairs, CGCN Group and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

    In the wake of the allegations about the death of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some of those firms have ended their Saudi lobbying contracts. Nevertheless, when they made their contributions to Hoosier office holders and aspirants, they were working for the Saudis.

    In today’s campaign atmosphere, that means that it would be conceivable for an opposing campaign to cut a commercial casting aspersions on a Hoosier politician or candidate related to Khashoggi’s death.

    Would that be logical or fair? No. But it would it be similar to the attack linking Hall to Dentons’ clients.

    “You could make up any kind of twisted connection like that,” said a Washington lobbyist and former Senate aide with ties to Indiana.

    It’s currently in fashion to attack “the swamp,” which has become shorthand for Washington and its denizens. But it’s a political cheap shot to demagogue lobbying.

    For one thing, most former politicians follow Hall’s approach and assiduously avoid registering as lobbyists. 

    Former Hoosier Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, for instance, was never a lobbyist when he worked for Faegre Baker Daniels, according to David Gogol, vice chair of the firm’s consulting division. “We made sure he was never put in a position to lobby at his request,” Gogol said.

    In fact, there’s been a general decline in the population of lobbyists over the last several years. Most register to lobby when representing particular clients rather than registering to lobby in general.

    Like Hall, former politicians often join firms as advisers in particular areas in which they are experts. For instance, Gogol points out that former Indianapolis deputy mayor Skip Stitt, a Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting principal, works on projects involving local governments. He does not lobby.

    When accusations fly about the dark arts of lobbying, it’s a good time to remember that the activity is enshrined in the Constitution, where it goes by its most fundamental definition: Petitioning the government.

    Politicians who attack lobbyists often have industries in their states or districts or favorite social causes that benefit from hard-nosed lobbying. In Walorski’s case, RV manufacturers employ D.C. lobbyists.

    Another example is the Right to-Life movement, which brings hundreds of advocates to the nation’s capital each year. Who is setting up their meetings with lawmakers and leading them around the Capitol? Professional lobbyists.

    There will always be opposition to the policies some lobbyists promote. The answer is to deploy lobbyists fighting for the other side – not to cast the lobbying process into the swamp.

    Schoeff is HPI’s Washington correspondent.
  • Craig Dunn: Will Indiana be the last state to dance with Mary Jane?

    KOKOMO – Tom Petty wrote the unofficial Indiana state song back in the 1990s:

    “She grew up in an Indiana town; Had a good lookin’ momma who never was around; But she grew up tall and she grew up right; With them Indiana boys on an Indiana night …”

    But, rather than a last dance with Mary Jane, the dance has only begun.

    Indiana will soon face a legislative issue that will make Sunday alcohol sales and riverboat gambling seem like quaint anachronisms.  The issue that I believe will eventually rattle the halls of the Indiana Statehouse is the legalization of marijuana.

    I know you are thinking that there is no way in Hagerstown that a conservative state like the Hoosier State will ever legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use. I’m here to tell you that it will eventually happen and the wheels of change are already starting to turn.

    Before we go any further, it is important for me to state that I have never used marijuana or even tried it. I am no marijuana expert. Nor am I a marijuana legalization advocate. I am, however, a fairly good observer of John Q. Public and of the legislative process.  For these reasons, I feel fairly comfortable peering into my crystal ball and predicting the future.

    As a life-long Hoosier, you get accustomed to watching change start somewhere else and then slowly move to Indiana. In my lifetime we’ve seen a slow change of public thinking and legislative action on anti-misogyny laws, the lottery, riverboat gambling, pari-mutuel gambling, off-track betting, Sunday liquor sales, banking across county lines, and LGBT rights. Change, in the halls of the Indiana legislature is like pulling teeth, but significantly more painful.

    I remember when factory workers from Kokomo would pool their money and designate someone to drive to another state to buy lottery tickets each week. These people were going to buy lottery tickets no matter how far they had to drive. The ready availability of the tickets just across the state line made this practice only slightly inconvenient. Observant legislators saw potential state revenue slipping away across an imaginary line designating a state border. The mentality of our legislature changed from “we must avoid the scourge of gambling” to “how do we get our hands on that money?”

    Lest I be judged as overly cynical, it isn’t always about money. Sometimes the critical mass of public opinion just overwhelms the legislature. It seemed perfectly reasonable to the Indiana legislature to pass legislation (RFRA) that appeared to deny certain rights to the LGBT community. That changed in a heartbeat when the roar of vox populi nudged our reluctant elected representatives into a rewrite of the legislation.

    So now we come to the issue of marijuana legalization.

    Marijuana legalization is gathering momentum around the country and soon will be knocking on those big oak doors at the Indiana Statehouse. California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and five other states have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. Twenty states, including neighboring Illinois and Michigan, have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. It would be safe to say that the Hoosier State is already behind the curve when compared to the rest of the Union.

    As I write this I can hear my late mother say, “Just because your friends poke their eyes out with sticks doesn’t mean you have to do it!” That’s right mom. Just because those other states have legalized marijuana does not force us to do it, too. However, the expansion of legalized marijuana by other states and other countries does put the Hoosier State in a quandary.

    Recently, I visited Amsterdam on a European vacation. I was curious to check out the ready availability of marijuana and its effects on the Dutch population. I fully expected to find a purple haze of semi-catatonic people just getting stoned while the dikes were all leaking. I expected to find marijuana cafes more prevalent than the Golden Arches and edging out Stroop Waffles as the national treat. 

    Neither was true.

    The Dutch people, for all of the availability of marijuana cafes, are an amazingly energetic and productive people. In a country where there are more bicycles than people, it is hard not to admire the speed and intensity at which the Dutch approach their work and life. To step off a street corner in Amsterdam is to invite death on the horns of a commuter’s bike handles.

    The marijuana cafes are prevalent but discreet. There are significantly more pastry and raw herring shops than dope dens. You could walk down the street and catch a whiff of marijuana wafting out from the cafes, but it was not as overpowering as I had expected. The souvenir shops all sold marijuana tee shirts and what-nots, but all in all, the whole marijuana scene was pretty much understated. In the cafes you could choose from a variety of types of weed, similar to a Baskin-Robbins. They also sold baked goods like brownies and cookies laced with an herbal infusion. There weren’t long lines of stoners queued up like at Starbucks.

    The only real indication of the overt popularity of the availability of marijuana came from an Uber driver. My wife asked him if he was from Amsterdam. He said that he lived out in the country, but moved to Amsterdam so that he could be closer to the marijuana shops. 

    Much closer to home, the legalization of marijuana poses some interesting and powerful dilemmas. In Michigan, if you are struggling with the pain of cancer or the nausea connected with chemotherapy, you can get a doctor’s prescription for marijuana to deal with your symptoms. Legal to get relief in Niles, Michigan, but illegal in South Bend. 

    In Colorado, as an entrepreneur, you can start a store selling recreational marijuana, pay taxes on your profits and be a proud member of the Chamber of Commerce. In Marion, Indiana, you’ll be arrested and sent to the state prison system. In California, you can smoke dope on the weekend while you watch football games and then go to work like everyone else on Monday. In Indiana, you may be tested for marijuana use and denied employment. In Seattle, you can eat a marijuana brownie on the way to the airport, fly to Indiana, and be arrested when the police dog at the airport sniffs an extra brownie in your carry-on bag.

    As the legalization of recreational marijuana spreads ever closer to Indiana, three considerable economic issues will arise. You will read stories that our young, tech-savvy college graduates are leaving the state to go live and work in marijuana legal states. You will read stories that companies promising the employment of thousands are being denied their opportunity because of Indiana’s “archaic” laws. Finally, you will learn from your legislator about the millions of dollars of lost tax revenue that could pay for better education, health care and roads due to marijuana not being legalized.

    All of these issues and more will rise up around the Hoosier State like wild hemp along a northern Indiana railroad track. Like gambling and Sunday liquor sales, the inexorable movement toward marijuana legalization will consume the state until our conservative home is dragged into the present.

    The legalization of marijuana will be formulaic. The Indianapolis Star will have a story about Billy Negroni who suffers from severe migraine headaches caused by long division. The story will tell how only marijuana brownies relieve his pain. You’ll see headlines about Zip Johnson-Yablonski who has had his promising professional football career derailed by being busted at his junior prom for a cummerbund stuffed with a dime bag. WRTV will scream a story during sweeps week about the potential SAT score benefits to Indiana if pot is legalized due to fewer students taking the exam.

    The governor will call a press conference and announce that Engulf and Devour Corporation is considering Indiana for its fourth national headquarters, but that potential drawbacks are lack of a light-rail commuter system and legalized pot for its millennial software engineers. The governor hypothesizes that legalized marijuana that is taxed would provide the funds to build a light-rail system and satisfy the employment needs of Engulf and Devour.

    Finally, Rep. Vern Pussbucket will introduce legislation naming hemp as the state weed.

    I am totally neutral on the subject of marijuana legalization, but I believe that it will come in the not-so-distant future. It will pick up its first critical momentum when marijuana producers hire the lobbying arms of the top four or five Indiana law firms to take up their cause. The money and favors will flow and before you can say, “They’re off!” at Hoosier Downs, they’ll be tokin’ and smokin’ from Bean Blossom to Fort Wayne.

    Change is inevitable and I am afraid that marijuana legalization is just another societal change that will come kicking and screaming into our state. I’m going long on Doritos futures!. 

    Dunn is the former 4th CD and Howard County Republican chairman.
  • Brian Howey: Teaching our children (in the age of Trump)

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - Growing up, my parents and my teachers in Michigan City and Peru taught me about our great presidents. The first one, George Washington, would never tell a lie. Perhaps the greatest, Abraham Lincoln, urged his war torn nation to bind up its wounds with “malice toward none and charity toward all.”

    There was Franklin D. Roosevelt who reassured a shaken nation during the Great Depression and the rise of facism that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And there was John F. Kennedy, who told us to “ask not” what our country could do for you; “ask what you can do for your country.”

    If I were to choose a soundtrack for this, it would be the classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song: “Teach Your Children.”  As our nation recoiled in assassination, race riots and war in 1970, they told us that we “must have a code, which you can live by.” As a parent of successful sons and daughter, I conveyed their father’s hell, fed them my dreams, urged them to seek the truth, and I constantly expressed my love for them.

    On Wednesday, two former American presidents - Barack Obama and Bill Clinton - a former presidential nominee, a former vice president, a former attorney general, two Members of Congress, an Oscar-winning actor, two U.S. senators and a cable TV network were to receive pipe bombs, except they were intercepted by the Secret Service and in the case of Robert DeNiro, by an attentive employee. On Friday, we watched the arrest of Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man. Authorities confiscated his van, which was covered with bumper stickers and decals of President Trump.

    Historian Jon Meacham compared this assault on American leaders as unseen since the horrific night of April 14, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth and his henchmen assassinated President Lincoln and unsuccessfully attempted to rub out the secretary of state and vice president. It was an attempt to decapitate the American government.

    How did President Trump react to these events last Wednesday?

    In the months, weeks and months prior to this domestic terrorism, our president applauded the assault of a journalist by a Montana candidate and current member of Congress. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my guy,” our president said.

    As a presidential candidate in February 2016, Trump said at Cedar Rapids, “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell ... I promise you I will pay for the legal fees.”

    And there was that protester escorted by security from a Las Vegas rally. "I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you,” he said.

    In Sioux City in January 2016, candidate Trump famously said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s like incredible.” 

    Yes, incredible. Really.

    In Wisconsin on the night of these bomb discoveries, Trump said at a rally, reading from a teleprompter: “My highest duty, as you know, as President, is to keep America safe. That’s what we talk about. That’s what we do. The federal government is conducting an aggressive investigation and we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice. Hopefully very quickly. Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy, itself.”

    Yes, Mr. President, any threat of political violence. From anyone. Even you.

    Then our president ad libbed: “Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective. By the way, do you see how nice I’m behaving today? Have you ever seen this?”

    No, Mr. President, such calls for what the Constitution’s preamble promise, to “insure domestic tranquility” and “promote the general welfare” have been rare since you declared your candidacy, and eventually took the oath of office to defend that very Constitution. Words have consequences.

    On Friday night in North Carolina, Trump noted the Sayoc arrest, and said, “We must never allow political violence to take root in America” while pledging to “stop it and stop it now.” But prior to leaving for North Carolina, Trump was asked by reporters if he planned to tone down the rhetoric. “I could really tone it up,” he responded. He acknowledged Sayoc was a supporter, and “a person that preferred me over others.” He added, “There’s no blame. There’s no anything.”

    And there was this Friday Tweet: “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows.” Yes, he put the word “Bomb” in scare quotes. It’s important to note that 99% of Americans, 99.9% of Trump supporters won’t resort to violence. But this president (and people like U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters) goad their supporters and the real danger for Americans (and Trump’s political career) is that miniscule number of followers who will act on his words that encourage violence.

    At rallies in Elkhart and Evansville this year, I watched Hoosiers standing behind President Trump react to his vitriol and lies like they were a studio audience. Because this is really the “President Trump Reality Show.” It’s live, on TV, and he spins up fiction and stirs fear and loathing. He demeans women and his political opponents, and these audiences respond, “Lock her up!”

    I wonder about these folks: How did they teach their children? Did they teach them it’s OK to lie, to threaten and assault? And for those “leaders” who join our president on stage, who accept his platitudes and endorsements, is this OK? We don’t expect our governor, senators, congressmen and women, commissioners and mayors to lie and foment violence. If they did, Hoosiers would vote them out of office.

    Yes, I know many of you voted for Donald J. Trump to shake things up, tell it like it is, and drain the swamp. What is emerging in the era of Trump is a new American coarseness, a sense of intolerance, and fear. Where it’s OK to harangue our leaders in restaurants. With it, inevitably, comes violence as his supporters take their cues and lash out at their shared enemies. This violence now comes on both the extreme right and left.

    Are these the new lessons for our children? And the next generation of Hoosier and American leaders? Is this the new excusable conduct? What are you going to teach your children on this coming Election Day? And the one two years hence?

    The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at Find him on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.

  • Mark Souder: Mike and Joe nonsense
    FORT WAYNE – Will this nonsense never end? Joe Donnelly’s brother moved a plant to Mexico, like many other such plants. Joe earned some income and then sold his stock. It was a small percentage of his income. Oh yeah, and the axe he uses in an ad appears to have been made in Mexico.

    Mike Braun’s company sold auto parts made in China and Mexico. Like every other auto parts store. And some of the boxes were even labeled in Chinese and English! 

    These incessant ads that badger us if we try to watch television or listen to the radio, since they cancel each other out, now turn on “He lied, but he lied worse. No, he lied worse. No, you lied more.” They act like six-year-olds facing off in front of their parents. Beyond these inane ads, there are a few other things going on in the campaign.

    1.) Braun’s campaign is among the worst Senate campaigns in my lifetime. I’m not saying that he is wrong on issues, not qualified to serve as senator, a poor businessman, or anything else. Just that he has run an awful campaign. No grassroots, little money beyond his own, and after his terrific primary ads, in the fall campaign they’ve been terrible, or boring.

    2.) Braun’s version of campaigning is the antithesis of a Holcomb-Daniels style effort. The general rule is this: Voters are more Republican the farther away you get from the courthouse. This tends to be true even in heavily Republican suburban areas. Therefore, Mitch went everywhere in his RV. Eric found every basketball court and interesting food spot in the state. It was not only to meet people, but also was important for symbolism: We care about everybody, not just the big cities. We are real people, not just television props. In off-year elections, turnout in those areas matters more than in the presidential years. You can win by ignoring the smaller counties, but you can also lose. When you’re running against an incumbent, generally speaking you try harder.   

    3.) Braun’s ad called “Won’t Wait” is likely the worst Senate ad since Richard Roudebush, whose closing ad in his razor-thin loss to Vance Hartke in 1970 had pieces of the Republican elephant design coming together. I have seen his Google search, or whatever, ad many times and never once figured out a single point in the ad until I looked at it on-line. Even then, I don’t understand what they are trying to do. Instead of the humor and clarity of his primary ads, Braun’s fall ads are generally muddled, all over the place and worse than uninspiring: they are boring. 

    4.) Donnelly’s ads, on the other hand, are crystal clear: Democrat, what’s a Democrat? Joe is running as a sort of “Trump Lite.” A little bit of wall, some changes in health care, some of the tax cuts (maybe). He was against Kavanaugh, but only chooses to stress that he was for Gorsuch, which is basically irrelevant. It was a free vote. Braun was for Kavanaugh, but that of course is apparently not as important as where Joe’s axe was made. Both fear that actually talking about the Supreme Court is more politically risky than verbally assaulting each other over labels on boxes that include more than English. 

    5.) Donnelly, like he did against Mourdock (my way or the highway criticism which was then reenforced by Mourdock’s debate gaffe on abortion), has a thematic framework that has filled-in parts of his “What’s a Democrat?” theme. He has walked across bridges, chopped wood and tried every other analogy to suggest that in Washington there are three parties: Republicans, Democrats, and Hoosiers (as in “I stand with the people of Indiana”). His committee assignments, amendments and what votes he casts will be determined by whether he organizes with the liberal Democrat leadership, not Hoosiers.

    6.) If grassroots matter at all, Donnelly wins. He’s likable. Not fake likable; Joe is actually likable. He chose to be a Democrat and I chose to be a Republican, but we were good friends, genuine friends. That said, while it is preferable that we have likable people representing us, the political votes one casts – especially organizational ones – are more important than being friendly when running for senator in a closely divided Senate. You’re not electing a Rotary Club president. Many people don’t feel Braun is likable. I don’t know him so I don’t know. In his avoidance of grassroots campaigning, Braun appears to be like many successful businessmen, who know how to run a business but they don’t especially like regular people. If this election is determined by who seems most likable, Donnelly wins in a walk.

    7.) If the race is between Donnelly and Braun, Donnelly wins. If it is nationalized, Donnelly loses. That has been apparent since at least 2016, maybe since 2012. In other words, there is one issue that will motivate Republicans. We all know it. It is not 7,500 people marching toward the border like an invasion force, though that is part of it. It is not Judge Kavanaugh, or other court appointments, though that is part of it. It is not the turnaround of the American economy, though that is part of it. It is not rebuilding our national defense as the world becomes increasingly dangerous, though that, too, is part of it. The issue is this: Who is going to control the Senate? A single issue. Yet, somehow, even as people have begun voting, we are still mired in ads about who loves or hates Mexico the most. The Republicans, in particular, need to re-focus this right now or even the rightward tilt of Indiana will result in Indiana’s vote in the Senate siding with the Democrats in how the body is organized. In other words, it is decisive in all the above issues. Joe would not have the opportunity to vote for Gorsuch, or part of a wall, or some Obamacare reform, or some tax cuts, if the Democrats control the Senate. That is the issue.

    8.) Anyone or any poll who projects this race at this point is guessing – pure and simple guessing. Turnout is critical. Turnout isn’t a national question, or even a statewide stat. What matters is who turns out where in critical sub-sections of districts. It cannot be tracked with 370 people or 3,700 people polled. One poll claimed 90% of the voters intended to vote in this off-year election. Yeah, right. It may be high, but likely will be closer to the norm than it will be to 90%. And where turnout is high is what will matter – how many from which sub-clusters (e.g. will Republican conservative women vote more than Democrat-leaning women?) and from which specific geographical areas (which tend to be reflective of those sub-clusters). Right now, the only thing in Indiana we can predict with confidence is this: Joe Donnelly will either be reelected or defeated by a margin somewhere between significant or a cliff-hanger. But unless Braun and the Republicans get focused in these last two weeks, Donnelly will not only over-perform, he may actually win in a state that, on the surface, right now should be an easy GOP victory. 

    Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana.
  • Chris Sautter: Will Trump's fear tactics prevail?
    WASHINGTON – Will the 2018 midterm election turn out more like the 2017 off-year elections or more like the 2016 presidential election?  It could be a bit of both.

    Donald Trump won in 2016, in large part, due to his ability to stoke racial and sexist resentment. From the day of his announcement when he claimed Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers across the U.S. border to his constant attacks on women, particularly black women, Trump has used denigration, hate and fear mongering to energize a predominately white male political base.

    In 2017, however, this tactic failed to gain traction as Democrats won nearly everywhere an election was held. In Virginia, for example, Republican attempts to use MS-13 gangs and sanctuary cities as a wedge issue bombed as Democrats easily won a gubernatorial race some pundits believed was slipping away. They also erased a 32-seat Republican majority in the House of Delegates.

    Going into the 2018 midterm cycle Democrats were favored to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives while Republicans were favored to hold on to the Senate. Now, with less than two weeks to go, there has been little net change. Democrats look to gain roughly 30 seats in the House while Republicans appear poised to hang on to their two-seat Senate majority and perhaps even add a seat or two. Democrats also have a legitimate shot at winning as many as 10 gubernatorial races — victories that would help undo heavily gerrymandered legislative districts in many states.

    Still worried about Democratic gains, Trump has stuck to the script that won him the presidency. With the economy and tax cut arguments failing to energize his base, the president has taken his low road politics on the road, campaigning almost nonstop in deep red states like Texas and Montana in an attempt to bail-out  struggling Republican Senate candidates.

    Everywhere he goes, Trump employs fear to motivate Republican turnout, firing off practically every wedge missile in his arsenal. His speeches are invariably laced with racial rhetoric and sexist putdowns. Middle Eastern terrorists have infiltrated the caravan of Honduran migrants. Women who come forward to allege sexual misconduct are creating a “very scary time” for innocent young men. At a recent rally, Trump even declared himself a “nationalist,” using a racially charged term that evokes white supremacy and prompting a Twitter endorsement from David Duke.

    While there is evidence the Trump fear strategy is working in a few races, overall the results are mixed. In Florida, for example, Democrat Andrew Gillum appears headed to victory after the Republican nominee Ron DeSantis running as a Trump clone stumbled repeatedly over his own racist rhetoric. At the same time, Gillum’s momentum may have coattails, aiding Senator Bill Nelson in his re-election bid against Governor Rick Scott and Democratic House candidates in Florida.

    Similarly, Democrats appear to be rebounding in the Midwest.  Gubernatorial races favor Democrats in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin while Ohio is a tossup. All would amount to Democratic gains. Meanwhile, previously thought to be vulnerable Senators running for reelection — Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown — appear to be in good shape. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey are coasting to reelection.  Democrats have put multiple GOP-held House seats in play in nearly every Midwestern state.

    In Indiana, where Trump won by 19 points, Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly continues to hold on to a narrow lead. Businessman Mike Braun won the Republican nomination against two better-known congressmen with clever advertising. But in the general election campaign, Braun’s ads have fallen flat while he has been forced to play defense to attacks on his business practices. Meanwhile, Donnelly has deftly neutralized the immigration issue while his vote against the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination appears to have helped with the critical suburban women vote.

    Of course, Trump isn’t the first Republican to use race as a wedge. Since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Republicans have made little to no effort to compete for the African American vote, in effect writing them off to maximize the vote of disaffected whites. In 1968, Richard Nixon used his “southern strategy” to win over white voters with coded language designed to exploit racial fears. Following Nixon’s lead, nearly every Republican presidential candidate since has tried to exploit racial anxiety in an attempt to drive up the white vote. What Trump brought to the calculation are his sensational appeals to race — a proposed ban on Muslims, impugning the patriotism of black professional athletes, and the use of social unrest and gang violence in his attacks on Democrats. 

    Now Trump is resurrecting debunked claims of voter fraud as a way to delegitimize the 2018 election if things go badly for Republicans. The rallying cry of voter fraud, of course, is really a dog whistle for voter suppression aimed at people of color. Republican voter suppression is playing out in states all over the country. 

    Efforts to suppress the minority vote is no more apparent than in the Georgia gubernatorial race where former Democratic legislative leader Stacey Abrams is facing off against Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Political forecasters at FiveThirtyEight project this as the closest statewide race in the nation. Abrams would be the first female African-American governor of any state.

    Kemp as secretary of state has put on hold 53,000 recently registered voters (70% of whom are black according to an analysis by the Associated Press) because their information doesn’t match exactly as they are listed in other government databases. Some lack no more than a hyphen or a middle initial. Many of those voters will be forced to cast provisional ballots which have a reduced chance of being counted.

    Hardball politics in American political campaigns is as old as the Republic, as are efforts to suppress or manipulate the vote. But presidents have generally served as unifiers, trying to stay above the fray while leaving the dirty work to others. 

    Yet, Donald Trump’s polarizing rhetoric is what is driving the growing racial and gender divides in America just as his attacks on Democrats as “evil” and the media as “enemy of the people” and his general willingness to excuse violence is giving permission to radicals and crazies to commit violence. 

    Americans often use elections to put a check on one party rule and out-of-the-mainstream politics. 

    Today many Americans are worn out and frightened by a presidency that seems out-of-control and filled with hate. If those Americans show up at the polls on Nov. 6, there is a chance to get our politics back on course. 
    Sautter is a Democratic consultant based in Washington, D.C.
  • Morton Marcus: Facts and context replaced by rants and rage
    INDIANAPOLIS – The 2018 elections are upon us. Just turn on your TV if you don’t believe me. But why should you do that? Facts, context and experience are old fashioned ideas in today’s world. They have been replaced by rant, rote, and outright lies.
    Normally, this column is over-stuffed with data. Not this time. Instead we’ll stay in the stratosphere where there isn’t enough oxygen to support facts.

    Tonight (which may be several days before you read this), I’ll deliver a talk on fear in our nation. Since I have no qualifications as a psychologist, I am perfectly positioned to deliver this lecture.
    Fear is often based on ignorance and the willful disregard of facts, context and experience. Thus, Shakespeare kills off Polonius, the character in Hamlet who advises his son, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” The Bard knew better. Borrowing and the resultant debt are rational, healthy aspects of economic life.
    The issue is not the borrowing, but how the money borrowed is spent. If it finances tickets to a punk-rock band performing at an over-priced, mosquito-infested concert, then borrowing is just another link in a chain of poor judgement. Borrowed funds spent by government for education and infrastructure make sense. Borrowed for the enshrinement of an ideology is foolery. That’s why most monuments in Washington are privately funded whether it be FDR, Martin Luther King Jr. or Senator Robert A. Taft.
    Our national debt is not comparable to household or corporate debt. Nevertheless, the fear of a national collapse because of the debt is rampant. Fear and paranoia of a stock market collapse is quite popular these days. But there is no movement to reduce the “irrational exuberance” of investors that inflates stock prices. Nor are we prepared to halt the manipulation of stock prices by repurchases that ultimately increase the compensation of executives. Remember the corporate tax cuts that were intended for investment or higher wages?
    Diversity of assets is the best protection against a stock market “correction” we are told. It also provides protection with regard to inflation, deflation, and other concerns. It’s avoiding the placement of all your eggs in one basket.
    According to many fear-mongers, artificial intelligence is the enemy of mankind. So too was the horse-drawn harvester, the sewing machine, and anything that replaced good old-fashioned walking, like elevators or electric scooters. There are real concerns in each of these examples. But even mild agitation may set the stage for inappropriate corrective or preventive actions. Laws requiring a man to walk with a red lantern in front of automobiles proved unproductive. 
    To be overwhelmed by the thought of risk is as foolhardy as being exclusively enamored with the rewards. It is like breaking off an engagement when you see your prospective mother- or father-in-law and fear that your intended will transform into one of them. 

    Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at Follow his views and those of John Guy on “Who gets what?” wherever podcasts are available.
  • Rich James: Chyung could pull off another Lake upset
    MERRILLVILLE – Every once in a while, an upstart candidate files for office, gets organized and shocks the electorate by beating an incumbent. It even has happened in Lake County where Democratic incumbents have little to worry about when it comes to re-election.
    One of the most memorable election upsets came in 1978 when Jack Crawford stunned Lake County Democrats and ousted county Prosecutor Ray Sufana in the primary. Crawford was young, good-looking and had an army of volunteers knocking on doors around the county.
    Chris Chyung thinks it can happen again. Chyung is the Democratic candidate for state representative in House District 15. Unlike Crawford, Chyung is facing an incumbent Republican in Rep. Hal Slager, who is seeking a fourth term. And House District 15 was tailor-made for Slager by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that drew new district lines following the 2010 census.
    To a casual observer, it would be easy to think Chyung has a pretty good shot at pulling off an upset. While driving through the district that includes Dyer, Schererville and St. John as well as a piece of Griffith, the number of Chyung signs easily out paces those bearing Slager’s name. And Chyung ads frequently appear on cable television while Slager can’t be found on the airwaves.
    While Chyung is young and energetic, Slager has the benefit of having been around for a good period. Prior to being elected to the legislature, Slager spent more than a decade on the Schererville Town Council. Slager also has defeated two prominent Lake County Democrats; in 2012, Slager edged Thomas O’Donnell whose Lake County Council district encompassed much of the 15th House District. Since then, Slager has trounced Jim Wieser, who now is county Democratic chairman, as well as beating O’Donnell a second time.

    Not surprisingly, Chyung opposes the precinct consolidation engineered by Slager through special legislation. Chyung also embraces other Democratic issues such as jobs that can’t be outsourced, universal pre-kindergarten and transportation solutions to keep up with a growing community. He also has vowed not to take corporate money.
    No one is saying Chyung is going to win – probably not even O’Donnell or Wieser. But, no one thought Jack Crawford was going to oust Ray Sufana 40 years ago. 
    Rich James has been writing about politics and government for 40 years. He is retired from the Post-Tribune, a newspaper born in Gary. 
  • Jack Colwell: Oppo research in the 2nd CD
    SOUTH BEND - Opposition research enables Congresswoman Jackie Walorski to portray challenger Mel Hall in a far different way than he was defining himself all summer with his TV spots about youth on a Hoosier farm, service as a minister and experience as a successful South Bend business executive.

    “Oppo research,” as political consultants call it, is the search for something negative that can be used against an opponent, especially in the TV ads that seek to inflict a negative image.

    The search for useful information about Hall found that he had for a time lived in Washington and was an advisor on health care there for a large global law firm that does lobbying for some clients.

    Thus, in TV ads and debates, Walorski, the Republican incumbent in Indiana’s 2nd District, portrays the Democratic challenger as a lobbyist, a liar and a “Washington insider.”

    As Hall was defining himself in a positive way with effective TV ads, some naïve Democrats thought that Walorski couldn’t counter with negative attacks because Hall, a newcomer to politics, had no legislative voting record or government credentials to attack. Nonsense, of course. Opposition research goes beyond voting records, often finding things in a candidate’s past that tarnish an image, fairly or unfairly.

    If Walorski had just let Hall paint a positive image of himself and define her as unresponsive to voters and afraid to debate, she would have faced defeat, even though nine of the 10 counties of the district voted Republican in 2016.

    Walorski agreed to two televised debate _ even a third that neither side now seems anxious to hold. Smart decision by Walorski. She showed she could and would debate. And she won the first debate.

    The opposition research helped Walowski to take the offensive. Hall seemed taken aback by her claims that he had been a lobbyist, that he lived in a luxury condo at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington and that he had voted in Washington. There is no indication that he ever lobbied. But he did live in the condo, although he says it was for a short time, and he did vote in D.C, an indication that he regarded himself as a D.C. resident.

    In the second debate, Walorski started strong. But she lost that one by the end by hammering away again and again and again, no matter the question, on a contention that there was something sinister about Hall being an advisor on health care matters at Dentons, the giant global law firm with something like 7,700 lawyers. She kept citing lobbying for a pharmaceutical firm accused of products harmful to pregnant women.

    Hall, no registered lobbyist, didn’t lobby for the pharmaceutical firm or for any of the other clients for which Dentons has provided lobbying, from Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Assn., to the World Wildlife Fund.

    Bringing up oppo research findings about Hall for a time recently living and voting in D.C. and still having a Ritz condo there was fair game to counter his farmer-minister image. Accusing him of involvement in harming pregnant women certainly was not.

    Despite being taunted as a liar, Hall remained calm, answered debate questions and stayed on message, especially on health care, a key issue.

    Hall wasn’t just passive, as he seemed too often to be in the first debate. He accused Walorski of constantly referring to her negative “talking points.” Hall also constantly cited his criticism that Walorski voted 11 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

    The debates won’t decide the election. Nor will reaction either way to the opposition research. But it’s all part of defining candidate images. And image will be what it’s all about in the TV war going right up to Election Day. 

    Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.   
  • Linda Chezem: The old shell game when it comes to NDAs
    MARTINSVILLE – With all the various sexual harassment stories popping up in the news, one is reminded of the old walnut shell game. Wondering which shell hides a kernel of corn is fun for a child, but for adults hunting for kernels of truth in the name of fairness, the political shell game is troubling.
    What factors hide the truth when public officials are charged with sexual harassment or other objectionable conduct? Universally, there are unwritten codes of conduct to not be a tattletale. Additionally, when an elected official holds perceived power over staff or other office holders, then support or silence may be seen as a critical political survival tactic. 
    If the conduct and the threat of public knowledge are serious enough, an accused officeholder may make a payment or a settlement that includes a provision that the settlement or payment cannot be disclosed. This kind of agreement is known as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and has historically withheld the kernel of truth from public scrutiny.
    Such agreements or settlement are rumored to be fairly common. Who knows whether Indiana has legislators who have paid for such agreements? There are no requirements for public disclosure about sexual harassment claim payments and Indiana officeholders. Whether any public funds have been used to pay claimants of harassment is not easily ascertainable by the public.  
    Regardless of what may be happening in Indiana, there are several indications that the confidentiality of such payments may be short-lived, at least in states other than Indiana. A number of states have considered and a few have enacted legislation about non-disclosure agreement enforcement. 
    The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that “2018 has brought an unprecedented amount of legislation on sexual harassment and sexual harassment policies. Some 32 states have introduced over 125 pieces of legislation.
    States have introduced legislation to expel members, criminalize sexual harassment in legislatures, and mandate harassment training within the legislature, among other topics.” 
    One example of a state’s legislative activity was enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona: 2 Section 1. Title 12, chapter 6, article 12. Confidentiality agreements; disclosure of information relating to sexual assault or sexual harassment; applicability.

    A. A confidentiality agreement that restricts the disclosure of factual information that is related to a sexual assault or sexual harassment, including factual information that is related to an allegation of or attempted sexual assault or sexual harassment, is against this state’s public safety and policy and is void and unenforceable.

    B. A person may not enter into a confidentiality agreement that restricts the disclosure of factual information that is related to an allegation of or attempted sexual assault or sexual harassment by an elected official.
    C. This section does not apply to the disclosure of a minor crime victim’s medical or personal identifying information or to other information that is specifically protected from disclosure by law.
    Indiana is not the only state that is dealing with these questions. Wisconsin taxpayers paid $75,000 to a former lawmaker’s aide who complained of sexual harassment and discrimination and filed a complaint alleging she was wrongfully fired from her job, records show.
    As the states consider various provisions, there are strong policy reasons to require public disclosure of such agreements by elected or appointed officials.
    What is the fair balance for protection of the privacy of a legitimate victim as well as for the protection of wrongfully accused public official? Being a victim should not require one’s sacrifice of privacy just as being a public official should not put a target on one’s back. The argument is stronger for requiring disclosure when public officials are involved than when an agreement is between to two private parties. When public trust is assailed on all sides and transparency is bandied about like a political shibboleth, maybe it is time to consider what must be disclosed. 
    The National Conference of State Legislatures prepared a memo on Sexual Assault in the Workplace and it was updated in June 2018. The memo provides a state-by-state review.
    Do I think the Indiana General Assembly is going to deliberate upon any question of appropriate disclosure of NDA? Nope! I am predisposed to believe that past experience is often indicative of the future in Indiana.
    Rep. Matt Pierce from Bloomington introduced House Bill 1237 last session and it was promptly assigned to the House Judiciary Committee by Indiana House Speaker Bosma, never to see the light of day. Rep. Pierce apparently thought the subject matter presented an emergency need for this bill and included language for the law to become effective on July 1, 2018. 
    Here is the rather simple, easy to understand, language of the bill:
    A BILL FOR AN ACT to amend the Indiana Code concerning civil procedure.

    Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana:

    Chapter 4. Certain Nondisclosure Agreements
    Sec. 1. This chapter applies to agreements or contracts entered into after March 31, 2018.
    Sec. 2. (a) Except as provided in section 3 of this chapter, a provision in any agreement or contract that has the purpose or effect of concealing details relating to a civil claim or settlement or resolution of any civil claim of:
    (1) sexual assault;

    (2) sexual harassment; or

    (3) sexual discrimination;
    is declared to be contrary to the public policy of Indiana and void.
    (b) The claim described in subsection (a) includes:

    (1) a formal or informal internal complaint; or

    (2) threatened, anticipated, or commenced litigation.
    Sec. 3. The name of the person who claims to be the victim of:

    (1) sexual assault;

    (2) sexual harassment; or

    (3) sexual discrimination;

    And who is a party to an agreement or contract described in section 2 of this chapter shall be withheld from disclosure at the person’s request or by court order.
    SECTION 2. An emergency is declared for this act.
    Beyond Indiana, at the federal level we see some slight advancement of the public policy argument to discourage non-disclosure terms in settlement agreements in the tax code. The Internal Revenue Code §162(q) as recently passed by Congress in the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act) states:
    No deduction is allowed for any settlement or payment related to sexual harassment or sexual abuse if the settlement or payment is subject to a nondisclosure agreement. No deduction is permissible for attorneys’ fees related to a confidential sexual harassment settlement or payment. These payments remain tax-deductible, however, if they are not subject to a nondisclosure agreement.
    It is interesting that the tax code is aimed at private taxpaying employers. Prior to the tax code revision, many settlement agreements included confidentiality or nondisclosure clauses. The strategy behind the change appears to be to force employers to decide whether to forfeit tax benefits to retain secrecy or be able to deduct the payments as business expenses. If the provision was intended to discourage companies and their executives from hiding these claims about sexual conduct in the workplace from public scrutiny, what about public officials?
    Current events are raising lots of questions about who benefits and when is a public interest to be served by non-disclosure agreements. These questions are just not publicly discussed in Indiana.  
    Don’t you just love sunlight along the Wabash? 
  • Jack Colwell: Donnelly takes on the blue shirt
    SOUTH BEND – Sen. Joe Donnelly is seeking to turn Mike Braun’s blue shirt inside out, seeking to make the Republican challenger look funny, phony. Braun’s trademark blue shirt was positive attire for him in defeating two formidable Republican congressmen in the GOP primary. He contrasted his open-collar look with cardboard cutouts of the congressmen, each with coat and tie, Washington lookalikes. His TV ads on that theme, blue-shirt outsider from the business world vs. Washington suits, were acclaimed as best in the Indiana primary, key to his victory.

    Blue shirt giveth. Could blue shirt taketh away?

    The Democratic Senate Majority PAC, supporting Donnelly, has countered Braun’s claim as an open-collar-blue-shirt kind of guy, mocking him in a series of TV ads as really a millionaire businessman mistreating workers and falsely denying selling “Made in China” stuff.

    One TV spot featured two Mikes in blue shirts. One is identified as Mike Hunter, an electrician who “wears a blue shirt to work.” The other is Braun, “who wears one to hide the truth.”

    Another showed multiple pictures of Braun in his blue shirt, while a narrator declares: “How to act like you stand up for workers: Wear a blue shirt . . . again, and again and again. Just ask millionaire Mike Braun. But a blue shirt can’t hide a bad record. Mike Braun’s company has been cited 122 times for workplace violations, including unsafe conditions and refusing overtime for workers who earned it.”

    Some viewers, maybe many, will find mocking of the blue shirt kind of funny, just as many viewers found Braun’s mocking of the suits, the congressmen, funny in the primary campaign.

    Belittling suits worked. Will belittling of Braun’s blue shirt as phony work now? If Donnelly wins re-election in this toss-up race, those blue-shirt TV ads could be acclaimed, just as Braun’s ads were this spring.

    One of the most effective campaign strategies is to take a positive part of the opponent’s image and turn it into a negative. The congressmen Braun defeated had positive credentials for a Republican primary with their voting records in Washington. Braun turned that into something negative, portraying them as cookie-cutter members of a Congress with low approval.

    Now, how many voters looking at Braun will find his blue shirt something positive? How many will come to view it as a symbol of phoniness, something negative?

    Donnelly picked up the theme in the first debate, telling his opponent: “Mike, you need to do more than take your tie off to gain the trust of the people of Indiana.”

    There actually was speculation before the debate that Braun might show up in different attire. Did he fear his trademark blue shirt had become a joke?

    But what could he do? Abandon the trademark attire that had brought success? Wear a red shirt to show readiness to counter any blue wave? Wear an extremely long tie to stress admiration of President Trump? Wear blue suede shoes to match his shirt and attract the votes of Elvis fans?

    While both candidates stress cooperating with President Trump, there’s no doubt that Braun, endorsed by Trump, would be more supportive of everything Trump. And there’s no doubt that Donnelly, a moderate who has often sided with Trump proposals, would be more likely to vote against some future Trump proposals.

    There are important issues in the Senate race. Health care ranks No. 1. So, should a blue shirt be an issue? Why not? Image is important. Nothing new.

    Political consultants, making a living by burnishing or bashing images, could after Nov. 6 advise all male candidates in Indiana to wear open-collar blue shirts. Always. Or they could warn that winning with the blue shirt could lead to losing in the political image battles on TV if your opponent turns your blue shirt inside out. 

    Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.
  • Rich James: Maybe casinos will actually help Gary
    MERILLVILLE – Maybe, just maybe, this casino thing will work out for Gary when all is said and done.

    Former state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, was the driving force that launched the casino industry in Indiana. She thought the casinos would do two things for Gary – make a drastic cut in unemployment and provide a huge revenue source for the city. Neither, unfortunately, happened.

    With the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond and the Ameristar Casino in East Chicago capturing the bulk of the traffic from Chicago, the Majestic Star Casino in Gary has remained at the bottom of the revenue stream. Initially, both the Majestic Star and Trump casinos were in Gary. When Trump bailed out, the two casinos both came under the Majestic Star name.

    A year after opening, I remember a Trump official saying they thought they could get enough Chicagoans south on Cline Avenue to make things work in Gary. It never happened.

    But now, 22 years after the Gary casinos opened, there is hope.

    Two firms have studied Gary’s potential and there is a plan to develop the Buffington Harbor area on Lake Michigan into a transportation, freight and logistics hub. State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, who replaced Rogers when she retired, is carrying the plan for the development in conjunction with state assistance. Melton said that with Lake Michigan, national rail lines, several interstate highways, the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the proximity to Chicago make Gary the ideal site for development.

    But the casinos will have to find a new home. And this brings us back to the beginning.

    Initially, Gary wanted its casino to be built along Interstate 94, the state’s busiest highway, to benefit from the heavy traffic. But when it was decided that the casinos had to be on water, thoughts about I-94 traffic vanished, even though some held out hope for putting a casino in a small pond at the intersection of I-94 and I-65.

    Now, Melton sees the development at Buffington Harbor and moving the casino to the highway as a double boost for Gary’s staggering economy.  Melton acknowledges that moving the casino to the interstate would draw opposition from Hammond and East Chicago. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. likely would lead that opposition, just as he has in the past for projects that he thought would help Gary and hurt his city.

    The Indiana legislature approved casinos, both in northwest Indiana and along the Ohio River, because they would be viewed as riverboat casinos and not carry the stigma of land-based casinos. But, much has changed since legalized gambling came to Indiana. Land-based casinos operated by Native American tribes have opened in New Buffalo, Mich., not far from the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, as well as in South Bend.

    And, the threat grows stronger each year that land-based casinos will be approved for suburbs surrounding Chicago, including near the Indiana state line. 

    Rich James has been writing about politics and government for 40 years. He is retired from the Post-Tribune, a newspaper born in Gary. 
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  • Holcomb reacts to Amazon HQ2 miss
    “I am proud of Indiana’s efforts to pursue Amazon’s second headquarters. Our economic development teams worked with all the key partners to quickly and creatively put together an outstanding proposal and coordinated our efforts with leaders in northwest, central and southeast Indiana. Responding to this bid showed the world that Indiana has become a global destination for business and a thriving community for tech. We’ll continue to work with Hoosier communities and companies like Amazon, with their more than 9,000 Hoosier employees, to take Indiana to the Next Level and ensure we are the very best place to live, work and play.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, reacting to news that Amazon will place its split HQ2 in New York and Washington suburbs. Indianapolis was one of 20 finalists.
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  • Marijuana and the 56% proposition (even in Indiana)

    Michiganders approved recreational marijuana with 56% of the vote, joining neighboring Canada and along with the West Coast states, Colorado, Maine and even North Dakota. It’s only a matter of time before Illinois joins the party. The Chicago Tribune  reports that incoming Democrat Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker favors legalization and Democrats in both chambers predict it will easily pass. “I suspect it’s a done deal,” said Pat Brady, former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “People see it as a new source of revenue. The true battle will be over who gets their cut of it taxwise.”

    Ohio voters rejected a referendum in 2016, but will vote on the issue in November 2019, so Indiana is poised to be the middle finger of pot prohibition, expending funds on enforcement instead of reaping a tax windfall. One thing that strikes us is with Michigan voters approving it with 56%, that's nearly identifical referendums in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, and the Howey Politics/WTHR Poll from 2016 showed about 56% of Hoosiers favored medicinal marijuana. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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