• Atomic! Sunday beer bong; Hathaway to RNC; Trump evolves on guns
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. On the brink of Sunday sales

    Here are your power cocktail hour talking points: Some Hoosiers have been waiting eight decades for this. With an 82-10 vote in House, complete with an expedited date of March 4, Hoosiers will be able to buy beer, wine and liquor everywhere from big box stores to the corner package store every day. This bill isn’t just on a fast track, it’s in a beer bongGov. Eric Holcomb  is expected to sign SB1. State Sen. Ron Alting, who sponsored the bill, said this morning, “Thanks to the hard work and leadership of the legislators in the Senate and House committees on Public Policy, this bill has moved through the General Assembly at record speed. Changing the effective date of this bill from July 1 to upon passage will provide Hoosiers with this convenience immediately. I look forward to concurring on this bill and sending it to the governor’s desk.”

    House Public Policy Chairman Ben Smaltz  said moving up the kick-in date from July 1 to March 4 is a no-brainer. "Normally we allow some time for communities to learn about the new law and for people to understand the change," Smaltz said. "But I think everybody gets this one. This isn't something that's very complicated at all." Jon Sinder  of the Indiana Retail Beverage Association said, “Indiana’s small business package liquor storesare already preparing for this eventual conclusion  by updating work schedules and when necessary hiring, training, and licensing new employees that attain our strict safety standards per Indiana law. We are excited for Sunday sales  and will be ready to open our doors.” So are we.

    2. Hathaway elected to RNC

    Veteran operative Anne Hathaway  was elected to the Republican National Committee, replacing Marsha Coats. Hathaway said, “I thank Gov. Eric Holcomb  and Chairman Kyle Hupfer  for recommending me for the incredible honor  of representing Indiana on the Republican National Committee. I have known Gov. Holcomb for over 20 years, and in that time he has always been a people-focused leader committed to bettering the lives of Hoosiers, and that continues to show every day as our governor. I have also come to greatly respect Chairman Hupfer and his team for the work they are doing to lay the groundwork for historic victories for Indiana’s Party of Purpose in November.” Hupfer said, “As a trusted friend and adviser of Gov. Holcomb and proud supporter of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, I know she will be a valuable asset  to the committee for years to come.”

    3. More teen gun threat arrests

    Students in Columbus, Madison, Evansville and Loogoottee have been arrested for making school related gun and bomb threats  over the past day or so. Most were posted on social media, including a couple on Snapchat. One Loogootee student said he brought a bomb to school, prompting officials to close early and conduct a bomb search. That prompted a community meeting Monday to talk about the threat. Some Hoosier students are stepping up on the activist frontWTHR-TV reports that a movement called "March for Our Lives" made up of Indiana students will March from Monument Circle to the Statehouse at 11 a.m. March 24. It comes as a Quinnipiac Poll shows 66% support stricter gun laws, the highest level recorded by this poll since it started polling the issue after the Sandy Hook 2012 Sandy Hook ES massacre.

    4. Trump evolving on gun issues

    President Trump ordered the Justice Department to propose a bump stock ban. “We can do more to protect our children. We must do more to protect our children,” Trump said during the announcement at the White House. Axios reports that Trump is also pondering imposing a minimum age  for people to buy guns, quoting him as saying, "We have to do something. We've got kids dying." Trump and Vice President Pence will be meeting with students who has survived school massacres  this afternoon. As we said earlier this week, the Parkland massacre is yielding a different environment.

    5. Pence meeting with North Koreans scrubbed

    The Washington Post  reported that while in South Korea for the Olympics, Vice President Pence  was open to a secret meeting with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as well as with the head of state, Kim Yong Nam. The Post quotes Pence Chief of Staff Nick Ayres saying, “North Korea dangled a meeting  in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics. North Korea would have strongly preferred the vice president not use the world stage to call attention to those absolute facts or to display our strong alliance with those committed to the maximum pressure campaign. But as we’ve said from day one about the trip: This administration will stand in the way of Kim’s desire to whitewash  their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics.”

    Stay dry, folks. It’s The Atomic!
  • Horse Race: Contrasts emerge in GOP U.S. Senate debate

    INDIANAPOLIS - The three Republican U.S. Senate candidates departed from well worn scripts and engaged in real contrasts during their first debate of what will likely be a $100 million race by the time a nominee engages Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly.

    The trio had spikes out with U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita taking aim at businessman Mike Braun, who he has called “tax hike Mike.” He chided U.S. Rep. Luke Messer for voting for a budget bill that will supercharge the federal budget deficit to an estimated $1.5 trillion. “It’s the choice our commander-in-chief gave us,” Messer said of President Trump. “He could be no clearer.” Then pivoted back to Rokita, who portrayed himself as the lone Trump supporter from the beginning of his campaign. “You can’t run around and say you support the president and then not support him,” Messer said.

    Jasper businessman Mike Braun summed up the contrast in his closing statement, noting that Rokita, Messer and Donnelly were “all lawyers, who never really practice, career politicians,” adding, “We do not need more politicians in DC. I've spent a career putting up with the work of politicians and bureaucrats. These guys have spent their career putting up roadblocks."

    The debate, sponsored by Americans For Prosperity and moderated by conservative WIBC talk show in the echoey Emmis Communications lobby, was broadcast live and marks the substantive opening of the Republican primary season. All three candidates have about $2.5 million cash on hand, though the mostly self-funding Braun launched his fourth flight of TV and radio ads earlier in the day. The two congressmen have not advertised statewide on cable or broadcast TV. 

    And this race appears to be wide open as the money indicates. A January internal Rokita poll showed almost 60% if likely Republicans voters were undecided.

    So Tuesday’s contrasts were vital as Hoosier Republicans make a decisive decision on May 8. In 2016, they chose Todd Young over fellow congressman Marlin Stutzman, and Young went on to drub the once invincible Evan Bayh. But in 2012, Republican voters tossed out U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, only to watch Treasurer Richard Mourdock kick away the seat that had been in GOP hands for 36 years to Donnelly, who is often described as the most vulnerable Democrat in the 2018 cycle.

    Other key contrasts from Tuesday:

    Taxes: Braun shrugged off Rokita’s assault, saying that he opted for a well-researched highway infrastructure plan supported by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Republican legislative leaders. “I would never vote for a tax increase at the federal level,” he said, noting that “85% of my constituents said ‘fix the roads; don’t kick the can down the road.” HEA1002 passed in 2017 included fuel tax increases but will bump billions of dollars into roads and bridges in the coming decade.

    Messer noted that he support then Gov. Mitch Daniels Major Moves Indiana Toll Road lease in 2005 that yielded $3.8 billion. He said he would not support President Trump’s idea of a federal gas tax increase, saying, “When I was in the General Assembly, we were able to make a major investment without raising taxes.”

    Rokita, one of two Hoosier Republicans to vote against the budget deal (U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth was the other), said, “I don’t vote for bills for which the money hasn’t been printed. It’s OK to say no when no is required. Last thing we should do is raise taxes.” 

    Messer characterized the budget vote as a decision to fund the U.S. military, with Rokita retorting, “It’s a false choice.”

    Rokita added, “If you nominate one of these two, Joe Donnelly will be the tax cutter in the race."

    As Rokita and Braun trade shots on HEA1002, Messer quipped, "You know who loves this discussion the most? Joe Donnelly."

    Spending: Braun made the first of three references for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, saying that on federal spending, there's little difference between Democrats and GOP in Congress on the issue. He says he appreciates work of Sen. Paul, saying he had "backbone" and "discipline" adding that it will take “people who aren't beholden to anyone” to constrain federal spending.

    Rokita said, "The difference between Democrats and Republicans is we're telling Americans what the problem is" on spending.” He blasted "RINO Republicans" for stopping bill to block-grant Medicaid, which he sponsored. 

    Health care: Braun told one of campaign trail staples, saying that he figured out how to save his 850 employees money by acting like the insurance companies do. He said the result has been flat lined premiums. He said that neither congressman know how to solve real problems.

    Both Rokita and Messer agreed that removing the Obamacare individual mandate was a critical move. Messer explained, “Obamacare has devastated Indiana families” with ”$1,000 a month on policies with a $10K deductible. The individual mandate is one of the most onerous taxes.”

    Tariffs: Braun departed from President Trump, who has imposed tariffs on solar panels and appliances saying, "I think if you start getting into tariffs, unless it's something egregious one of your partners is doing ... you've got to keep your markets mostly free, and you've got to respond if one of your partners is abusing you. Over the years I’ve created more jobs than either one of these guys and I’m the one who knows how to do it. When it comes to tariffs and free markets, I understand it viserally because I have to live with it."

    Rokita was in Trump’s camp, saying, "Yeah if it helps America, I wanna have tariffs.”

    Messer said, “What I hear from the president is he’s for free trade and fair trade.”

    There will be at least one more debate sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission in April.
  • Atomic! Students flunk civics; gun reform; Potholopolis Council
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Indiana’s students flunking civics

    Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Across the nation, we’ve watched students jump into the post-school atrocity fray. They have known an America where mass shootings at schools, shopping malls and at concerts have become the norm. Many have had enough. The Wall Street Journal  Reports: “A nationwide walkout by teachers and students is planned for March 14, marches for March 24, and a day of protests on April 20, the anniversary of the deadly 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado. Smaller events are popping up as well. Students at Douglas High School plan to visit politicians in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, on Tuesday and Wednesday to urge them to tighten gun laws.” 

    But not in Indiana. Hoosier students are making news from Evansville, to Muncie, to Bloomington, to Boonville, making alarming videos with ominous warnings  about shooting schools up. They are skipping school in Carmel out of fear, as opposed to standing up against the persistent mayhem. "It's the copycat thing," Indiana State Police spokesman John Perrine  told the IndyStar. Perrine notes that police historically have seen increased threats after mass shootings. "When something is in the news, when something is fresh in people’s minds, it increases the threats ... Even if someone thinks it's a joke, we don’t think it’s funny." At least 10 Indiana districts have investigated either a real or rumored copycat threat  since Feb. 14. At least four people have been arrested as a result, and more arrests could be coming. Schools in Warrick County were in “lock out” mode due to threats here in the Age of Fake News and Real Massacres. Where are young Hoosier voices seeking change?

    2. 60% say Trump and Congress are inert

    A new Washington Post/ABC News Poll  shows that six in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings. In 1999, 70% of Republicans supported banning assault weapons. The Brady Bill was passed in 1993 with the help of former President Ronald Reagan, who made calls to Congressional Republicans to help pass the bill named after his press secretary Jim Brady, who was severely wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan. In this poll, 71% of Democrats support an assault weapons ban, 45% of independents and just 29% of Republicans. This comes as President Trump has reached out to his Mar-a-Lago friends to gauge what he should do. He is signaling an openness to expand background checks. “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders  said on Monday.

    3. Republican INSen debate tonight

    The 2018 debate season kicks off tonight  on Monument Circle as Republican U.S. Senate candidates Todd Rokita, Luke Messer and Mike Braundebate for 90 minutes with WIBC’s Tony Katz moderating. WIBC will broadcast the debate at 6 p.m. Americans For Prosperity in Indiana is hosting the debate, which they say will cover the topics of healthcare, taxes and spending, jobs and the economy. Is there an elephant on this table? Watch forHPI coverage this evening.

    4. As Indy crumbles, order restored at the council

    Indianapolis residents are watching their roads collapse. They are enduring consecutive years of record homicide rates. And yet the City-County Council has spent the first two months squabbling. Democrats finally pushed President Stephen Clay  out after a tortured month at the helm, replaced byCouncilman Vop Osili. Maybe they will have time now to deal with North Ho Chi Minh Avenue (we used to know it as Keystone before it began resembling a Vietnam bombing scene). Marion County Republican Chairman Jim Merritt  said this morning, “It’s been less than a month since I first spoke out about the deplorable conditions of our roads and they’ve only gotten worse. When I first challenged the administration on their lack of action to repair the crumbling roads in Indianapolis, there were about 1,700 open cases of potholes. Only three weeks later, we have nearly 5,000 reported cases of potholes.”

    5. To preserve, defend and protect . . .

    There is a consensus among U.S. intelligence leaders from Dan Coats  to FBI Director Christopher Wray  that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and will do so again in 2018. Coats told Congress last week, “Frankly, the United States is under attack.” But as New York Times  columnist David Leonhardt writes, “The current president of the United States refuses to acknowledge the attack, refuses to respond to it and refuses to help protect the country against a likely follow-up attack.” The Atlantic’s  David Frum observes, “At every turn, Trump has failed to do what a patriotic president would do – failed to put the national interest first.” And the NYT’s Thomas Friedman adds, “This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.” Whew.

    Thanks for reading, folks. Thank God for the warm weather. It’s The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Florida students lash back; Hoosier panic; Trump tweet retort
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Terrorized students become activists

    Here are your Monday morning talking points: We have become a jittery nation  with three of the worst massacres in U.S. history (Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland) occurring since October. There’s something different  about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS atrocity that claimed 14 young lives and three teachers: The students are entering the political debate, taunting adults and U.S. leaders  on why school massacres continue to happen. This did not happen after Columbine, Sandy Hook or even Virginia Tech. In those massacres, parents and gun reform activists took the lead. After Vegas, some country music stars like Roseanne Cash  began pushing back at the NRA, but not young folks.

    Most poignant is Stoneman Douglas senior Emma Gonzales, who said at a rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not. When adults tell me I have the right to own a gun, all I can hear is my right to own a gun outweighs your student's right to live. All I hear is mine, mine, mine, mine.” The Parkland students are planning a March 24 demonstration in Washington. A national student skip day is in the works for April 20, the 19th anniversary of Columbine.

    2. Rumors and panic in Indiana

    We have yet to see student activism in Indiana, which to this point has not had a school shooting or a mass atrocity beyond the Bertrand Products massacre in South Bend in 2002. Two Fairview Elementary students in Bloomington were taken into custody along with a parent and a teenager for issuing social media threats that featured an AK-47. An Evansville teen and a 19-year-old Muncie man were also arrested for making threats. The Muncie incident had the alleged perp using the social media name "Creepy Ahkbar," posting a photo on Snapchat that showed him holding a gun, saying, "Don't go to school tomorrow." Carmel Police are investigating social media threats  that roiled that school on Thursday and Friday, with hundreds of students skipping class on the latter. So this is palpable hysteria cascading across American culture.

    3. Trump’s tweetstorm and student retort

    President Trump, described as seeing the Robert Mueller indictments of 13 Russians initially as a victory, but then furiously perceiving a threat because he can no longer call the Russian collusion probe as a “hoax” and “witch hunt,” became incensed after Security Advisor H.R. McMaster  called theevidence “inconvertible.” Cornered, Trump linked the Parkland school massacre to the Russia probe  in yet another move that would make a crisis manager cringe. Trump tweeted, “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!” To which Marjory Stoneman Douglas students responded  via Twitter, “17 innocent people were brutally murdered at my school, a place where they should have felt safe. Their lives were gone in an instant. You are the president of the United States and you have the audacity to put this on Russia as an excuse. I guess I should expect that from you.” And another: “My friends were brutally murdered and you have the nerve to make this about Russia. I can not believe this.” 

    4. The Russians, Coats and Pence

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov  called the 13 Mueller indictments announced on Friday as “blabber.” But at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats  responded, “I am amazed that ... the Russians come, send someone every year to basically refute the facts.” Last week, Coats testified before a Senate committee acknowledging Russian meddling in the 2016 election and predicted interference in the 2018 midterms. The Trump administration appears unconcerned about the looming threat; there is no counter strategy coming from the White House. The Kremlin sought cover from, of all people, Vice President Mike Pence, with Lavrov suggesting that the former Indiana governor “denied that any country influenced results of the election.” 

    5. Voting with their feet over crumbling roads

    Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett  is concerned that an EDIT or CEDIT tax to raise money for road repairs, as former Fort Wayne mayor Paul Helmke did in the early 1990s when roads there fell into terrible shape, will prompt residents to move to the suburbs. Mayor, people will leave Indianapolis if the roads remain this terrible. Helmke and Fort Wayne Council Republicans (including current Senate President Pro Tem David Long) raised the tax, and The Summit City’s roads improved dramatically  in the following years. Taxpayers will accept a tax hike if they know they’ll get a return. Hogsett’s dilemma is that more than half a million Indy motorists are now paying 10 cents more a gallon  due to 2017’s HEA1002, and getting nothing in return  but broken axles, bent rims and far-flung hubcaps.

    Thanks for reading, folks. It’s The Atomic!
  • Atomic: Panic at Carmel HS; Trump promised to 'end carnage'; Joe sold out
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. School panic comes to Carmel

    Here are your final power lunch talking for the week: On Thursday morning, President Trump told a dazed nation in the wake of the Parkland massacre, the 18th time there has been a shooting at or near a school, with five resulting in death or injury: "Yesterday, a school filled with innocent children and caring teachers became the scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil. To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain.” Many found solace in the president’s remarks. He would go on to mention the need to confront mental health issues that will take tens of billions of dollars. But Trump never mentioned the word “guns.

    And now we’re watching the school shooter contagion spread to Carmel, IndWTHR-TV’s Dave Macanally’s  report showed a school in panic  after “rumors” spread via social media: Video posted on social media shows school staff restraining a student with special needs, a student who allegedly attacked a staffer. It happened Thursday in the Carmel cafeteria. In the confusion, someone yelled, “it’s happening.” With that, students started running from the building. There are social media postings showing students running through the corridor. Some parents came to the school to get them. Parent Sheryl Foote  told Eyewitness News she came to school “for his safety. I feel that things are out of control. Better safe than sorry.“ School administrators had to post a video reassuring parents and students. But there is no doubt, this is a jittery nation. Since the Sandy Hook school atrocity in December 2012 when 26 kids and teachers were slaughtered, some 439 people have been shot in 273 school shootings. There are 112 of these students, teachers, coaches, educators who have been killed. 

    2. Trump’s Republican acceptance speech

    At his Republican National Convention acceptance speech in July 2016, nominee Donald Trump  said: “Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger  is not fit to lead our country. Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on Jan. 20, 2017, safety will be restored. The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.” 

    3. President Trump’s inaugural address

    And as his inaugural address in January 2017, President Trump said, “Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods  for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public. But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

    4. The number of school shootings

    In the wake of the Parkland shooting, it was widely reported that this was the 18th school shooting in 2018. The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings. “This,” the organization tweeted at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday, “is the 18th school shooting in the U.S. in 2018.” But the Washington Post  reports the 18 included a suicide outside a Michigan high school basketball game and a shot fired at a Wake Forest University sorority party. Five school shootings in 2018 have resulted in injury and death. Everytown explains on its website that it defines a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.”

    5. Donnelly sold a bill of goods on Dreamers

    In January, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly  went along with MinorityLeader Chuck Schumer to back a deal to reopen the government. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s  promise was an open and honest debate on a deal for the Dreamers, one that Donnelly accepted. On Thursday, it became clear that Donnelly and Schumer were sold out. A series of DACA deals died in the Senate. As the New York Times reported: “The promised freewheeling, take-on-all-comers Senate showdown over immigration policy never really materialized before it all collapsed Thursday with the defeat of four proposals, including President Trump’s, which suffered the worst loss of them all. After raising expectations of an elevated, old-school clash of ideas, the Senate delivered a dud. McConnell: "I think it’s safe to say this has been a disappointing week.” The danger for Donnelly is that his base will watch the prospects of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to be uprooted from the only country they know, just three weeks away.

    Have a great weekend, folks. It’s The Atomic!
  • Horse Race: Eyes on primary battles in 4th, 9th CDs

    NASHVILLE, Ind. – Indiana was once a vivid battleground for control of the U.S. House during wave years, with three seats shifting to Republicans in 1994 and three going to the Democrats in 2006. In 2010, while Republican Todd Young upset U.S. Rep. Baron Hill in the 90th CD, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly barely staved off State Rep. Jackie Walorski in the 2nd by just 2,500 votes in that Tea Party election.

    If you believe the Cook Partisan Index, the closest congressional districts today are the Democratic 1st (+8) and the Republican 5th (+9). So Indiana’s traditional congressional competitiveness is a victim of shrewd Republican computer skills employed during the 2001 redistricting process. Yes, those maps nested and respected county and municipal boundaries. But with a self-sorting population, they were a Republican safety net. Since those maps took place, there hasn’t been an upset, or anything close to it.

    A wave induced by President Trump, whose tweeting, insults and constant badgering of friend and foe alike have prompted dozens of Hoosier women to enter General Assembly and congressional races, appears to be emerging. What will be tested are the strength of the 2011 maps. By the fourth election cycle in the lifespan of maps, some of the assumptions change due to voter migration. When we first checked out the 9th CD, our calculation was that it had the potential to be competitive by this election cycle. However, most trend lines are of people moving to places where most have similar beliefs and values, prompting Purdue President Mitch Daniels to talk about gerrymandering giving way to strange shaped “salamandering” districts that might provide some competition.

    There is speculation that an anti-Trump wave could be historic in nature, akin to the 1964 LBJ wave that took an Indiana House Republican majority and left them with just a couple of dozen seats. That election came after legislative Republicans forged the first sales tax. Trump has been mired in the 35% approval range for most of 2017, though there has been an uptick into the 40% range recently, which is still an awful number for any incumbent. So the question today is whether there’s enough Trump “teflon” to keep his Republican Party – and it is his GOP – from suffering dramatic and historic losses.

    This past week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” President Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina made a couple of points to keep in mind. First, ignore the co-called “congressional generic” ballot until next August or September. It will bounce around, as it has been these past few weeks. Late summer is when it will take on more relevance. And Messina underscored the value of “voter intensity.” We saw that dynamic take place with Republicans in 1994 and 2010, and with Democrats in 2006 when those party bases turned out while many in the vanquished sat the election out.

    Voter intensity is the key. Right now, there is a distinct Democratic edge in intensity.

    We’re glued to the 9th CD Democratic primary where there is a real dog fight between Democrats Liz Watson and Dan Canon. Another is taking place in the 4th CD between Republicans Diego Morales and Steve Braun. But when it comes to the fall, realistically it will be the 2nd and 9th that potentially could change hands, and both will be outliers if such a Democratic wave takes shape. If we’re talking about the 3rd CD in October, where Democrat Courtney Tritch has found some uncharacteristic money traction for a Democrat, then the Grand Old Party will be at the precipice of a stunning drubbing.

    Here are your congressional fields and analysis:

    CD1: Visclosky will win

    Democrat: U.S. Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, Larry Chubb, Antonio (Tony) Daggett Sr. Republican: Jeremy D. Belko, David Dopp, Roseann P. Ivanovich, Mark Leyva, John Meyer, Nicholas Pappas. Cook Partisan Index: +8 Democratic. Analysis: Rep. Visclosky will easily win a 15th term, no matter who the Republicans nominate. Horse Race Status: Safe Visclosky; Republican Tossup.

    CD2: A potential autumnal battleground

    Republican: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, Mark Summe. Democrat: Douglas Carpenter, Pat Hackett, Mel Hall, Yatish Joshi, Roland E. Leech, John H. Petroff. Cook Partisan Index: +11 Republican. Analysis: Hall nearly matched Walorski in money raised in 2017, with $282,137 while Walorski posted $260,103. But Walorski has double cash on hand – $829,311 to $432,482. Walorski will benefit from her brand and name ID. Hall could take advantage of a Democratic wave, but Walorski has been resilient. The 2nd could be fascinating to see how the impact of the tax reforms plays out, as well as the coming immigration debate. Cook Political Report moved the November race from “Solid” to “Likely” Walorski. We agree with David Wasserman’s assessment. Historically, the 2nd has been volatile, having changed since 1990 from Tim Roemer, to Chris Chocola, to Joe Donnelly and now Walorski. Voters are willing to make a change here, even if the district distinctly skewers Republican. Horse Race Status: Safe Walroski, Safe Hall.

    CD3: The outlier of a GOP catastrophe

    Republican: U.S. Rep. Jim Banks. Democrat: John F. Roberson, Tommy A. Schrader, Courtney Tritch. Cook Partisan Index: +18 Republican. Analysis: Banks posted $412,341.09 in 2017, including $193,766 from individuals, disbursed $250,360 and had $306,239.93 cash on hand. Tritch has been endorsed by 3rd CD and Indiana Democrats, and raised $189,951.79 in 2017, which is a high-water mark for a Democrat. She raised $183,235 from individuals, disbursed $49,882 and posted $140,069.73 as an ending balance. Tritch is an unconventional candidate for Democrats and faces a towering GOP advantage. It would take a huge tsnuami to pull her in, but we’ll keep an eye on the 3rd as an outlier if that type of dynamic takes shape next fall. Horse Race Status: Safe Banks; Safe Tritch.

    CD4: Morales v. Braun showdown

    Republican: Jim Baird, Steve Braun, Kevin J. Grant, Diego Morales, James Nease, Tim Radice, Jared Guy Thomas. Democrat: Tobi Beck, Roger D. Day, Roland Ellis, Darin Patrick Griesey, Joseph W. Mackey, Veronikka M Ziol. Cook Partisan Index: +17 Republican. Analysis: The scrappy Morales has the endorsements from key cogs in the Indiana GOP, including Rex Early and former Pence chiefs of staff Bill Smith and Jim Atterholt. He raised $413,852.00 in 2017, including $386,124 from individuals, which shows grassroots appeal. He disbursed just $58,600 and posted $355,251.25. Braun, like his brother in the U.S. Senate race, is a self-funder, and to a much lesser extent is Rep. Baird, to put $200,000 into his campaign. But Braun posted $325,435, including $306,085 from individuals. He disbursed $171,674.10 and posted $153,760.90 cash on hand. Unlike Morales, Braun will probably have access to unlimited amounts of funds and that could be the difference. The wildcard is how the immigration debate plays out. Morales is a Guatemalan immigrant, but he rightfully points out he and his family did it the legal way and his life’s story is impressive. But much of the national GOP message is an “us vs. them” dynamic, which is why the Rex Early endorsement might carry some weight here. This should be a fascinating GOP homestretch. For Democrats, Beck vastly underperformed other Democratic challengers like Tritch in the 3rd, and Liz Watson and Dan Canan in the 9th CD. She raised just $21,210 after entering the race last summer. She had a year-end cash balance of $3,963. Mackey raised $15,425 but had $1,336 cash. Horse Race Status: Republican Tossup; Democrat Tossup.

    CD5: Brooks has huge money advantage

    Republican: U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks. Democrat: Jennifer Christie, Dion Douglas, Sean Dugdale, Eshel Faraggi, Kyle Brenden, Aaron Schaler, Dee Thornton. Cook Partisan Index: +9 Republican. Analysis: Brooks raised $567,526.77 for the fourth quarter, including $207,567 from individuals, disbursed $415,712.04 and had $1,499,705 cash on hand. There are no FEC postings for any of the potential Democratic challengers. Without any Democrat with any type of funding, that makes that primary a pure wildcard. Horse Race Status: Safe Brooks; Democrat Tossup. 

    CD6: The Pence brand will prevail

    Republican: Mike Campbell, Thomas G. Ferkinhoff, Bill Frazier, Jonathan M. Lamb, Stephen M. MacKenzie, Greg Pence, Jeff Smith. Democrat:  George T. Holland, Jeannine Lee Lake, K. (Jasen) Lave, Jim Pruett, Lane Siekman, Joshua Williamson. Cook Partisan Index: +18 Republican. Analysis: Pence raised $565,114.92, including $466,681 from individuals, spent $128,152.27 and had $436,962.65 cash on hand. Lamb posted $582,638.18 on his year-end report, including $24,625 from individuals and loaned his campaign $550,000. He had $114,361.43 in total disbursements and had $468,276.75 cash on hand. Pence has huge advantages in that his brother, Vice President Mike Pence, represented this district for 12 years, so the Pence name is a true brand. Pence also showed much more grassroots support with the money he’s raised from individuals. And on media, Pence’s TV ads are totally professional. Lamb’s ads bring ridicule from the media pros. This will be a slam dunk for the Pence dynasty. Horse Race Status: Safe Pence.
    CD7: Carson expected to cruise

    Democrat: U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, Curtis D. Godfrey, Bob Kern, Pierre Quincy Pullins, Sue Spicer. Republican: John L. Couch, J. Jason Davis, Donald Eason Jr., Wayne “Gunny” Harmon, J.D. Miniear, Tony “Big Dog” Van Pelt. Cook Partisan Index: +11 Democrat. Analysis: Rep. Carson raised $497,865.53 in 2017, including $249,087 from individuals, disbursed $349,291 and posted $971,921.86. All of his respective challengers in both parties are essentially broke. Carson should easily win reelection. Horse Race Status: Safe Carson; Tossup.

    CD8: The not so bloody 8th

    Republican: U.S. Rep. Larry D. Bucshon, Rachael Covington, Richard Moss. Democrat: Ron Drake, James Johnson, William Tanoos. Cook Partisan Index: +15 Republican. Analysis: Tanoos raised $99,635.82, including $94,260 from individuals, disbursed $53,216.11 and had $46,419.71 cash on hand. In his 2016 campaign, Drake raised $12,275 and had $1,301 cash on hand. He did not post a filing for 2017. So Tanoos has a slight money edge but lacks Drake’s limited name ID. With former Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel out of this race, this is a potential missed opportunity pickup for Democrats. On the Republican side, Dr. Moss posted $25,109.80 and $17,588.53 cash on hand. That compares to Rep. Bucshon, who raised $427,095.35 in 2017, including $144,928 from individuals, disbursed $287,912.95 and posted $452,043.50 cash. He is in great shape for reelection unless there is a gigantic tsunami in November. Horse Race Status: Leans Tanoos; Safe Bucshon. 

    CD9: A potential fall battleground

    Republican: U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, James Dean Alspach. Democrat: Dan Canon, Rob Chatlos, Liz Watson. Cook Partisan Index: +13 Republican. Analysis: Rep. Hollingsworth posted $708,006.06 for 2017, $173,642 from individuals, $500,000 from committees, and no loans from himself. He had $410,514.49 in disbursements and had $297,796.56 cash on hand along with $613,615 in debts/loans by committee. Hollingsworth won this seat in 2016 as a self-funder along with his father, and he will have all the financial resources necessary to win reelection. Democrat Liz Watson raised $370,981.62 for 2017, including $296,945 from individuals and a $20,000 loan from herself. She disbursed $94,612 and posted $276,369.04 cash on hand. Canon posted similar numbers: $310,671 raised in 2017, $300,720 from individuals but nearly doubled Watson’s disbursements, at $198,795. He posted an ending balance of $112,253. Watson has several primary advantages, one being in this “pink wave” year, she will benefit from gender. She has a money edge heading into the homestretch. Horse Race Status: Safe Hollingsworth; Leans Watson.
  • Horse Race: 23 General Assembly incumbents face primary challenges

    NASHVILLE, Ind. – As restive Hoosiers pass the first hurdle of the mid-terms, the filing for the May 8 primary last Friday, we find that 23 General Assembly incumbents are facing primary opponents. 

    Five Indiana Senate incumbents (three Republican, two Dems) and 18 in the Indiana House (including 12 Republicans) are facing primary challenges. In 2016, five Senate incumbents had primary opponents along with a dozen House incumbents. Five of the current class of challengers are females challenging male incumbents. 

    In 2014, two Senate incumbents faced challengers, when Eric Bassler defeated Sen. John Waterman, and eight faced challengers in the House, with Christopher Judy defeating Rep. Kathy Heuer. 

    These primaries take shape with the emergence of the “pink wave.” With a couple of gender neutral names in the mix, we count 42 women seeking Indiana House seats, 13 in the Indiana Senate, and a dozen for Congress. There are 20 open seats this cycle, including 12 in the House. Three open Senate seats feature primaries.

    Indiana Democrats note that there has been an 84% uptick in legislative candidates from 83 in 2014 to 103 this cycle, including 52 female candidates, compared to just 22 in 2014. That’s a 136% increase. “A construction worker. A vocational and tech educator. Working moms. Our candidates are real people who live the issues facing Hoosier families every day,” said Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody. “It’s energizing to see Hoosiers who reflect their communities stepping up to run. They’re sick and tired of politics as usual and are ready to roll up their sleeves and make a difference. Hoosier Democrats fight for the future, for working families and for fairness. Our 2018 Statehouse candidate class embodies those principles.”

    Like 2016, when Senate President Pro Tem David Long and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley faced and easily survived primary challengers, this cycle finds the following being primaried: Senate Majority Caucus Chair Jim Merritt, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Chairman Travis Holdman, House Assistant Majority Floor Leader Jerry Torr, and Assistant Majority Caucus Chairman Tom Saunders. We believe all should easily be renominated, with the possible exception of Torr, who faces a rematch in a race that he won with just 52% of the vote in 2016 against Tom Linkmeyer.

    Of the incumbents, another facing a test will be State Sen. Mike Delph, who is being challenged by former Carmel Redevelopment Director Corrie Meyer, who announced the endorsement of Hamilton County mayors earlier this week. Delph is expected to report around $250,000. So Carmel is going to be the epicenter of legislative primaries this year.

    Here is our first round analysis of General Assembly primary races. These will be updated as more information on candidates emerges.

    Indiana Senate Republican primaries

    SD19: Republican: State Sen. Travis Holdman, Eric Orr. Analysis: Orr, an attorney from Berne, told the Journal Gazette he would challenge Holdman in May of 2017, saying, “It seems that many of our legislators who campaigned on conservative principles have, upon stepping foot inside the Statehouse, forgotten those same principles. I think many voters are disappointed with the legislative priorities of the current assembly. Every election should present voters with more than one option, but far too often, we’re only given the choice between ‘R’ and ‘D’.” Horse Race Status: Likely Holdman.

    SD26: Republican: Open (Sen. Doug Eckerty retiring). Mike Gaskill, Steffanie Owens. Analysis: This could be a real race. Madison County Councilman Mike Gaskill, 53, will face Madison County Commissioner Steffanie Owens. Gaskill is an ally of Sen. Eckerty and we’ll be watching if he can land the endorsement. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    SD29: Republican: State Sen. Mike Delph, Corrie Meyer. Analysis: Delph is sitting on a war chest of close to $250,000 and believes he can fend off this challenge from Meyer, the former Carmel Redevelopment Commission director. Meyer’s committee has not posted a year-end fundraising report. Delph has long maintained a large volunteer cadre and is a persistent presence in parades and festivals across the district that is gradually becoming more Democratic. But Meyer unveiled the endorsements of Zionsville Mayor Tim Haak, Carmel’s Jim Brainard, Noblesville’s John Ditslear, Fishers’ Scott Fadness, and former mayors Greg Ballard of Indianapolis and Jane Reiman of Carmel. Meyer told the IndyStar last year, “We are canvassing neighborhoods and fundraising and meeting with lots of different people, township trustees, precinct committee members. I need to have time to dedicate work-day business time to the campaign.” Delph defeated Democrat J.D. Ford by about 2,400 votes in 2014. Ford is seeking the Democratic nomination. Horse Race Status: Leans Delph.

    SD31: Republican: State Sen. James W. Merritt Jr., Crystal D. LaMotte. Analysis: This is a rematch, with Merritt easily defeating LaMotte with 74% of the vote in 2014. Merritt, who chairs the Marion County GOP and is a potential 2019 Republican Indianapolis mayoral candidate, is the slated candidate. Horse Race Status: Safe Merritt.

    Indiana Senate Democrat primaries

    SD1: State Sen. Frank Mrvan Jr., Chris Kukuch, Mark T. Kurowski. Analysis: Sen. Mrvan is a stalwart of Lake County Democratic politics and should easily win reelection. He won reelection in 2014 by more than 2,500 votes over Ken Stevenson. Horse Race Status: Safe Mrvan.

    SD25: State Sen. Tim Lanane, Tamala Dixon-Tatum. Analysis: Anderson City Councilman Ollie H. Dixon filed last month to oppose incumbent Democrat Sen. Lanane in the May 8 primary, but he stepped aside at filing deadline for his daughter. Horse Race Status: Likely Lanane.

    SD26: Open (Sen. Doug Eckerty retiring). Analysis: Anderson Fire Department Chief Dave Cravens faces Muncie businessman Dave Ring. We think Cravens has an early edge in this race. Horse Race Status: Likely Cravens.

    SD38: Maria David, David Allan Fuchs II, Chris Gambill. Analysis: Gambill has decades of experience in law enforcement, as legal advisor to the Terre Haute Police Department, as a drug forfeiture attorney, and as a special trial deputy for the Clay County prosecutor. Gambill has also served as the attorney for Clay City since 1984. Little information was available on David and Fuchs. The winner faces State Sen. Jon Ford. Horse Race Status: Likely Gambill.

    Indiana House Republican primaries

    HD17: Rep. Jack Jordan, Jesse Bohannon. Analysis: This is a rematch from 2016. Bohannnon is a Bremen School Board member. He lost to Jordan 55-44% in the primary. In a Facebook posting, Bohannon said, “This is the audacity of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce (the same lobbyists who managed and funded State Rep. Jack Jordan). Every year they put out a 50-page book full of ways they want to run our lives, and the money they invest in influencing elections gives them the loudest voice in Indianapolis.” Horse Race Status: Likely Jordan.

    HD18: Rep. David A. Wolkins, Russell Reahard. Analysis: Reahard told the Wabash Plain-Dealer that his pro-life stance sets him apart from Wolkins. “I want to look at some of the root causes of our social problems,” Reahard said. “If we can solve them at the root cause it may save money, rather than treating the symptoms and having to build more prisons and more treatment centers for drug and alcohol addiction.” Improvements in Wolkins’ health and encouragement from his constituents led him to run for reelection. “I have gotten a clean bill of health every time I’ve been in,” Wolkins said. “I had a number of people say as long as your health is good, as long as you enjoy doing it and as long as you represent us, we would like to have you continue. That was the main reason.” The winner will face Democrat Dee Moore, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Wolkins in 2016. Horse Race Status: Likely Wolkins.

     State Rep. Curt Nisly, Kimberly Cates. Analysis: Rep. Nisly faces a challenge from Kosciusko County Councilwoman Kimberly Cates of Syracuse. Horse Race Status: Leans Nisly.

    HD29: Open (Rep. Kathy Kreg Richardson retiring). Brandon (Brad) Beaver, Garen T. Bragg, Chuck Goodrich, Noblesville Councilman Gregory P. O’Connor. Analysis: Councilman O’Connor has served 10 years there. “I have worked diligently over the last 10 years for the citizens of Noblesville as a city councilman. I intend to take the experience and knowledge I’ve developed over the last decade and apply it to effectively represent the citizens of District 29,” O’Connor said. “Hamilton County is a driver of the economic success of our state and I intend to work closely with local and county government to ensure ongoing job creation, economic development, and workforce development.” Goodrich has taken the lead in starting a job innovation center locally and actively supports Indiana Work Force Development. Gaylor Electric has an internship program for high school and college students.  Bragg is an Army National Guard officer, and insurance producer. Bragg notes he is a pro-life supporter of the 2nd Amendment and committed to protecting the religious liberties outlined in Indiana’s constitution. Bragg recently posted on Facebook, “The origin of the United States is inseparably linked to the idea that our rights come from God. Today’s government is out of control because bureaucrats and politicians believe that your rights are in their hands.” Horse Race Status: Leans O’Connor. 

    HD33: Open: (State Rep. Greg Beumer retiring). Jenae Horn Blasdel, John (J.D.) Prescott. Analysis: Blasdel was a former campaign manager of Beumer and could have an edge if she gets the incumbent’s endorsement. Prescott is a former campaign volunteer for Gov. Mike Pence. Horse Race Status: Leans Blasdel.

    HD39: State Rep. Jerry Torr, Tom Linkmeyer. Analysis: This is a 2016 primary rematch between the veteran Carmel legislator and Linkmeyer, the assistant principal at Mary Castle Elementary School. Torr defeated Linkmeyer with 52% of the vote, 7,896 to 7,111. This could be another competitive primary race for Torr. Horse Race Status: Leans Torr.

    HD43: Open (State Rep. Clyde Kersey retiring) Isaac Deal, Darrell (Eddie) Felling. Analysis: Felling is Terre Haute’s city attorney. “I am very excited and honored to announce my intention of candidacy,” Felling said in a news release. “As a Terre Haute native with longstanding family roots in Vigo County, I understand the challenges we face not only in our community but also throughout our great state.” Not much information was available on Deal. Horse Race Status: Safe Felling.

    HD44: Open (Rep. Jim Baird running for Congress). Beau Baird, Jess L. Norton. Analysis: Beau Baird is the son of the retiring legislator who is seeking the 4th CD. We give the younger Baird an edge in this primary. Horse Race Status: Likely Baird.

    HD47: State Rep. John T. Young, Scott Horvath. Analysis: Young won a hard-fought primary against Matt Prince by just under 1,000 votes in 2016, then defeated Democrat Mike Reddick in November. Horse Race Status: Likely Young.

    HD49: Open (Rep. Wes Culver retiring). Kevin Gipson, Christy Stutzman. Analysis: The wife of former congressman Marlin Stutzman has long been seen as ambitious, and this will be her first try for public office following her husband’s U.S. Senate primary defeat to Todd Young in May 2016. Horse Race Status: Likely Stutzman.

    HD52: State Rep. Ben Smaltz, William Carlin. Analysis: The various pro-life coalitions are angered at Smaltz for what Hoosiers4Life claims on its website: “For the second year in a row, Rep. Ben Smaltz of Auburn killed a bill that would have ended abortion in Indiana, costing nearly 8,000 pre-born Hoosier babies their lives this year alone. His decision to side with Planned Parenthood in keeping abortion safe has caused people to sit up and take notice of his activities.” Carlin is from Garrett. Smaltz’s SEA80, which has crimped domestic meth production across the state and in this district, will be an issue he will be able to campaign on. Horse Race Status: Likely Smaltz.

    HD54: State Rep. Thomas E. (Tom) Saunders, Jeffrey D. Embry. Analysis: We could find little information or a campaign website for Embry. Horse Race Status: Safe Saunders. 

    HD55: State Rep. Cindy Meyer Ziemke, Mark Bacon. Analysis: Bacon was the Indiana Farm Bureau’s District 8 director. He told Hoosier Ag Today, “Now would be the best time to seek the next chapter in my life. I’ve gone to the Statehouse and Washington, D.C., and lobbied for 30 years, now being involved in Farm Bureau and maybe it’s time to be on the other side and see what I can do for the membership and for the citizens of District 55 and my rural area.” Bacon says this is a good time for another farmer in the Statehouse, which is a rarity. “Agriculture is the lifeblood of Indiana and for the U.S.,” Bacon said, “and if we don’t work for the issues that pertain to agriculture, somebody else will make those rules for us. We need representation on the state level.” Horse Race Status: Leans Ziemke.

    HD56: State Rep. Dick Hamm, Bradford J. Barrett. Analysis: We could not find a campaign website or information on Barrett. Horse Race Status: Safe Hamm.

    HD57: State Rep. Sean Eberhart, Luke Campbell. Analysis: Not much information is available on Campbell, who appears to be a political newcomer. Horse Race Status: Safe Eberhart. 

    HD59: Open (State Rep. Milo Smith retiring). Benjamin C. Chastain , John D. Counceller, JoAnne Flohr, Ryan Lauer, Allen K. Smith II, Bartholomew County Assessor Lew Wilson. Analysis: Wilson, the two-term assessor, and Lauer, a former county council president, challenged Smith in the 2016 GOP primary. Garnering 47% of the votes, Smith won over Lauer’s 39% and Wilson’s 14% (Columbus Republic). Six months later, Smith won 61% of the vote over Democrat Bob Pitman to earn his sixth consecutive term. After becoming a regular attendee of the Third House legislative sessions in Columbus, Wilson listed several areas of concern. Wilson described the opioid crisis as the most urgent and pressing problem that could dramatically increase the costs for first responders, hospital services and child services. Horse Race Status: Leans Lauer.

    HD64: Open (Rep. Thomas Washburne (R) is retiring). Ken A. Beckerman, Matt Hostettler, Vanderburgh County Commissioner Bruce W. Ungethiem. Analysis: Commissioner Ungethiem looks to have an advantage in this primary race due to his current office. Horse Race Status: Leans Ungethiem.

    HD66: Mike Bowling, Joseph Van Wye Sr. Analysis: Van Wye ran in the 2014 primary and gained only 200 votes. The winner takes on House Minority Leader Terry Goodin. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD69: State Rep. Jim Lucas, Nancy L. Franke, Charles Johnson. Analysis: This is a rematch, with Lucas defeating Franke, a teacher, 7,705 to 4,044 two years ago. Lucas continues to generate headlines, becoming the chief advocate for medicinal marijuana and also for eliminating gun licensing. Johnson lives in Columbus. Horse Race Status: Likely Lucas.

    HD71: Open (State Rep. Steve Stemler is retiring). Kevin R. Burke, Matt Owen. Analysis: Rep. Stemler ran unopposed in 2016. Indiana Republican chairman Kyle Hupfer believes the GOP can pick up this Republican-trending seat. Dr. Kevin Burke, Clark County’s former health commissioner, filed for candidacy last week. He is facing Jeffersonville City Councilman Matt Owen, who announced his plans to run in September (Grady, News & Tribune). Burke, who retired in October last year after 27 years as health officer, said he had toyed with running for Stemler’s seat before, but ultimately, respected the politician too much to attempt to unseat him. Recently, his work with Clark County CARES Drug Fact week reignited his interest. “I felt so stimulated and invigorated by the process, I realized that I missed the public service part of my life,” Burke said. Back in the fall, Owen was inspired to run by his seven years of experience working in emergency medical services. “I think that I would have a perspective up there [in the Indiana General Assembly]; a first responder dealing with these opioid issues is going to be an asset to the legislature,” he said. Owen often responds to overdoses in his role as a captain at New Chapel EMS. Both Burke and Owen placed a heavy emphasis on addressing the opioid crisis if they are to be elected. Burke, who helped establish Clark County’s syringe exchange program, thinks that prevention is key, and one of his main ideas is to develop educational, anti-drug programs for children. Owen talked about a “multi-faceted” approach that included increasing access to treatment, perhaps through allowing Jeffersonville residents on Medicaid the ability to cross the state border for help. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD73: State Rep. Steve Davisson, Buford L. Dewitt. Analysis: Dewitt hails from Paoli, while Davisson is a well-known pharmacist from Salem. Horse Race State: Safe Davisson.

    House Notes: No Republicans are running in HD94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 and 100.

    House Democrat primaries

    HD2: State Rep. Earl L. Harris Jr., Jayson H. Reeves, Rosa Maria Rodriguez. Analysis: Rep. Harris won a three-way primary in 2016 with 3,882 votes, over Rodriguez (3,187), Tammi Davis (3,056) and Drake Morris (1,177). This could be a close race between Harris and Rodriguez. Horse Race Status: Leans Harris. 

    HD3: Open (State Rep. Charlie Brown retiring). Ragen H. Hatcher, Jessica Renslow. Analysis: Gary Councilwoman Regan Hatcher is the daughter of former mayor Richard G. Hatcher. She has the endorsement of Rep. Brown and that makes her the favorite. HPI Horse Race Status: Safe Hatcher.

    HD9: Open (State Rep. Scott Pelath retiring). Michigan City Councilwoman Patricia Boy, Sean Fitzpatrick. Analysis: Boy declared in December, saying, “It’s a new challenge for me,” she said in the release, “and it’s time to try to make a bigger difference. Having served on the Common Council, I can see areas where state law and administration unnecessarily limit cities and towns, and I would like to help change some of that.”  Fitzpatrick withdrew from a LaPorte County Council race on Feb. 7 to run in this race. He serves as treasurer for the LaPorte County Democrats. He cited “politics as usual” in Indianapolis, saying legislators spent “an absurd amount of time debating Sunday alcohol sales when we have an opioid epidemic ravaging our cities and towns.” He also cited a bill that would allow “loan sharks at payday lenders to triple interest rates.” Horse Race Status: Leans Fitzpatrick.

    HD12: State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, Pamela R. Eanes. Analysis: Reardon was unopposed in the 2016 primary on her way to reclaiming the seat from Republican Bill Fine, who upset her in 2014. Horse Race Status: Safe Reardon.

    HD16: Joshua Bolen, Christina L. Zacny. Analysis: The winner will take on State Rep. Douglas Gutwein. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD25: Maurice Oakel Fuller, Justin P. Notoras. Analysis: This is a primary rematch from 2016 with Fuller defeating Notoras 2,153 to 1,605. The winner faces State Rep. Don Lehe. Horse Race Status: Leans Fuller.

    HD33: Open (State Rep. Greg Beumer retiring). Cheryl Ashley-Robbins, Winchester Mayor Shon Byrum. Analysis: Mayor Byrum is seen by the Democratic Party as a potential rising star who has a shot at picking up the seat. Beumer defeated Byrum in 2016. He’s earned praise for his efforts to combat the heroin crisis by setting up a treatment center in his city and earning the praise of Gov. Eric Holcomb. Horse Race Status: Safe Byrum.  

    HD 34: State Rep. Sue Errington, Jim Hiatt. Analysis: Rep. Errington fended off Joe Shank in the 2016 primary by over 3,000 votes. Horse Race Status: Likely Errington.

    HD36: State Rep. Terri Jo Austin, Anderson Councilwoman Rebecca Crumes. Analysis: The Madison County area is restive, with primary challengers to three incumbent legislators. The winner will likely face Republican Anderson Councilman Jennifer Culp, who won an upset city race in 2015. Horse Race Status: Likely Austin. 

    HD43: Open (State Rep. Clyde Kersey retiring). Mark Bird, Sylvester “Coach” Edwards, Norman E. (Norm) Loudermilk II. Chad Overton. Tonya Pfaff. Analysis: “I’ve gotten some great support from Clyde (Kersey) and I hope I can follow in his footsteps and represent the 43rd District as well as he has done for more than two decades,” Bird said in announcing his candidacy. He served 12 years on the Vigo County Council and lost to Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett in 2015. Bird was battling cancer during that race. Horse Race Status: Likely Bird. 

    HD59: Open (State Rep. Milo Smith retiring). Mary Kohen, Dale Nowlin. Analysis: Nowlin is a Columbus North HS educator; Kohen is a community activist, according to the Columbus Republic. Horse Race Status: Tossup. 

    HD63: Joseph Lannan, Dennis Tedrow. Analysis: Little information was available on the two Democrats seeking the seat of former Rep. Mike Braun, who is now running for the U.S. Senate. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD71: Open (State Rep. Steve Stemler (D) is retiring. Rita A. Fleming, Jason Schlatter. Dr. Fleming practices in Clark County and Schlatter is considered a political newcomer. Horse Race Status: Safe Fleming.

    HD72: Sam Charbonneau, Christopher FitzGerald. Analysis: The winner will challenge State Rep. Ed Clere. There is little information on either Democrat. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD80: State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, Linda Brooks, Nick Brown. Analysis: No information is available on either of GiaQuinta’s primary challengers. Horse Race Status: Safe GiaQuinta. 

    HD98: State Rep. Robin Shackleford, Nichole M. Thomas. Analysis: No information on Thomas was available on the Internet. Horse Race Status: Safe Shackleford.
  • HPI Analysis: Long sets off a rare battle for Senate succession

    INDIANAPOLIS – The timing of Senate President Pro Tempore David Long’s retirement announcement, coming in the middle of this session, was the big surprise on Tuesday. But those of us who read Statehouse tea leaves, the notion that Long would follow his wife, Melissa, into the sunset was a change of the guard realization that began to take shape with Long’s sine die speech last April.

    For just the third time since 1980, this sets up a succession dynamic that will be fascinating. Here are several key points to consider:

    1. Long is taking a systemic approach to reshaping the Senate with the reality that after November, he, Luke Kenley and Brandt Hershman will no longer be there. Long has installed Sen. Ryan Mishler in Kenley’s appropriations chair, and Sen. Travis Holdman in Hershman’s tax and fiscal policy chair. Unlike former House minority leader Scott Pelath, who wouldn’t even vote on a successor, Long is likely to play a decisive role here. As one hallway veteran observed, “I think David will play a large and positive role in choosing his successor. That’s a good thing in my view. He is clear-eyed and knows fully what is required of anyone in that role. And ... he loves the Senate and wants a strong person to lead it.” 

    2. The names we are hearing most are Sens. Rodric Bray and Holdman. We expect at least one other serious candidate, possibly Majority Caucus Chair Jim Merritt, Randy Head, the assistant majority floor leader, or Majority Whip Mark Messmer to enter. Holdman is already on the financial track and has a primary opponent from the right to contend with this year. Merritt is said to be considering a 2019 Indianapolis mayoral run and he has maintained a distinct portfolio on issues related to the drug crisis.  Bray has become a trusted Long lieutenant and is from Martinsville, a relatively easy drive to Indianapolis. He has school age children.

    3. Of the potential field, Holdman, Merritt, Chip Perfect, Messmer and  Erin Houchin are up for reelection this cycle. That gives Bray an advantage of focus on the leadership race.

    4. The past two showdowns have been three-way battles. In 2006, Long defeated Sens. Tom Weatherwax and Brent Steele, with help from the six-member “female” caucus. In 1980, when the indicted President Pro Tem Martin “Chip” Edwards stepped away from the post, Garton prevailed over Sens. Larry Borst and Joe Harrison.

    5. There are three Republican senators – in the open seats of retiring Sens. Doug Eckerty and Jim Smith, and Long’s successor – who aren’t even there yet. And there are two newcomers, Sens. Victoria Spartz and Brian Buchanan, who have yet to gravitate into a grouping. So there will be five votes that might not align into identifiable categories.

    6. Do the potential candidates we are hearing have the potential to keep the caucus together? One of Sen. Long’s historic attributes was keeping the various factions together. Despite his genteel manner, he could be the proverbial “nut-cutter” when necessary. Sen. Messmer is one name we hear who has the “enforcer” personality.

    The majority caucus camps

    Here is how we breakdown the various Senate factions: 

    Seniors: Ron Alting, Joe Zakas, Glick, Dennis Kruse, Randy Head, Holdman, Jim Buck, Phil Boots, Merritt, Mike Young, Vaneta Becker, Jean Leising, Mike Delph, Ron Grooms, Greg Walker, Ed Charbonneau, Mishler, Bray, Perfect, Jim Tomes, Mike Crider.  Messmer and Koch fit in this category given their House experience.
    New kids: John Ruckelshaus, Aaron Freeman, Houchin, Greg Bassler, Jack Sandlin, John Crane, Mike Bochacek, Blake Doriot, Liz Brown, Jon Ford, Rick Niemeyer, Jeff Raatz, Perfect, Andy Zay.

    Newbies: Buchannan, Spartz and whoever takes the Smith, Eckerty and Long seats, assuming GOP keeps those seats.  

    As for ideology, we break down the Senate majority caucus like this:

    Social conservatives: Kruse, Holdman, Buck, Young, Delph, Tomes, Freeman, Crane.

    Economic conservatives: Crider, Zakas, Glick, Head, Boots, Merritt, Leising, Grooms, Walker, Charbonneau, Mishler, Bray, Perfect, Messmer, Koch, Houchin, Bassler, Sandlin, Bochacek, Doriot, Brown, Ford, Niemeyer, Raatz, Perfect, Zay, Buchanan, Spartz.

    Outliers: Alting, Becker, Ruckelshaus.

    The art of the deal

    There is an art of winning the position and it’s all about cutting deals. In 2006, by the end of session, it was clear that the embattled Garton was in danger of losing the primary to Greg Walker, giving Long an opportunity to prepare for succession. When it came time to vote, Long had assembled support from the six female senators along with the more moderate wing of the caucus.

    As HPI reported in 2006: Long appeared to have early momentum. Steele had the support of Sens. John Waterman, Mike Delph and Mike Young. Long was expected to have the support of Sens. Bray and Hershman. Weatherwax was described as not the first choice for many, but the second choice for all. The Old Guard – Sens. Kenley, Robert Meeks, Pat Miller, Tom Wyss and Johnny Nugent – were initially uncommitted. They had much to lose. Pick the wrong horse and lose your chair. But wait too long and you miss cutting a deal with the frontrunner-turned-king. Then there were the moderates: Sens. Ron Alting, the late Sue Landske, Allan Paul, Mishler and Marvin Riegsecker. Pick up four out of that group, and you win.

    Long obviously picked up the right four. 

    Garton and Harrison’s deal

    As for the 1980 race, Borst told HPI in 2006, “Bob Garton began campaigning for the Senate pro tem position soon after the May primary in 1980. He had a sense that the position would be open. In deference to and being loyal to the incumbent pro tem, I decided that I would not make any announcement of candidacy until there was an opening. The incumbent did not announce that he would not be a candidate until after the November election.” 

    Harrison had seniority over Garton, was adamantly opposed to the Columbus Republican, and waged an energetic campaign. So did Garton, “making personal contacts with all the incumbent senators,” often at their homes, Borst said. 

    There was a new group of senators labeled by Sen. Bill Dunbar of Terre Haute as the “God squad” and Garton “courted and counseled them” throughout the fall election season.

    The day after the November 1980 election, Republican Chairman Gordon Durnil convened a vote. “Strangely,” Borst recalled, “the ballots for pro tem were cast and then were opened one by one and names announced and tallied in front of all the senators. Of the first 20 opened, read, announced, and counted, all but two were for Bob Garton. One was for me. One for someone else. Then Joe Harrison made a motion to dispense with opening the remaining ballots, since Bob Garton had received a clear majority.” 

    Borst then had an epiphany: “It belatedly dawned on me that Harrison had made a deal with Garton. Harrison had earlier suggested a deal with me. As events unfolded, his accommodation with Bob Garton turned out to be much better.” 


    Our take at this point is that Sen. Bray is an early frontrunner. This comes after talking with more than a dozen informed and reliable Statehouse sources. But it is early. There’s still half a session to deal with. There are deals to be made. Holdman will have a primary race to contend with and other potential rivals will have general election races coming in a potentially tough environment for the GOP. It will be eight long months before there’s a vote. There will be at least three new members.

    And we won’t know a number of outside dynamics: Whether there is a Democratic tidal wave that could cut into the Majority Caucus, or whether the “pink wave” creates a compelling case for someone like Sen. Glick or Houchin to take the helm. 
  • Atomic! Who replaces Long? Coats warns of Russian meddling
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Who replaces President Pro Tem Long?

    Senate Republicans will have some nine months to sort out who replaces Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, who announced he will retire in November. If you follow the current Majority Caucus pecking orderSen. Susan Glick is assistant president pro tempore, Sen. Jim Merritt is majority caucus chair, Sen. Chip Perfect the assistant caucus chair, Sen. Rod Bray is the newly installed majority floor leader, Sen. Randy Head is the assistant majority floor leader, Sen. Mark Messmer is the majority whip, and Sen. Erin Houchin is the assistant majority whip. With Sens. Ryan Mishler and Travis Holdman taking over the financial portfolio left behind by departed chairs Luke Kenley and Brandt Hershman, the assumption is they will stay on the fiscal track, meaning that the Long successor will likely come from the current caucus leadership

    Long succeeded Sen. Bob Garton, who was elected to the post in 1980 and then upset in the 2006 Republican primary, with the help from a coalition of female senators, of which Sens. Jean Leising and Vaneta Becker remain, while there are four female colleagues who have joined the chamber since. While Vi Simpson has led the minority Democratic caucus, there has not been a female president pro tempore, giving Sens. Glick and Houchin a shot at history. At first glance, we suspect the initial short list pool will include Merritt (if he decides not to run for mayor of Indianapolis in 2019), Bray and Head, with Bray our early frontrunner  with a long way to go in the process. And we’ll be watching if Long signals a successor, which he probably will, given of his passion for the Senate and the fact that he's already installed a fiscal team.

    2. Coats predicts Russian mid-term election meddling

    National Intelligence Director Dan Coats was unambiguous as he and other U.S. intelligence officials were confronted by senators about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the potential for a 2018 repeat. “Foreign elections are critical inflection points that offer opportunities for Russia to advance its interests both overtly and covertly,” Coats said. “The 2018 U.S. midterm elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations. Influence operations, especially through cyber means, will remain a significant threat to U.S. interests as they are low-cost, relatively low-risk and deniable. Russia probably will be the most capable and aggressive source of this threat in 2018.” Whew.  And the U.S. response? President Trump won’t even talk about the subject let alone call a summit to deal with the threat. The White House is inert  on what Sen. John McCain characterized as an “act of war.”  Earlier this week, Axios  reported that President Trump was preparing to queue up divisive social issues to create mid-term cultural flashpoints. Russian bots will be there to help, as Coats added, Russia’s goal is to “create wedges that reduce trust and confidence  in democratic processes.” Folks, this is what malfeasance looks like

    3. Indiana voting systems unhacked

    Last week in an exclusive interview with NBC NewsJeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, said she couldn't talk about classified information publicly, but in 2016, "We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated." We circled back to Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, who insisted in an HPIInterview  last summer that Indiana’s election system had not been penetrated  in 2016. “Indiana’s voting systems have not been penetrated by hackers,” Lawson spokesmanIan Hauer told HPI  on Monday, “nor have any system scans (by potential hackers) taken place where Indiana is concerned.” 

    4. Fake news smears come to Lake County

    Last week an HPI  analysis predicted a new era of “fake news,”  “fake oppo research,” and “fake celebrity porn” will be likely challenges to the democratic process. NWI Times reporter Bill Dolan: “Lake County officials are calling on state police to investigate whether political attacks launched through an alleged fake Facebook account  are a felony violation of state law. Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. and Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said they want an outside agency to expose a group of people suspected of conducting a smear campaign against Martinez and others running for election this year through a bogus Facebook profile.” And then this gem: “The Times has learned an initial probe by county police turned up telecommunications records linking the attacks to the home of Schererville Police Chief David Dowling, a Democratic candidate for sheriff; the home of political activist and federally convicted felon Robert Cantrell; a computer ID associated with the Crown Point School Corp.; and the home of Gilbert Gutierrez, an investigator for the county coroner's office.” Cantrell, a Trester Award winner and a master of dirty tricks, played dumb, telling Dolan, "I don't do Facebook, and I don't read Facebook." Thanks, Bobby. We believe you.

    5. Houchin vows not to exclude REMCs

    State Sen. Erin Houchin told Howey Politics Indiana  that language inserted into SB356 is not intended to exclude REMCs  in the state grant process to extend broadband into rural areas. "This session, I authored Senate Bill 356 as part of my ongoing efforts to improve access to affordable and efficient broadband services in Southern Indiana, and other unserved areas of the state,” Houchin said, reacting to the HPI Daily Analysis  on Tuesday. “Access to high-speed internet is critical for Hoosier families, students and businesses, and this technology is often taken for granted where services are easily accessible. The language you are referencing was not intended to exclude REMCs, but to ensure we did not attract out-of-state companies without a proven track record of delivering a high level of service to Hoosiers.”

    Have a great hump day, folks. We’ll be working on our comprehensive post-filing, primary Horse Race status reports for Thursday’s weekly HPI. It’sThe Atomic!
  • Atomic! Trump Indiana approval 43%; 23 legislators primaried
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Trump approval at 43% in Indiana

    Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Todd Rokita and Luke Messer will tell you that President Trump is as popular today in their districts as he was when he carried Indiana by 19% in 20167. That assessment is based on Republican primary voters they are trying to woo in their U.S. Senate showdown. But yet another poll, this one released today by Morning Consult, puts Trump’s Indiana approval at 43%, with 53% disapproving. That’s a -4% net drop in approval. And it is similar to other recent polls by Public Opinion Strategies and Rokita internals.

    Morning Consult on the national trends: Donald Trump's approval ratings have been on the rise in most states since September, but he is still underwater in key battleground states  ahead of this year's midterm elections, including states that propelled him to victory in 2016. Here are some battleground states where Trump saw notable changes in his approval marks: Nevada: (47% approve, 48% disapprove) (+7 percentage point change since September), Michigan (42% approve, 52% disapprove) (+5 net change), Pennsylvania (46% approve, 49% disapprove).

    2. 23 General Assembly incumbents face primaries

    As Howey Politics Indiana  pours through the post-primary filing list in preparation for our comprehensive analysis in Thursday’s weekly edition, some early trends are emerging, including 23 General Assembly incumbents who are facing primary opponents. Five Indiana Senate incumbents (three Republican, two Dems) and 18 in the Indiana House (including 12 Republicans)  are facing primary challenges. In 2016, five Senate incumbents had primary opponents along with a dozen House incumbents. Five of the current class of challengers are females challenging male incumbents. An early flashpoint is in SD29, where Corrie Meyer is aiming at State Sen. Mike Delph. Meyer unveiled the endorsements of Zionsville Mayor Tim Haak, Carmel’s Jim Brainard, Noblesville’s John Ditslear, Fishers’ Scott Fadness, and former mayors Greg Ballard of Indianapolis and Jane Reiman of Carmel. We’ll be posting our initial “Horse Race Status” ratings for General Assembly and Congressional primaries on Thursday.

    3. Hoosier overdose deaths up 28%

    WRTV  reports: Indiana's overdose deaths increased by 28%  year over year, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control on Friday. Between July 2015 and July 2016, 1,383 people in Indiana died from an overdose. During the next 12-month period (July 2016-July 2017), 1,767 people died of an overdose. Only six states (and D.C.) had larger percentage increases than Indiana: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania.

    4. Crimping rural broadband

    We're closely monitoring SB356, legislation that would authorize the Office of Community and Rural Affairs to award grants to qualified broadband providers in connection with qualified broadband projects involving the deployment of infrastructure to provide qualified broadband service in underserved areas in Indiana. But as amended in the Senate on Feb. 7, it would limit grants to companies that have "been providing broadband service to at least 1,000 residences and businesses in Indiana for at least three consecutive years." This would exclude REMCs, some of which are in the process of weighing fiber investments, and small, upstart companies. Think about this: The REMCs are equipped to bring high speed internet to the so-called “last mile.” Why would legislators want to restrict such investments that are literal economic lifelines to rural counties? This is another example of theGeneral Assembly picking "winners"  instead of allowing the market to prevail.

    5. Omarosa dishes on Pence

    File this in the “for what it’s worth” category, but Omarosa dishes on Vice President Mike Pence in Washington Post: “He thinks Jesus tells him to say things. As bad as y'all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence. So everybody that's wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider their lives. We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became president.” Why? “He's extreme. I’m Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I'm like, ‘Jesus ain't saying that.’” So, why should we care? Because President Trump brought this reality TV star (and ordained minister) into the White House, and now we’re getting her take on this, as strange as it is.

    Have a great Tuesday, folks. It’s warming up. It’s The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Jeffers v. Speedy; Trump infrastructure; Rokita v. budget
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. The filing surprise: Jeffers v. Rep. Speedy

    Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: As we said before last Friday’s primary filing deadline, there is always a surprise  and this year’s version is Democrat Tim Jeffers filing to challenge Republican State Rep. Mike Speedy. Jeffers is a CSO Architect colleague of Commerce Sec. Jim Schellinger and was the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in 1994, famously calling for the abolishment of that office. Jeffers told HPI, “I figured it’s time to promote the need for independent redistricting process  in a tough Marion County district. I’m very concerned about our American system for obvious reasons. I think I can contribute to the public policy dialogue in the House District 90.”

    We’ve also been monitoring the “pink wave.” With a couple of gender neutral names in the mix, we count 42 women seeking Indiana House seats, 13 in the Indiana Senate, and a dozen for Congress. WTHR-TV’s  Kevin Rader interviewed Democrat Amie Neiling, challenging State Rep. Tony Cook in HD33. "Fed up. Ready for change and ready to do something about it to bring the change. I work two jobs,” Neiling said. “I’m a nurse. I am a teacher. I walk the floor. I teach adult education classes. My husband works two jobs. We are just struggling like everyone else here and we really are not being represented.”

    2. Trump infrastructure plan with little money

    President Trump unveils what is described as a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. But multiple sources are saying it only puts $200 billion in new federal funds  in place. That’s peanuts, folks. And it comes on top of more and more reporting that the tax reforms passed in December will result in $1.2 trillion in budget deficits in 2019 and 2020, and $2 trillion by 2027. Washington Post economist and columnist Robert J. Samuelson observes, “The bipartisan budget agreement reached last week by congressional leaders is nothing if not a huge evasion of responsibility. Neither party will make the unpopular choices necessary to pay for an aging society and essential government. Ever-larger budget deficits have become their means of making policy and practicing politics. Altogether, we face cumulative deficits of about $14 trillion over the decade. These can’t be blamed on an economy operating at less than full capacity. Just the opposite: The economy is close to ‘full employment’ with a 4.1% unemployment rate.” This all comes in the midst of the Baby Boom retirement bulge. What happens if we have a severe recession, or a natural catastrophe  such a 9.0 earthquake in L.A., the Pacific Cascade Subduction Zone, or New Madrid in the Central U.S.? Then we’ll be in position to stick our kids and grandkids with historic and unprecedented debt. Our deficit hawks are playing kick the can, and as Purdue President Mitch Daniels puts it, the can is getting bigger and the road shorter.

    3. Rokita, Hollingsworth oppose budget deal

    Two Indiana Republicans, Reps. Todd Rokita and Trey Hollingsworthvoted against budget deal  early Friday morning that will balloon federal budget deficits to $1.2 trillion in 2019 and more in 2020. The other five Hoosier GOP House members, including Rokita Senate opponent Luke Messer and Sen. Young voted for it. One Indiana Democrat, Rep. Andre Carson, voted against the deal. Rep. Pete Visclosky and Sen. Joe Donnelly voted for it. The Senate passed the measure, 71 to 28, shortly before 2 a.m. The House followed suit around 5:30 a.m., voting 240 to 186 for the bill. Some 73 House Democrats voted yes to more than offset the 67 Republicans who voted no. Last Friday morning, President Trump signed the deal that will boost spending by hundreds of billions of dollars  and allow the federal government to reopen after a brief shutdown.

    4. Pence in Korea

    Vice President Mike Pence took center stage at the Olympics, where he was seated  near and ignored the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. He refused to stand for the united Korea team during the parade. He had two “substantive conversations”  with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and on the flight back to the U.S., he opened the door to talks with the rogue regime, calling it “'maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”  And Pence told NBC’s  Lester Holt that once back in Washington, he will look into allegations against Rob Porter, who never received a security clearance and resigned after being accused of wife-beating. Pence said the allegations were news to him on Tuesday, even though he headed the Trump transition team  and should have had access to FBI reports on Porter.

    5. Trump: Defender of men

    NBC News catalogued President Trump’s take on sexual misconduct, going back to the Indianapolis rape case in 1992 involving boxer Mike Tyson. Of Tyson, he said, “It’s my opinion that, to a large extent, Mike Tyson was railroaded in this case… You have a young woman that was in his room, his hotel room late in the evening at her own will. You have a young woman who was seen dancing for the beauty contest [the next day], dancing with a big smile on her face, looked happy as could be.” Trump said Roger Ailes was “a good person.” He called the more than a dozen female accusers of his own conduct as “horrible people, horrible liars.” As for Porter, “It’s obviously a tough time for him. We hope he has a wonderful career. He’s also very sad.” Yes, he is.

    Have a great week, folks. It’s The Atomic!
  • HPI Analysis: Fake news era will challenge all realities

    INDIANAPOLIS – In the summer of 2000, some weisenheimer sent me an official-looking email that said Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore and wife Tipper were to be feted in some type of kiss-a-thon fundraising event. So I excerpted the release in the HPI Daily Wire.

    The following day, I received a call from someone on the Democratic National Committee. I had been punked. The “story” was something lifted from The Onion. “How could you be so gullible?” the Dem flak asked. I responded, “Well, there was that long smooch between the vice president and Tipper at the Democratic National Convention. So this didn’t seem to be such a stretch.”

    “I see your point,” the flak conceded.

    Since we began publishing the HPI Daily Wire in 2000, and the Howey Political Report since 1994, it’s been rare that something from The Onion or some other cute or unsavory source has made it into our publications. I had been taught in journalism schools at Vincennes and IU to maintain a highly functioning BS-O-Meter. We’ve mostly kept out the fake news along with the gossip, rumor and innuendo.

    But just as Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster now headed for deep space following the Falcon Heavy triple rocket launch on Tuesday, we as a society are now headed into a new era.

    It’s the Fake News era, as commenced by President Trump in 2016 and found on a Facebook or Twitter feed near you. Or, as some backers of the president will tell you, on the pages of the Washington Post and New York Times along with CNN.

    Mike Allen in Axios captured the emerging dilemma on Jan. 28. It’s one where we might awake some morning to video of a Hoosier legislator or congressman having sex with someone not his/her spouse. Allen presents the narrative: Why this problem is getting worse, despite sudden attention from Washington and the platforms? A new app has flooded the web with AI-generated fake celebrity porn. In a potential oppo nightmare for 2020, machine-learning algorithms can generate convincing audio and video of fake events. Axios Science reported on a study this summer which found that we’re not very good at spotting fake photos.”

    The Economist cites the “new battlefield between falsehood and veracity” where “images and sound recordings retain for many an inherent trustworthiness.” We’ve already witnessed it, with Russian bots instigating political rallies in the U.S. during the 2016 campaign.

    In essence, we’ve come a long way from the U.S. Supreme Court case Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964. That was a suit the state launched against showing the Louis Malle film, “The Lovers,” and whether it constituted pornography. Justice Potter Stewart observed, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

    The problem moving forward is that we may not know it when we see it. We may not know artificially produced porn creates a sensational firestorm for a candidate, public servant or even a journalist.

    The reality we face now traverses everything from mainstream media, to social media, where the New York Times reports in the “Follower Factory” by Nick Confessore that celebs and pols are paying for Twitter followers: “By some calculations, as many as 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users – nearly 15 percent – are automated accounts designed to simulate real people, though the company claims that number is far lower.”

    I have yet to take stock on how many of my current 5,324 Twitter followers are real or Russian bots. It’s a weekend project.

    We are now being bombarded with stories that “Russian-linked Twitter bots shared Donald Trump’s tweets almost half a million times during the final months of the 2016 election,” according to Bloomberg. Newsweek reported that The Alliance for Securing Democracy found that #SchumerShutdown had exploded among Russian influence networks. The security group tracked approximately 600 Twitter accounts believed to be operated by Russian-tied groups and found the shutdown hashtag had surpassed popular Russian bot hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, reported The Hill. The Russians are creating chaos within American systems and having a good laugh.

    So in the not-so-distant future, what we know about what we don’t know could reach dangerous and unnerving levels. If I get an inbox video of Sen. Homer Simpson in the throes of passion with Rep. Jane Doe, the proof threshold could be elusive and daunting.

    An old editor of mine would continually preach, “Be careful, there are real people out there.” That is, be sure of sourcing. Because there are real bots out there these days. Real fake porn. And it could obscure the real truths we’ll be needing to conduct a civil society. 
  • Atomic! Filing deadline; pink wave grows; black eye for White House
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.
    1. Filing deadline at noon today and the pink wave
    Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: With the filings of Speaker Brian Bosma, Rep. Robert Behning and Sens. Rick Niemeyer and James Merrittall General Assembly incumbents who haven't announced retirement or have sought other jobs or nominationsappear to have filed. Ditto for the Indiana congressional delegation. The filing deadline passed at noon today. There were no new filings for the General Assembly. Only three Republicans, Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita and Mike Braun are listed on the U.S. Senate ballot, meaning Andrew Horning, Mark Hurt and Andrew Takami lacked signatures to qualify.
    Those filing for the General Assembly on Tuesday included Tamala Dixon-Tatum in SD25, Maria David SD38, Loretta Barnes HD13, Cheryl Ashley-Robbins HD33, Summer K. Ervin HD41, Nichole M. Thomas HD98, and Kimberly Cates HD22. Not names you know? Probably. But what this group represents is a growing wave of women candidates filing for office in what’s being called the “pink wave.”  We’ll have totals later today, but the list of women running for the General Assembly is well over 50, while a dozen are running for Congress.
    2. The Rob Porter scandal
    The Rob Porter wife-beating allegations are now engulfing the West Wing  and it’s another reason the “pink wave” grows. Jennifer Willoughby, an ex-wife of Porter, was on the Today Show  this morning and described “intimate and shameful details”  about her marriage. “It starts slow and cycles to where you don’t realize it for what it is,” she said, adding Porter was “verbally and emotionally abusive” with “attacks on my intelligence.” She toldNBC News  on Thursday that she informed the FBI during a background check interview for his security clearance. "During the FBI background interview for security clearance, I shared with the FBI all of the details that I shared in previous articles, including access to a protective order from June of 2010, and police calls that I had made to our home," she told NBC News'  Kristen Welker. Porter received just a temporary security clearance, even though he sat just outside the Oval Office. There were police reports. Photos of Porter’s ex-wife with a black eye. A restraining order. FBI interviews. And Chief of Staff John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence, who headed the Trump transition team, didn’t know? Pence said this morning, “I learned this morning of those elements.” 
    3. Run on a shoestring, you end up with chaos
    During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump bragged about his lean operation. President Trump insists he doesn't need as many employees at State, EPA and other agencies. There's a price to pay  for such an undisciplined way of conducting business in the White House, which needs to be as professionally run as any organization in the world, because everything it does or says matters. Of Trump's original inner circle, only Trump and Vice President Pence remain. We have Kellyanne Conway, a pollster, running the White House opioid strategy  while dismissing addiction specialists. Trump has hired fashion people (Hope Hickswho is now dating Porter  and reportedly wrote the original release defending him) and TV reality stars (Omarosa) who have no business being at the level they are  or were at. There is no ambassador to South Korea. And now we find that top aide Rob Porter was a serial wife beater, something known to the FBI and chiefs of staff Kelly and Reince Priebus. This feeds into one of our most consistent criticisms: This White House is run in amateurish fashion.
    4. A brief shutdown, more spending

    The federal government shut down briefly  while you slept. The House voted early this morning on a bill that will spend $500 billion more  over the next two years. The Washington Post: “It’s the largest increase in federal spending  since the stimulus during the Great Recession. The bulk of the extra spending would not be paid for, meaning the United States' $20 trillion debt would get worse.” There is $6 billion for battling the opioid crisis and $90 billion in storm relief for Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas. It raises the debt ceiling  until 2019. And the deficit hawks are joining the swallows  at Mission San Juan Capistrano.
    5. Braun’s FEC numbers change
    Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun's year-end FEC report differs from what he told Howey Politics Indiana  it would be in mid-January. Braun posted $2.31 million cash on hand after raising $2.5 million. He loaned his campaign $2.35 million. But contributions from individuals were listed at $166,000, which was about $100,000 less than what he said in January. At the Congress of Counties, Braun told HPI he had $2.3 million cash, raised around $2 million and loaned himself about $1.75 million.
    Have a great weekend, folks. Heavy snow up north, icing for the rest of us. Can’t wait for Spring. It’s The Atomic!

  • Top headlines Feb. 8, 2018
    RUSSIANS HACKED U.S. ELECTION SYSTEMS: The U.S. official in charge of protecting American elections from hacking says the Russians successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several U.S. states prior to the 2016 presidential election. In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, said she couldn’t talk about classified information publicly, but in 2016, “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.” Jeh Johnson, who was DHS secretary during the Russian intrusions, said, “2016 was a wake-up call and now it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again.” NBC News reported in Sept. 2016 that more than 20 states had been targeted by the Russians.There is no evidence that any of the registration rolls were altered in any fashion, according to U.S. officials.  

    FIRED INDY COUNCIL MEMBERS LASH BACK: Fired Indianapolis City-County Council Clerk NaTrina DeBow on Tuesday afternoon defended herself and other council staffers against allegations from President Stephen Clay that employees had acted improperly, causing him to call for an audit of the office (Colombo, IBJ). Earlier in the day, Clay continued the local Democratic civil war by alleging that two council employees were improperly given large raises and that certain personnel files were missing from the council office—and shredded—after Clay fired council staff members. Clay, who is facing removal from office at next month’s council meeting by his fellow Democrats shortly after being elevated to the top position with the help of Republicans, said he discovered one former staff member was given a 24 percent pay raise and another was given an 18 percent pay raise in 2016. DeBow, who appeared at a press conference with her lawyer, Octavia Snulligan, said she and deputy clerk SaRita Hughes were given large pay raises in 2016 because they assumed additional duties in light of attrition of other staff members. She said the pay raises were outlined in a memo sent to the human resources department, and that she presented information about the raises before a City-County Council committee in August 2016. 

    AMAZON TWEET PRAISES HOLCOMB: A Twitter account associated with the online retail giant Amazon praised Indiana’s governor for his leadership on workforce development, raising more than a few eyebrows (Herron, IndyStar). “Thank you for your leadership on #WorkforceDevelopment issues, Governor,” the tweet said in part. Gov. Eric Holcomb visited Amazon’s fulfillment center in Whitestown on Friday to learn more about Career Choice, Amazon’s workforce development program. In return, Amazon’s public policy account retweeted the governor and thanked him for his leadership on workforce development issues. 
    Senate leaders forge
    2-year budget deal

    SENATE LEADERS FORGE 2-YEAR BUDGET DEAL: The Senate’s top Republican says there’s Senate agreement on a two-year, almost $400 billion budget deal that would provide Pentagon and domestic programs with huge spending increases (Associated Press). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the pact, joined on the Senate floor by top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York. It would contain almost $300 billion more than current limits on defense and domestic accounts. McConnell said the measure would rewrite existing defense limits that have “hamstrung our armed forces and jeopardized our national security.” The measure, aides said, also contains almost $90 billion in overdue disaster aid and an increase in the government borrowing cap that would prevent a first-ever U.S. government default on its obligations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she and many fellow Democrats will oppose such a deal unless Republicans allow the chamber to vote on legislation protecting immigrants.
    Curry assails Trump on deaths

    CURRY ASSAILS TRUMP ON DEATHS: Inside a courtroom Wednesday, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry’s office filed criminal charges against the twice-deported man arrested in a drunken-driving crash that killed two men, including an Indianapolis Colts player (IndyStar). Outside, Curry issued a statement blasting President Donald Trump. “We are disheartened that ghoulish and inappropriate public commentary has politicized this tragedy,” said Curry, a Democrat. “Much of such commentary, including tweets by the president, fails to acknowledge that both Edwin Jackson and Jeffrey Monroe lost their lives on Sunday.” Friends and family of Jackson and Monroe have echoed similar sentiments.  

    EX-TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE ARRESTED FOR THEFT: Former Olive Township Clerk Sherri Houser turned herself in to authorities on Tuesday to face a charge of forgery for allegedly misusing the township’s checking account (South Bend Tribune). The charge comes after the Indiana State Board of Accounts determined last fall that Houser used taxpayer money to pay more than $4,000 in personal checks and overpaid herself by about $11,5000.
  • Horse Race: Colt's death pivots Senate race toward immigration

    INDIANAPOLIS – The immigration debate promises to rage through Indiana’s crucial U.S. Senate race. The death of Indianapolis Colt linebacker Edwin Jackson to a drunken illegal alien on Sunday was immediately politicized by Republican candidates Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, with President Trump and Vice President Pence also citing the tragedy to make points on immigration.
    And U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly faces a harrowing month leading into President Trump’s March 5 deadline for Dreamers to get an elusive deal. Donnelly voted to keep the federal government open last month, citing a promise by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to have the issue debated. But a deal proposed by Sen. John McCain and Chris Coons was quickly shot down by President Trump, who then vowed to perpetrate a government shutdown this week unless his immigration demands were met.
    The day after Edwin Jackson died at the hands and pedal of a drunken Manuel Orrego-Savala, an illegal immigrant, U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita put it into the political arena, saying, “The loss of life at the hands of illegal immigrant criminals should make all Hoosiers sad, and ultimately angry. We must do more to get these dangerous illegal immigrant criminals off of our streets, and guarantee this never happens again by building a wall, ending sanctuary cities, and stopping illegal immigration once and for all.”
    He was followed by Messer, who said, “I echo the president’s concern that it’s long past time to deal with illegal immigration in this country. Clearly, the suspect in this case should not have been in the country, and this tragedy is yet another result of our broken immigration system. I have consistently advocated for stronger border security and am committed to working with President Trump to solve this issue.”
    Vice President Pence tweeted the Jackson death “was a senseless & avoidable tragedy.” And Tuesday morning President Trump called it “disgraceful,” tweeting, “This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!” 
    There has been widespread analysis that Trump and Republicans believe they can suck Democrats into dangerous territory by playing the race card. It’s something that has worked in the past, including 1988 when Vice President George H.W. Bush used the “Willie Horton” ad to defeat Democrat Michael Dukakis.
    Senate leaders announced a two-year budget deal on Wednesday, but there was no commitment to bring up the Dreamer deal. “Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said (Politico). McConnell promised to hold a floor debate on various Dreamers proposals later this month as long as the government remains open. Ryan has already said he would bring up a Dreamers’ deal if Trump signs off on it. “We’ve been very clear about this,” Ryan said at a press conference earlier this week. “We will take a bill that the president supports.”
    In addition to the dicey debate Sen. Donnelly faces between now and the March 5 Dreamer deadline, McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund launched a digital ad on the “Mexico Joe” theme that surfaced in 2017 after the Associated Press reported that a family company Donnelly had a financial stake in had out-sourced jobs to Mexico. Donnelly has sold any shares he once had in the company.
    The Senate Leadership Fund declined to disclose how much it was spending but said the spot to the Washington Examiner, but the PAC said it was aimed at “key voters.” The voice over in the ad says at one point, “Mexico Joe says one thing in public ... But behind the scenes his family is still profiting from outsourcing jobs to Mexico.”

    Henderson endorses Braun

    Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terry Henderson has endorsed Mike Braun. “Washington is broken, and we’ll never fix it by promoting the career politicians that got us into this mess in the first place,” said Henderson. “We Hoosier Republicans need Mike Braun, a proven conservative businessman who has the skills needed to make a difference in Washington.” Braud said, “I very thankful for Terry’s support, I think shows that more Hoosiers beleive in my message that real solutions don’t come from the swamp,” said outsider Republican candidate Mike Braun. “Indiana business owners know all too well that Washington’s incompetence has cost our country trillions, and I’m proud to have a conservative businessman like Terry joining my mission to shake things up in D.C.” 

    New Messer digital ad

    Messer’s Senate campaign rolled out a five-figure digital ad narrated by Luke’s two daughters Emma and Ava, a news release announced. This ad kicks off Luke Messer’s media effort to Republican voters across the state. In the video, Messer’s daughters tell voters who their dad really is before the airwaves become dominated with election coverage, or as Ava jokes “fake news.” 

    Sparring over the Irish
    Messer and Donnelly mixed it up over the Irish last weekend. On Thursday, Luke Messer attacked ESPN host Max Kellerman’s political correctness tirade to change the “Fighting Irish” mascot because it may be offensive by saying, “This is political correctness gone crazy. The Fighting Irish mascot represents the fighting spirit of Notre Dame’s sports teams over the last century. Clearly, ESPN has lost its mind. They’ve given up on sports and now only care about being politically correct. They ought to change their name to ESPC.” Hours later, Joe Donnelly’s campaign attacked Messer saying: “Wabash football players once made a name for themselves by beating Notre Dame on the football field, but now it seems their alumni are seeking attention by trying to yell about them on twitter. Sadly for Congressman Messer, anyone looking for a senator who’ll be a good steward of the Fighting Irish’s legacy will probably vote for the two-time graduate of Notre Dame, Joe Donnelly.” Now, Luke Messer is calling on Sen. Joe Donnelly to stand with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot. “Sen. Donnelly, do you think the Fighting Irish nickname should be changed? This isn’t hard, stand up for your two-time alma mater against ESPN and the PC police.”
    Messer, Rokita backed Nunes memo
    Messer, campaigning in Kokomo Thursday, said he had read the Nunes memo that in recent days spurred debate throughout the nation (Myers, Kokomo Tribune). The memo, which Messer believes should have been made public, was released Friday. Messer was in town on a whirlwind tour one day after filing his Senate candidacy petition. He made the statement on the Nunes memo after a guided visit of Bona Vista Programs’ therapies and preschool initiatives.

    Rokita told WIBC, “I think there is criminal culpability here. I think this deserves an investigation. There needs to be accountability. Individuals in our government were so hyper political that they were using the government to go after their opponents.”
  • Horse Race: Trump, GOP see bounce in polls, and then came Missouri

    INDIANAPOLIS – In the wake of President Trump’s State of the Union address and as the tax reforms begin to sink in and show up on paychecks this month, Republicans began heaving a sigh of relief. The polls were getting better.

    Monmouth put Trump’s approval at 44% approve, 48% disapprove; Reuters/Ipsos had it at 41/53%, Rasmussen had it 48/51% and Economist/YouGov had it 45/53%. Monmouth put the Congressional generic ballot at 47-45% in favor of Democrats, Reuters had Democrats leading 37-31% and Economist/YouGov put it at 43-37% for Democrats. All of these were significant improvements for Republicans from recent polling.

    “I just looked at some numbers, you’ve even done better than you thought,” President Trump told Republican lawmakers last week at a retreat in West Virginia. NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), added, “The numbers are pretty good and that’s one example of how things are getting better.”  

    Then came Tuesday, when a Missouri House seat where President Trump had won by 28% in 2016 flipped to Democrat Mike Revis, who won 52-48% over Republican David Linton. “Representative-elect Mike Revis’s victory tonight will undoubtedly send another shockwave through the GOP as we continue to run the best candidates focused on addressing local issues and improving their neighbors’ quality of life,” Jessica Post, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee executive director, said in a statement.

    This Democratic pick up in deep red Missouri comes on the heels of Alabama Republican Roy Moore losing a had red U.S. Senate seat, and in Wisconsin where Democrat Patty Schachtner flipped a state Senate seat that had been held by Republicans since the start of the century in a district that Trump carried by 17%. Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the results a “wake up call” for the party. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the party should take interest in why it lost the election. “Typically, we’ve held this seat, and we lost this seat last night. So, yeah, I think we should pay attention to it,” Ryan told reporters last month, The New York Times reported.

    There were some other telltales. The Hill reported that Democratic U.S. House campaigns “made significant fundraising gains.” Of the dozens of Democratic challengers who outpaced GOP incumbents, 22 of them are in races listed on the nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report’s 86 top battleground House races. And the DCCC’s “On the Radar” candidate raised about $153,000, and has about $300,000 cash on hand.

    In Indiana, 31 Democrats are seeking nine congressional seats, including nine women candidates. The latest to announce was Jennifer Christie in the 5th CD, where she will face Dee Thornton in the primary along with Dion Douglas, Kyle Moore and Eshel Faraggi.

    “As a patriot and mom of four children, I am deeply concerned about the future of Indiana’s communities and our nation,” Christie said when she filed on Tuesday. “As a woman, I am saddened by the way our commander-in-chief speaks about women and endorses candidates like Roy Moore. As a scientist, I am appalled by ‘alternate facts’ that have no validity scientifically, the president’s disregard for truth, attacks on our public lands, and denials of climate change. As a citizen, I am worried about the assaults on our democratic institutions and traditions, including partisan attacks on our free press as well as the U.S. Constitution’s system of checks and balances. Moreover, like the majority of Americans, I am deeply concerned about our president’s lack of transparency regarding his financial entanglements and his refusal to release his taxes.” 

    U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks’s 5th CD is +9 Republican on the Cook Partisan Index, one of only two single-digit party advantages in the state (the other is Rep. Pete Visclosky’s 1st CD at +8 Democrat). She raised $107,462 in the fourth quarter and has $1,499,705 cash on hand. HPI still rates the 5th CD as “Safe” Republican, but that could change if a Democratic wave develops.

    As HPI reported last week, Democrats in deep red districts are raising money, with Liz Watson in the 9th CD raising $372,000, Dan Canan raising $309,000 for the year, and Courtney Tritch in the 3rd CD raising $101,000 in the fourth quarter. All of these candidates are out-performing Democrats running in these districts in recent cycles. In the 9th CD, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth reported $297,796.56 cash on hand, and in the 3rd CD, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks has $306,239.93 cash on hand.


    2nd CD: Walorski files

    U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski filed for reelection and posted $829,311.19 cash on hand after raising $1,252,787.23 in 2017, including $260,103.10 in the fourth quarter. In contrast, the perceived Democratic frontrunner Mel Hall posted $432,482.49 cash on hand.
    4th CD: Morales money lead over Braun

    Republican Diego Morales had a $355,251 to $153,760 over Steve Braun in the Republican primary race. Morales reported raising $413,852 in 2017 to Braun’s $323,435. Jared Thomas raised $17,137 and had $7,034 cash on hand, while State Rep. Jim Baird raised $6,460, loaned his campaign $200,000 and posted $203,002 cash on hand.

    Smith, Atterholt endorse Morales

    Two men who each served as chief of staff to then-Gov. Mike Pence, Jim Atterholt and Bill Smith, have officially endorsed Diego Morales for Congress in Indiana’s 4th District. Smith served as Pence’s chief of staff from 2013 to 2014, with Atterholt holding the position from 2014 to 2016. Both men are considered to have been effective and committed conservative leaders within the Indiana Republican Party for more than three decades. “Having worked directly with Diego when he was Gov. Pence’s senior advisor, I know he is a strong conservative who will bring his servant-heart leadership to Washington,” said Atterholt, who most recently served Gov. Eric Holcomb as Indiana Regulatory Commission chairman. “His quality of character, relentless work ethic and commitment to faith, family and country make Diego Morales the right choice for Congress and I enthusiastically endorse his candidacy.” Smith, president & CEO of Sextons Creek, agreed with Atterholt. “Diego brings a strong combination of public and private sector experience to this race. He blends his background as an Army veteran with years of business management, government relations, economics and international outreach to create a unique perspective that will serve us well. Along with his rock-solid stances on the sanctity of life, the 2nd Amendment and support of homeschoolers, Diego is, without a doubt, the right person to represent the 4th District in Congress.”

    Baird hires operations director

    State Rep. Jim Baird announced the addition of Brittany Daniel Wallace as director of operations for his congressional campaign in Indiana’s 4th District.

    6th CD: Lamb runs Super Bowl ad

    Republican Jonathan Lamb took his message to a wide audience Sunday when his newest commercial aired during Super Bowl LII in the Indianapolis market on the NBC affiliate, WTHR, Channel 13. “Let’s face it, while we’ve already clearly shown that money will not be an issue in deciding this race, I have a little catch-up to do in the name recognition department,” said Lamb, referencing his opponent’s family name that’s been in Congress, the governor’s mansion and in the White House for nearly 20 years.  “But the Super Bowl will help continue to close that gap. I simply want this race to be about who is the best candidate, not who someone’s brother is.”

    Pence files in 6th CD

    Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, filed for the Republican 6th CD primary on Monday (Howey Politics Indiana). “I got in this race because I was encouraged to step up after Congressman Luke Messer announced his candidacy for the Senate,” Pence said. “But before I would even consider such an important role for my community, I reached out to Republican leaders across the 6th District to better understand what type of congressman they want to represent this important area of our state.”

    8th CD: Moss cites ‘broken’ GOP

    “We have a broken Republican party in Congress that is a disappointment to the conservative base,” said Dr. Richard Moss (Grant, Washington Times Herald). “The conservative Republican base is frustrated. They don’t see their party representing them and that is bad for both the party and the country.” For Moss, 63, of Jasper, who practices in Jasper and Washington, that is one of the big reasons he has filed to seek the 8th District congressional nomination for the Republican Party. “We have hard line Democrats, socialists and big-spending, big-debt Republicans running the country,” said Moss. “They are ruining it. I want to be part of a movement of strong constitutional conservatives to create an impact on Congress and rein it in.” This is not the first time Moss has taken a run at Congress. He was a candidate two years ago. “Sometimes it takes an election cycle or two to get your name out,” he said. “We are building a structure and name identification. I feel if I can add a few percent more people, I have a real chance at the primary.” Republican incumbent Dr. Larry Bucshon has already filed with the Indiana secretary of state to run for reelection for the seat. Moss says Bucshon’s actions in the House are another reason he is seeking the office. “First, he has taken a page out of the Evan Bayh-Richard Lugar playbook and moved his family to the Washington, D.C., area,” said Moss. “He still has a home in the district, but they live in Virginia. Hoosiers want the people that represent them to live in the area.” Moss also had a complaint about Bucshon’s voting record. “Like a lot of Republicans he campaigns as a conservative at home, but when he gets to D.C., he votes with the mainstream Republicans,” said Moss.

    General Assembly

    HD45: Publisher Exline files

    Jim Exline, president of Kelk Publishing LLC, which publishes the Sullivan Daily Times, said he filed this morning on the Democrat ballot to run for the District 45 seat in the Indiana House of Representatives (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). In an email and news release, Exline said he would kick off his campaign at 1 p.m. Thursday in Sullivan. Incumbent Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, has filed for re-election on the Republican ballot for the District 45 seat. Exline is a graduate of Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in finance.

    HD62: Swain announces v. Ellington

    A two-term elected member of the Indian Creek Township board is setting her sights on the Indiana Statehouse (Rollins, Bloomington Herald-Times). Amy Swain has announced her candidacy for Indiana House District 62 — which covers the majority of Greene County and portions of Monroe, Martin and Daviess counties. She is running as a Democrat. The seat is currently held by Republican Jeff Ellington. Swain had filed for re-election to the Indian Creek Township board last month. She said she is withdrawing from that race to pursue election to the Statehouse. “Having lived in a rural Hoosier community for more than 20 years, I believe that rural residents are often left out of the conversation at the Statehouse, and I will bring that perspective to the job,” Swain said in a news release. As an Indian Creek Township board member, Swain voted to restore fire protection and emergency medical services to a centrally located fire station within the township. “By taking necessary steps to join with neighboring townships in a fire district, the township will be better staffed, including full-time protection for fire and emergency services, and will be able to purchase newer equipment to protect its citizens,” Swain said in a news release.

    Primary filings

    Congress, Democrat: U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, U.S. Senate, Larry Chubb CD1, Courtney Tritch CD3, Rolland Ellis CD4, Lane Siekman CD6, Dion Douglass CD5, Kyle Brendan Moore CD5, Jeanine Lee Lake CD6. Republican: U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, U.S. Senate, Jeremy D. Belko  CD1, Nicholas Pappas  CD1, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski CD2, Mark Summe CD2, Darin Patrick Griesey CD4, Greg Pence CD6, Stephen M. MacKenzie  CD6, Mike Campbell CD6, Donald Eason, Jr CD7, J D Miniear  CD7, Rachael Covington CD8.

    Indiana Senate: Democrat: Chris Kukuch SD1, Christina Fivecoate HD11, Sheryl Shipley SD22. Republican: Sen. Rick Niemeyer SD6, Zaki Ali SD25, Corrie Meyer SD29, Sen. James W. Merritt, Jr SD31. 

    Indiana House: Democrat: Rosa Maria Rodriguez HD2, Sean Fitzpatrick HD9, Pamela R. Eanes  HD12, Christina L. Zacny HD16, Maurice Oakel Fuller HD25, Deanna I. McMillan HD26, Rep. Sheila Klinker H27, Jim Exline  HD45, Joseph Lannan  HD63, Nick Brown  HD80, Mike Wilber HD82, Curtis NashHD84, Greg Rathnow HD93, Nichole M. Thomas HD98. Republican: Dan Granquist  HD9, Jennifer Culp  HD36, Rep. Tom Linkmeyer HD39, Mark Bacon HD55, Rep. Daniel J. Leonard HD50, William Carlin  HD52, Shane Lindauer HD63, Buford L. Dewitt  HD73, David H. Abbott HD82, Paula L. Finch HD87, Cindy Kirchhofer  HD89, Rep. Mike Speedy HD90, Rep. Ed Clere HD72, Speaker Brian Bosma HD88, Rep. Robert W. Behning HD91. 
  • HPI Analysis: How SEA80 is crimping local meth production

    INDIANAPOLIS – The dreary reality for the transformation of the Crossroads of America to “Indiana: The Methamphetamine State!” reached its low point in February 2014 when a Washington Post headline stated: “Congrats Missouri, you’re no longer the nation’s meth-bust capital.” That dubious distinction belonged to Indiana where 1,808 clandestine meth labs had been busted. For every one discovered, another three or four existed in the shadows. 

    Even more appalling were the 458 Hoosier kids found living in these toxic cesspools.

    It begged questions internally: How is it OK that Indiana continually leads the nation in clandestine meth labs? Why are hundreds of municipal and state employees being injured at meth labs as firefighters, cops and code enforcers? Why is it OK that in 2013, 458 Hoosier kids were found in contaminated meth labs? Why is it OK that cities and towns are having to mitigate thousands of contaminated homes, cars and hotel rooms? Why, why, why? And are there solutions to be found in other states?

    HPI reporter Matthew Butler, now working as a policy analyst for House Republicans, learned that Mississippi, Oregon, Missouri and Tennessee restricted pseudoephedrine sales at pharmacies. The impacts were dramatic. Mississippi saw meth lab busts decline from 692 in 2009 to eight in 2013. Why shouldn’t Indiana follow this lead?

    In 2016, a coalition that had been forming included State Rep. Ben Smaltz and State Sen. Randy Head; legislator pharmacists such as Sen. Ron Grooms and Rep. Steve Davisson; a bipartisan group of legislators that included Reps. David Ober, Martin Carbaugh, Wendy McNamara, Ron Bacon, Christina Hale, Dennis Zent, Charlie Brown and Gail Riecken; mayors with the Accelerate Indiana Municipalities; the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council; and the Indiana State Police Alliance. The coalition ended up paddling in the same direction, producing SEA80. 

    It was a long slog as the Consumer Health Care Association conducted a statewide radio ad campaign warning consumers they would not find a ready supply of pseudoephedrine products. Lobbyists for the industry threatened reporters and opinion makers who vowed to take them on. In mid-January, House Public Health Chairwoman Cindy Kirchhofer and Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Chairman Mike Young at one point vowed not to hear bills that would alter access to the drugs. It was Speaker Brian Bosma who intervened, clearing the way for a floor vote on the issue.

    In one of the more dramatic presentations in modern legislative history, Smaltz appeared on the House floor flanked by two easels bearing large posters showing how much PSE could be purchased at one time by one individual. “I think that was shocking for a lot of people,” Smaltz said. “People could see the obscene amount of Sudafed you could buy. You could take the maximum dosage every day for nine and a half months if you wanted to, and that was totally fine and legal based on gram limits. That really struck home with people. Why do we have to have the gram limit set so high? Maybe this was pharmaceuticals selling pseudoephedrine more than good policy and protecting our communities.”

    This past week, new Indiana State Police statistics revealed meth lab incidents have fallen 74% since 2015 after then-Gov. Mike Pence signed the law, declining from 1,452 in 2015 to 943 in 2016 and 371 for 2017. Even more dramatically, the number of children recovered in meth labs dropped precipitously. After 458 were found in 2013, some 291 were discovered in 2015, and 49 in 2017, an 83% decline. 

    Smaltz’s Senate Enrolled Act 80 maintained rightful patient access to cold medications by empowering pharmacists to use their professional judgment in determining whether there was a legitimate medical need for pseudoephedrine before approving a sale.

    Rep. David Frizzell’s House Enrolled Act 1157 required NPLEx to issue stop-sale alerts after Jan. 1, 2017, for meth-related felons attempting to purchase pseudoephedrine without a prescription. In 2017, Courts and Criminal Code Chairman Tom Washburne’s House Enrolled Act 1406 expanded the restriction to all drug-related felons effective July 1, 2017. And there was Rep. Martin Carbaugh’s House Enrolled Act 1211, which improved the collection and accuracy of statewide meth abuse statistics. 

    “It seems like you can’t do anything alone,” Smaltz explained on Tuesday of the perfect legislative/executive storm that occurred in 2016, culminating with Gov. Mike Pence’s signature in hard-hit Rochester that March. “What I found out was that other people were thinking the same thing: ‘I can’t do this alone. I need some help.’ So I started working with Randy Head, and then the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, and just on and on. It just seemed like all of a sudden, everybody was pulling on the rope together to get meth labs and against kids getting caught up. Everybody just came together. 

    “It was Republicans’ help and Democrat help,” Smaltz continued. “There were a couple of committee meetings where Democrats like Charlie Brown and Pat Bauer helped me out. They weren’t living in a community that had this problem but clearly Smaltz does, and so do other people. They were willing to help. I had Republicans do the same exact thing. They lived around Marion and Hamilton County where they just weren’t dealing with it. We were in crisis in Nashville, Anderson, Auburn, Kendallville, these rural communities. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen politically, everyone pulling together.”

    Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Family Social Services Administration, worked on SEA80 within the Pence administration. “The image that I recall most vividly, was having a room full of people, people talking about the same common goals,” she said of the shaping of SEA80. “We’ve got health, health care finance, state police, the legislative, justice, and executive branches at the table. We asked, ‘What are the things we can control right now?’ We were all listening to each other.”

    When Gov. Pence signed the law, he noted, “I think it was a real common-sense solution that took into account the interest of parents and law-abiding citizens to be able to have access to pseudoephedrine when a family member is struggling with an illness, and at the same time creating new barriers for individuals who may be using those materials to create meth,” Pence said. “I think it’s going to make a big difference in the number of meth labs in Indiana,” State Sen. Randy Head said at the time.

    Asked if he has received complaints from consumers and pharmacists about accessing PSE, Smaltz said, “I haven’t heard one complaint. I get the thumbs up from pharmacists in my district.”

    A meth problem still exists

    Essentially, SEA80 has crimped the widespread collateral damage with the production of meth. This included the children, the toxic residences that needed to be mitigated, the loss of taxable property and the injuries to state and municipal employees. But meth is still readily available. It’s just being manufactured somewhere else. 

    “While it’s safer with the decrease in manufacturing, we still have an increase in possession and use,” Dr. Walthall said Wednesday. “The thing that is hard is when we decrease one source, the supply seems to find its way from other sources. We still have a lot of work yet to do,” citing the need on a “call of action that includes treatment and prevention.”

    Some of the decline comes with addicts pursuing heroin, opioids, fentanyl and other drugs, many supplied by Mexican drug cartels.

    Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin observed, “Law enforcement is encouraged about the reduction in the meth labs seized but understand that the fight is far from over and total victory over the problem would be zero meth labs seized. The reduction in the numbers is a direct result of the combined effort of enforcement, education and rehabilitation by police, the courts, jails and the overall community awareness. Unfortunately, another reason for the reduction is the increased flow of cheap methamphetamine being funneled into the United States and eventually into Indiana by Latin American criminal gangs. The increase in the rise of heroin use is also a factor and an extremely disturbing fact.

    “I’m still seeing meth, still seeing people taking meth, but not like I used to,” said Smaltz, whose HD52 includes parts of DeKalb, Steuben and Allen counties. “I was seeing hundreds and hundreds in my district. We were seeing the pots along roads, outside my business, in trash collections. That’s not how it is today. I’m not seeing meth lab homes, anything like I used to see. I’m not seeing kids getting yanked out of these hellholes. I’m a realist and there will be other problems with drugs. I’m a fighter and I’m in for the long haul. You can fight meth and knock it down and we’ll turn sights on illegal opioids and we’re going to fight that and knock it down and be ready for what else comes.”

    Smaltz credited mayors like Warsaw’s Joe Thallemer, Auburn’s Norm Yoder and Columbia City’s Ryan Daniel with articulating what was at stake in local communities. “They were able to relay the message, this is what it costs,” Smaltz said. “We’ve got police fighting this, we had to clean it up. This is what the taxpayers in Warsaw or Columbia City or Auburn are paying for in allowing this to continue. To have that message, to have that message at home fighting this while we were in Indianapolis fighting this. The prosecutors brought a lot of legal expertise to help us navigate.”

    And Smaltz credited Speaker Bosma when the legislation appeared to be bottled up in committee. “Without Speaker Bosma, there are hundred more kids found in meth homes,” Smaltz said. “Speaker Bosma was very timely and his support was key. It wouldn’t have happened without him.”

    “I understand being a chairman, you think it and overthink it,” said Smaltz, who chairs the House Public Policy Committee. “Every chairman thinks, ‘What’s the right policy? What’s the right thing to do? Is what we want to achieve realistic?’ I’ve got 30 bills coming at me most of the time and every one has support from somebody. They had competing time. There’s only so much time. Speaker Bosma never told me no. He’s never said, ‘Don’t you do that.’ I’ve never heard those words to another chairman. He’s very pragmatic. He’ll ask, ‘If you do this, what happens? If we don’t do this, what happens?’ I made my case and he said, ‘What happens if we don’t do it?’ and I explained what I thought would happen.

    “He said, ‘This is something we need to do.’ He was able to relay my message to the chair of public policy.” 

    And Smaltz credits Gov. Pence with allowing the legislating to proceed. “Gov. Pence was a little more arm’s length away. He came from a community that had a meth problem. We still have problems in Columbus,” Smaltz said. “He played his role which  helped us. He didn’t get in the way. I know the other side was working real hard to try and trip us up and if Gov. Pence had wanted to get in our way, he could have, but he didn’t. I’ve learned in the Statehouse that neutral is just fine. If they stay neutral, I can operate. If they want to get in your way, it makes things a lot harder. He stayed in his role as an executive and didn’t interrupt what we were trying to do.”

    HPI played its role as a media advocate for change, covering the issue frequently between 2013 and 2016 in this publication and in columns running in more than 30 newspapers and WTHR-TV. After Gov. Pence signed SEA80, he sent HPI a signing pen and letter, which stated, “I used the enclosed pen to sign into law SEA80. I hope you will accept it as a small token of gratitude for your leadership on this important legislation.”

    Lessons for moving forward on opioids

    Rep. Smaltz is sponsoring SB221 in the House this session as a new tool to combat the heroin/opioid crisis. It would amend the NPLEx system to allow prescribing doctors to know if a patient is obtaining opioids from multiple sources. “If I’m an addict, I am able to doctor shop,” Smaltz said. “I can get five different scripts from different pharmacies. I’ve got the drugs to feed my addiction.”

    Before leaving the Statehouse on Tuesday, he took State Sen. Erin Houchin’s SB221 and reached out to House Health Chair Kirchhofer to schedule a hearing.

    He said that in order to combat the opioid crisis, “The first thing you have to do is goal setting. What’s our goal? What can we realistically achieve? And who’s going to play what role in the process? Anyone who grandstands and wants to do it all is going to be fraught with frustration and failure forever.”

    “I met with Gov. Holcomb last Wednesday and we talked about this issue,” Smaltz said. “I’m going to carry 221, an agenda bill. I felt like I was talking to somebody who was leading the team, somebody who was committed. It makes me feel good that the guy in the second floor is on board. I walked out of his office energized with a plan, knowing what to do and what he expects. I feel the second floor is on the same team as the third floor. When that happens, good things can happen.”

    Dr. Walthall is also preparing to confront the opioid crisis. While the state is still gathering data on the extent of the crisis, Walthall describes an administration that is not content to wait for the 2019 General Assembly budget session to deal with the situation. She noted that Drug Czar Jim McClelland established a plan in 2017. That included expanding treatment capacity. The federal waiver for Health Indiana Plan 2.0 granted by Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar last week gives the state “a great vehicle for treatment,” Walthall said.

    In accepting the waiver, Holcomb said, “A decade after it launched, Indiana’s HIP program has become the national model for a state-led, consumer-driven healthcare program that meets citizens’ needs, provides choices and improves lives. This approval continues coverage for hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers and unlocks funding to expand resources to help people struggling with addiction.”

    Azar, a former Eli Lilly executive, said, “Today’s approval is the result of the hard work of Gov. Holcomb, his team and our team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and serves as a testament to Indiana’s ongoing commitment to improving the lives of its Medicaid beneficiaries. We look forward to collaborating with Indiana on this next evolution of HIP, which serves as another example of the Trump Administration’s support of state-led efforts and innovative reforms to make our HHS programs really work for Americans.”

    Walthall added that the 21st Century CURES Act will provide a second year of funding. And she is excited about the coming “Open Beds 211 System” to be announced in the near future. This will allow addicts to dial 211 “24/7/365,” as Walthall describes it, allowing them to enter a treatment protocol. She said that heading into the 2019 session, FSSA and the state will be looking for “sustainability” in developing a strategy across all three branches of Indiana government.

    “We’re pulling in the same direction,” she said. “We’re all on fire.”
  • Atomic! Session midpoint; Colt death politicized; Trump testimony
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Half way point at the General Assembly

    Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: The General Assembly is at its session mid-point. It comes as a mid-term exodus is underway with some 20 members opting for retirement (or other jobs), creating an array of primaries in May. Widespread cold beer, hate crimes, township mergers and a raised smoking age are pretty much dead. Sunday alcohol sales, response to the heroin epidemic, baby steps on redistricting reform, workforce development consolidation and more rural school funding are alive and viableSpeaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long will have more to say when they meet the press later today. House MinorityLeader Terry Goodin said this morning, “What we are seeing here is a massive misuse of conducting short sessions … at least this short session. We are doing nothing except marking time until March 15. Ugh.” 

    Session ending impacts: The stock markets worldwide are in free fall, inflation is a new concern, and the words “recession” along with “contagion” are creeping into the lexicon. The market dive looks worse than it is (at this point), as the Dow, S&P and others been so robust and without correction  for a year. But this dive in an extended state could have an impact the perceptions and fiscal options  for legislative leaders. We’ll be watching the noon Friday primary filing deadline. There’s usually a surprise or two. Speaker Bosma has yet to file (just a fact, not rumor, gossip or whatever, though he was slated last weekend by the GOP). One reliable source tells us a late story could be moving up the appointment of a school superintendent to 2020  from the current 2024.

    2. Politicizing Edwin Jackson’s tragic death

    A day after the tragic death of Indianapolis Colt linebacker Edwin Jackson at the hands and pedal of a drunken Manuel Orrego-Savala, an illegal immigrantU.S. Rep. Todd Rokita put it into the political arena, saying, "The loss of life at the hands of illegal immigrant criminals should make all Hoosiers sad, and ultimately angry. We must do more to get these dangerous illegal immigrant criminals off of our streets, and guarantee this never happens again by building a wall, ending sanctuary cities, and stopping illegal immigration once and for all.” Vice President Pence tweeted the Jackson death “was a senseless & avoidable tragedy.” And this morning President Trump called it “disgraceful,” tweeting,  "This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!" 

    3. Snollygoster president’s wary attorneys

    The snollygoster President Trump (noun: A shrewd, unprincipled person) is being advised by his attorneys not to testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The reason, according to the New York Times, “His lawyers are concerned that the president, who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators.” Trump has previously said he’d testify. Of course, Mueller could subpoena him to appear before a grand jury. Meanwhile, our AP friend Tom LoBianco reports: Vice President Pence largely has stayed out of the conversation. He has not been asked to speak with Mueller, according to anonymous veep sources. AP: “Both by coincidence and design, Pence has managed to skirt some of the biggest controversies  of the Trump administration.”

    4. Son of Government Shutdown

    Sen. Joe Donnelly and Senate Democrats were promised a hearing on a Dreamer bill by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month when they signed off on another continuing resolution to keep the government open. Now with Son of Government Shutdown just two days away, the White House is shooting down Dreamer deals  (McCain/Coons). Donnelly and the Dems are beginning to look gullible  to the base for accepting the January deal. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers are twisting, twisting, twisting in the cruel winds. And President Trump described in Cincinnati Monday“treasonous” behavior by Democrats  because they didn’t stand and applaud his State of the Union address. In Stalin’s Soviet Union and in today’s North Korea, that could get ya shot.

    5. Debt limits and a new trillion dollar debt

    Axios notes: “The debt limit needs to be lifted by early next month. Hardly anyone is talking about this.” This comes on top of the Washington Post reporting last week that due in part to the hastily passed tax reforms, the federal government under President Trump is on pace to borrow close to $1 trillion this year, up from $519 billion in 2017. The former Deficit Hawks have their beaks tucked under wing, hoping higher paychecks beginning this month will offset the debt that will be paid for by the young children of Sen. Todd Young, and Reps. Luke Messer, Todd Rokita and Trey Hollingsworth along with the rest of our kids and grandkids.

    Stay warm, folks. It’s The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Atomic! Meth lab decline; McDaniels era coming; Page in a memo
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The crimping of the meth lab era in Indiana

    Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: In 2014, Howey Politics Indiana  and our top-notch reporter, Matt Butler, posed these questions internally: How is it OK that Indiana continually leads the nation  in clandestine meth labs? Why are hundreds of municipal and state employees being injured at meth labs as firefighters, cops and code enforcers? Why is it OK that in 2013, 458 Hoosier kids were found in contaminated meth labs? Why is it OK that cities and towns are having to mitigate hundreds of contaminated homes, cars and hotel rooms? Why, why, why? And are there solutions to be found in other states? It was our mission via HPI  and my column that runs in about 35 newspapers and WTHR-TV to shame lawmakers into doing something about it. In March 2016, then-Gov. Mike Pence signed SEA80, which restricts the sale of pseudoephedrine after heroic legislating by State Rep. Ben SmaltzSen. Randy Head and Speaker Brian Bosma

    Last week the Indiana State Police released statistics showing that meth lab incidents had fallen 74%  since 2015. There were 371 meth lab busts in 2017, down from 943 in 2016, 1,452 in 2015 and 1,808 in 2013. More importantly, the number of kids found in these toxic cesspools declined 83% between 2015 (291 kids) and 2017 (49 kids). In Thursday’s weekly HPI, we’ll walk through how activist journalism and savvy lawmaking made a huge difference in Indiana, formerly “The Methamphetamine State!”

    2. The coming of the McDaniels era

    From the perspectives of an Indianapolis Colts fan, Sunday night was perfect. The evil New England Patriots were slain by backup QB Nick Foles, giving the Philadelphia Eagles their first title since 1960. The game was sensational, breaking a number of offensive all-time and all-time playoff records, coming down to the last play. This came despite the evil Tom Brady’s historic 500-yard-plus passing display. And the man behind Brady’s epic passing and the designer of this prolific offense, Josh McDaniels, will be by mid-week head coach of the Colts. The mind spins with the potential of matching McDaniels up with another cerebral quarterback in Andrew Luck, his recuperating physical skills. An understandably disheartened McDaniels said, “You’re a couple plays short, usually it makes you stronger and you try to come back and do it all again. You realize when you’re at this stage, there’s a lot of great players and coaches, and you never know when you’re going to get another opportunity. So, it’s tough.” We think that “next opportunity” happens in Indy within the next two or three years. So let the McDaniels/Luck era begin

    3. Trump’s ‘total vindication’

    In the child-like mind of President Trump, the Nunes Memo prompted his bizarre tweet over the weekend: “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their [sic] was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction.” But the Nunes Memo actually undercuts Trump’s case. The memo’s final paragraph confirmed that the Russia probe started with George Papadopoulos, not the Steele dossier. And it elevatedCarter Page from a peripheral and strange figure  to Trump’s front line defense. TIME  uncovered a 2013 letter from Page, which states, “Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin  in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda.” And Politico  quotes Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group who describes Page as his “most wackadoodle alumnus,” noting that Page's vehemently pro-Kremlin views  meant that “he wasn't a good fit.” But some how, some way, Pagebecame a good fit for the Trump campaign. Whew.

    4. Some Hoosier Republicans buy into Nunes Memo

    Some Hoosier Republicans have bought into the Nunes Memo. Vice President Pence said, “I’ve had a chance to see the memo and our administration believes the memo raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions that were made at the highest level of the Department of Justice and the FBI.” Those officials were chosen by President Trump. U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita said, "The memo reveals hyper-political individuals  in the highest levels of the Department of Justice and intelligence agencies using a salacious and unverified dossier  to target political opponents. The American people deserve answers and transparency.” And U.S. Rep. Jim Banks called the memo contents “deeply troubling.” There was a reason most Hoosier Members didn't weigh in. This comes as National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray opposed the Memo release and former CIA Director John Brennan said that Chairman Nunes “abused” his post. And this from Politico Magazine: “Social media intelligence group New Media Frontier shows that the #releasethememo campaign was fueled by, and likely originated from, computational propaganda” from Russian Twitter bots. As for “transparency,” that will come with the release of a thorough investigation report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

    5. Big week for Vice President Pence

    In about an hour, it will be wheels up for Vice President Mike Pence who heads to Alaska, then Japan, for a meeting with PM Abe on Wednesday, and then on to the Winter Olympics. His mission there, in addition to the ceremonial functions, will be to “disrupt” the North Korean attempt to normalize itself. Axios  reports a Pence aide saying: "The Vice President will remind the world that everything the North Koreans do at the Olympics is acharade to cover up  the fact that they are the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet. At every opportunity, the VP will point out the reality of the oppression in North Korea by a regime that has enslaved its people. We will not allow North Korea’s propaganda to hijack the messaging  of the Olympics.”

    Have a great week, folks. It’s The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Azar & HIP2.0; INSen cash parity; Statehouse exodus
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Azar comes home as 25k kicked off HIP2.0

    Here are your final, pre-Super Bowl power lunch talking points: Gov. Eric Holcomb hosts HHS Secretary Alex Azar for a round table discussion at Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis at 2:30 today, along with FSSA Sec. Jennifer Walthall. There is speculation that Azar will announce approval of Medicaid work requirements. Holcomb has also been talking a lot about a pending Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 waiver. They’ll talk as Axios  and Kaiser Health News reports this morning that Indiana kicked about 25,000 people out of its HIP 2.0  – the Medicaid expansion program approved under then-Gov. Mike Pence – for not paying their premiums. About half of those people got new health coverage in other ways, usually through a job. 

    The HIP 2.0 program which requires enrollees to pay at least a little bit  was developed by current CMS Director Seema Verma, who Azar now oversees. But Axios  notes “the Indiana news could jump-start a debate  over whether low-income people can afford to pay for their coverage at all.”

    2. Rokita posts $459k, Senate race parity

    U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita posted $459,000 in his 4th Quarter FEC report and has $2.4 million cash on hand. That compares with Mike Braun’s $2 million haul (including $1.75 million from himself) with $2.3 million cash, and Rep. Luke Messer, who raised $430,000 and has $2.4 million cash. Talk about cash parity, though the mostly self-funding Braun is likely to have more assets moving forward. Messer is in Fort Wayne today for a fundraiser. Rokita’s internal polling released last week revealed almost 60% of Republicans are undecided, though his numbers suggest that Braun is eating into Messer’s pool of voters. There is no question this is a very fluid race, and with this type of funding parity, there is considerable doubt that national money will come pouring before the primary. Rokita financier Dan Dumezich tells HPI be believes Rokita is the “frontrunner,” explaining, “Not only has Todd run statewide twice, in 2006 which was a Democratic wave year he still led the ticket.” As for a potential line of fire against the emerging Braun, Dumezich notes that Braun’s companies use components manufactured in Mexico. So there’s “Mexico Joe” and, perhaps in the near future, “Mazatlan Mike.”

    3. FEC 4Q contrasts

    Here are several FEC report contrasts. In the open 4th CD, Republican Diego Morales has $355,251 to $153,760 over Steve Braun. In the open 6th CD, Republican Muncie businessman Jonathan Lamb raised $515,212 and has a edge over rival Greg Pence in cash on hand, $468,276 to $436,962. Lamb has been running cable TV ads, and we saw Pence begin his TV ads last week. In the 9th CD Democratic primary, New Albany attorney Dan Canan announced that he has raised a total of $309,000, compared to $372,000 for Liz Watson, who has $276,000 cash on hand. U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth reported $133,243 for the fourth quarter. And in the deep red 3rd CD, Democrat Courtney Tritch raised $101,000 for the quarter, compared to $85,527 for U.S. Rep. Jim Banks. The Republican incumbent has a big cash-on-hand lead there and we still see the 3rd as “safe” Republican, unless a big Democrat wave develops.

    4. General Assembly exodus at 20

    This is the current list of General Assembly retirements over the past several months, and those who have not filed, some due to this weekend's Marion County Republican slating: SENATE (2 retiring, 2 already retiring, 4 total; 2 not yet filed) Doug Eckerty not running, Jim Smith not running, Luke Kenley already retired, Brandt Hershman already retired, Rick Niemeyer not filed, James W. Merritt not filed. HOUSE (13 retiring, 2 already left, 1 running for Congress, 16 total; 4 not yet filed); not running: Linda Lawson, Charlie Brown, Scott Pelath, Bill Friend, Kathy Kreag Richardson, Greg Beumer, Clyde Kersey, Wes Culver, Milo Smith, Thomas Washburne, Steven R. Stemler, David Ober; Lloyd Arnold at DNR, Mike Braun already retired, James Baird running for Congress; not yet filed: Edward Clere, Speaker Brian Bosma, Cindy Kirchhofer, and Robert Behning.
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