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Thursday, December 12, 2019
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  • INDIANAPOLIS - With the House readying an impeachment vote for President Trump and Watergate analogies everywhere, it seems worthwhile to revisit a piece I wrote in August 2018. In it, I used historical data to show that in the modern era, national waves which favor the Democratic Party don't typically wash ashore in Indiana. But that came with an important caveat: "...[R]ecent Democratic waves that upended Washington – with the exception of the Watergate-fueled wave in 1974 – haven’t translated to Indianapolis." This raises the question: If the Trump impeachment proceedings play out like the Nixon proceedings, what does history tell us to expect in 2020? Well, the past can be a good guide for understanding where the present might be taking us, but only in a probabilistic sense. We can't use it to predict what's going to happen in 2020, but we can take a closer look at 1974 to understand exactly how the impeachment proceedings and resignation of Nixon impacted Indiana elections. That might tell us how likely we are to be heading towards a similar scenario, or at least what it would take to come close to recreating it here. We'll start with the big picture, and then drill down into individual races. Unlike 2020, 1974 was a midterm election year. We know that midterms tend to be bad for the party that controls the White House (especially in second terms, as 1974 was). Usually, the president's party loses seats in Congress, and it's not a coincidence that five of the seven national waves we've seen in the past 50 years have been in midterm election years (1974, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2010).For various reasons, presidential election years are less susceptible to waves, and tend to happen only when there is an overwhelming sense that America is headed in the wrong direction (1980 and 2008). 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – A large part of the appeal of Guinness World Records is the obscurity of the records they track. Indeed, obscurity has always been the point: Ireland’s most famous brewery began publishing the book in 1955 as a way to help settle arcane pub bets. I may not be very useful if you’re interesting in knowing where the largest collection of Batman memorabilia is located, but I do feel a bit like the Guinness folks when I’m asked about some obscure piece of Indiana political history. Of course, I also relish the opportunity to dig in a little more and provide additional context. Such was the case last week, when Brian Howey pointed out to me that not a single congressional district in Indiana has switched parties since our current maps were implemented for the 2012 election. That begs the question: If there is no change in 2020, will that be the first time Indiana has ever witnessed a congressional map that produced no partisan turnover? There isn’t quite a straightforward “yes” or “no” answer, which fortunately means I get to dig in and provide some context.
  • By TREVOR FOUGHTY

    INDIANAPOLIS  — On July 24, the late Sen. Richard Lugar will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, and at some point in the future Sen. Birch Bayh will be, as well. To many Hoosiers, this makes sense. Both men were giants in the U.S. Senate who gave much to the nation and world through their leadership. It makes sense that they should be accorded the honor of burial in a national cemetery. It also begs the question: What other prominent Hoosier politicians are buried at Arlington? But before I answer that question, it’s worth considering what makes one eligible to be laid to rest in that particular cemetery. Most people probably assume that Lugar and Bayh earned the honor as a result of their widespread recognition as statesmen. But that assumption is false. Consider: The markers for each man will note not the final resting place of a U.S. senator, but rather that of Lieutenant Lugar and Private Bayh. That’s because Arlington is a veterans cemetery, and burial in such cemeteries is reserved for active duty veterans who were discharged honorably, their spouses, and their minor children.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - There's an old aphorism about being a mayor that goes, "Plowing streets isn't a partisan issue." In other words: Being a Republican or Democrat might signal the governing approach of a legislator or a candidate for state or federal executive office with a broad range of powers, but it doesn't tell you much about how a mayor may manage a city. Once elected, a mayor — perhaps more than any other officeholder — is judged more on their ability to deliver results around nuts-and-bolts issues than their ability to advance an ideological agenda. And yet so many obituaries for the late Dick Lugar note that he was a successful senator and he was a successful mayor, but fail to make the connection that he was a successful senator because he was a successful mayor. To most commentators, his eight years leading Indianapolis are merely a one-sentence biographical prelude to paragraphs about his thirty-six years of achievement in Washington. But it wasn't those achievements that earned Lugar the title of statesman, it was his approach to governing. And in so many of his later achievements, we see the approach of a mayor: Someone who understood that bringing people together, solving problems, and delivering results should be the goal of government, at whatever level.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - In the week since his death, much has been written about Birch Bayh's time in the U.S. Senate, and his place in the pantheon of American history. Rightfully so, as Bayh's impact rivals that of any Hoosier to serve in our nation's capital in any capacity. But before going to Washington, he was a farm boy from Vigo County serving Hoosiers in Indianapolis over four terms as a state representative. None of the obituaries give his time at the Statehouse more than a passing mention, and only then because he served for a term as the Speaker of the House. I suspect this is for a few reasons. First, for most Hoosiers, the Indiana General Assembly has never been as visible as its federal counterpart. This was particularly true for the era when Bayh served, as the legislature met for barely more than two months every other year. Second, this lack of visibility and interest means there is little widely available material on the Indiana General Assembly prior to the last decade or so. Researching the goings on in our legislative bodies requires access to newspaper archives and session journals, which can typically only be found at a library.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – Julia Nelson (R-Delaware County) never set out to be the first woman elected to the Indiana General Assembly. A long-time suffragette, Nelson was 56 years old in 1920 when women first had the right to vote in Indiana. She chaired the Delaware County Republican Women’s Club that year in order to encourage women to utilize their new right (and to encourage them to vote Republican when they did). Then on Saturday, Oct. 30, 1920 — just days before the November 2 election—incumbent State Rep. J. Clark McKinley (R-Delaware County) suddenly died. Local Republican leaders quickly made the decision to reward Nelson’s efforts by running her in McKinley’s place and by that evening she was officially a candidate for office. Barely 72 hours later, they were celebrating the accomplishment of sending the first woman to the General Assembly. Because it is unclear if Nelson’s name actually replaced McKinley’s on the ballot, or if party leaders merely decided she would be the recipient of McKinley’s votes, most sources today consider her only to be the first woman to serve in the General Assembly, and not the first to be elected (since McKinley was the original candidate). But newspaper articles from 1920 make it clear that at the time they considered her to be the first elected.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – National chatter about a potential wave election has persisted since at least the spring of 2017, and conventional wisdom for the past 18 months or so has been that Democrats will take control of the U.S. House but struggle to take control of the U.S. Senate because they have to play too much defense. As we’re now within 100 days of the election, speculation will quickly crescendo as pundits attempt to discern what kind of wave, if any, might be approaching our electoral shores. In the midst of such an environment, “What constitutes a wave election?” is a question that rarely gets asked, as most settle for the ambiguous expectation of big gains for the party out of power. Meanwhile, “What does this mean for down-ballot races in Indiana?” is a question that rarely gets answered, at least not in a way that achieves consistent consensus. But by investigating the former question, we have a better chance of using historical data to attempt to answer the latter. Over the last 50 years those criteria leave us with seven wave elections: 1974, 1980, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2008, and 2010. So far, so good; even without our criteria, most observers would probably settle on those same elections.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – With the announcement that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, speculation is mounting that 7th Circuit Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was on a short list of potential replacements. Because Barrett lives in Indiana and teaches law at the University of Notre Dame, this speculation is especially ramped up in the Hoosier State. This begs the question: How many other Supreme Court justices hailed from Indiana? Well, that depends on how you look at it. In the case of a U.S. representative or senator, it’s pretty easy to determine a home state. Just look at where they were elected. Similarly, since most presidents and vice presidents have previously held elective offices, you look to the state where they were previously on the ballot. Supreme Court justices, on the other hand, don’t typically have a history of being on the ballot, so an alternative method is needed to determine a home state. Here we have four options: 1) State of birth; 2) state where formative years were spent; 3) state where a significant part of adult life was spent; and 4) the state from which the justice was appointed (note: because most Supreme Court justices come from lower courts, this is the standard the Court itself uses, and it generally reflects on which court they served and/or which state within the district or circuit the justice lived while serving).
     
  • EVANSVILLE – For political junkies, it’s the 1968 Indiana Republican Convention that best exemplifies a sort of golden age for state convention floor fights. The gubernatorial battle on the GOP side that year is well-remembered because it was a hotly contested race between the sitting secretary of state (Edgar Whitcomb) and the sitting speaker of the Indiana House (Otis Bowen), both of whom would eventually become beloved governors (less well-remembered is that future U.S. Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz was a third candidate in that race). It’s also remembered because it marked a sort of statewide coming out party for Keith Bulen, who helped engineer a coalition of large county delegations that backed a successful slate of candidates led by Whitcomb. The 1968 Republican race for governor stands out as much for its place in the significant Bulen mythology that would build over the subsequent three decades as it does for any candidates involved. In truth, it was actually the 1968 Indiana Democratic Party convention that produced a floor fight to be remembered, both because it featured a colossal upset and because it ended with what’s probably the narrowest margin of victory ever seen in a state convention.

  • INDIANAPOLIS – When the Indiana Republican and Democratic parties meet this weekend and next, respectively, for biennial state conventions, the main attraction of each will be the selection of candidates for secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer. Then again, these may only be main attractions in the nominal sense as both parties have unopposed slates and will likely endorse their top-of-the-ticket standard bears by acclimation. But whether we’re talking about the mid-term year conventions that select the three constitutional offices, or the gubernatorial year conventions that select the statutory offices of attorney general and superintendent of public instruction (the latter will happen only once more before being removed from the ballot), uncontested races have become more or less the norm. Exhibit A: I suspect that most readers didn’t realize I omitted the lieutenant governor as a convention-selected candidate, because in practice it has become merely the ratified choice of the primary election-selected gubernatorial candidate (and no longer occupies its own ballot spot in November, to boot). Of course, it’s no secret that modern convention politics lack the drama of a bygone era. In order to generate more enthusiasm around the events, Indiana Democrats now market their conventions as “Big Dem Weekends” and have moved their annual fundraising dinner to the first night to attract donors and others who might not otherwise serve as delegates. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – As we’ve watched political events in Indiana unfold over the past few weeks (and really, as we’ve watched them unfold nationally over the past few years) there’s a temptation to suggest that we’re witnessing things that have never happened before, that we’re in a uniquely historical time in our politics. But with more than 200 years of state history to draw on, it turns out that King Solomon was probably right: There is nothing new under the sun. Consider the rise of Mike Braun, who is taking his outsider businessman campaign into a general election for U.S. Senate, against the backdrop of a long line of Hoosier Senators with deep political experience. Todd Young, Joe Donnelly, Dan Coats, and Dan Quayle all came from the U.S. House; Evan Bayh served as governor; Dick Lugar and Vance Hartke both served as mayors of major cities; Birch Bayh had been speaker of the Indiana House; and Bill Jenner had been the State Senate pro tem. Braun (who only served a handful of terms as a rank-and-file state representative) certainly appears to have a unique background. But Homer Capehart was the original trailblazer of the outsider-businessman-to-U.S.-Senate path.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Only one state senator in Indiana’s history has been elected to serve 10 terms. Unofficially, and depending on which state government entity you believe, there may actually be two, but that’s a messy story that may soon be moot anyway, so let’s start with the straightforward data. When Wells County Democrat Von Eichhorn retired from the Indiana Senate in 1966 after serving a then-record seven terms, a freshman legislator named Joe Harrison, R-Attica, entered the chamber. Nobody would touch Eichhorn’s record until 1994, when Harrison was elected to an eighth term, followed by a ninth term in 1998, and – by default after no one filed to run against him in either the primary or the general – a 10th, and final, term from 2002-2006.  It wouldn’t take as long for Harrison’s sole ownership of the record to be challenged; Larry Borst, R-Greenwood, ran for his 10th term in 2004, and Bob Garton, R-Columbus, did so in 2006; both, however, would lose their primaries. No one else had the opportunity to attempt a 10th term until 2014, but that year Johnny Nugent, R-Dearborn, opted to retire after nine terms rather than run for reelection.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – As covered in Parts 1 and 2, from Indiana’s founding in 1816 until the “Black Day” of the General Assembly in 1887, the lieutenant governor served as the State Senate’s true presiding officer with the Senate president “pro tempore,” or pro tem, infrequently playing a bit, ceremonial role. When Republican Pro Tem Isaac P. Gray used his limited power and political cunning to essentially trick Democrats into ratifying the 15th Amendment, he made lifelong enemies in the Senate Democratic caucus. That didn’t change, even after he became a Democrat himself and was elected governor. Gray’s 1886 bid for the U.S. Senate, an office, at the time, selected by the state legislature, not the Hoosier electorate, led to an escalating political chess match between the Democratic governor and his rivals in the Democrat-controlled State Senate that culminated in the physical beating of a Republican lieutenant governor on the Senate floor and the ensuing Statehouse riot that lasted for four hours.
  • The Making of the Modern State Senate Pro Tem: Part 2, The “Black Day” of the General Assembly

    INDIANAPOLIS – As covered in last week’s Part 1, under Indiana’s 1816 and 1851 Constitution – as well as State Senate rules dating back to the First General Assembly – the lieutenant governor as president of the Senate was the chamber’s true presiding officer. The lieutenant governor had the power to create committees, name members and assign legislation to committees, and to manage the operations of the Senate on a daily basis. 
    The pro tem position was an afterthought, serving in a ceremonial capacity only when the lieutenant governor was absent, rarely for more than a few days at a time, and only elected on the first day the lieutenant governor was gone. But, the move toward the modern understanding of the two roles can be pinpointed with remarkable accuracy: Feb. 24, 1887.

  • First in a three-part series

    INDIANAPOLIS  – With the recent news that Senate President Pro Tem David Long will retire in November, journalists, lobbyists, and legislators alike are already starting to size up his legacy.  For most, figuring out where Long ranks compared to other pro tems is complicated primarily by the fact that for nearly 40 years Hoosiers have only experienced two of them. What most don’t realize, though, is that the history of the position  – at least the modern version of it – only extends back another decade from there. So, if you want to rank the influence of Indiana’s pro tems, your only real five options are: 1. Phil Gutman, the man who made the position what it is today and helped usher in some major reforms to the structure of Indiana’s government during the years 1970 to 1976 (a period that saw 11 constitutional amendments adopted, nine of which changed state government); 2. Bob Fair, the Democrat who got his one term from 1976-1978 during the only time in the last 50 years that Democrats controlled the chamber, and who saw some of his own party turn against him by the end of the long session because they thought he wasn’t hard enough on a Republican governor; 3. Chip Edwards, who had just settled into the position by the time he was indicted on federal bribery charges near the end of his two-year term in 1980 (and then convicted of extortion, lying to a grand jury, and corruptly influencing a grand jury witness before year’s end);
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  • The Azar, Verma feud festers
    "The federal agency I lead, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is taking swift action to implement it." - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Seema Verma, in  Chicago Tribune op-ed. That same day, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar went on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fix News — one of President  Trump’s favorite TV shows — and claimed credit for driving the same initiative. “POTUS and I envision a healthcare system with patients in the center,” Azar tweeted from the Fox News set. “We’re fighting powerful interests to deliver honesty and transparency in healthcare.” The feud between these two Hoosiers who control more than $1 trillion in annual federal spending has transfixed The White House West wing and Washington. President Trump has asked Vice President Mike Pence to quell the Azar/Veerma feud.
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  • Into the impeachment vortex ...
    Here we go. Where America ends up in early 2020 after the fourth presidential impeachment that got underway this week is anyone's guess. 

    When I wrote the Sept. 19 HPI cover story - "The Double Dog Impeachment Dare"  - the Ukraine quid pro quo scenario was just beginning, becoming a full congressional/media vortex suck. Regular Hoosiers I know aren't paying much attention and are polarized by President Trump.

    We'll restate past thoughts on these alleged high crimes and misdemeanors: 1. Impeachments are messy and unpredictable. 2. Impeachment is an American tragedy. 3. Impeachment will result in unintended consequences. 4. Hoosiers are prepared to render a verdict on President Trump at the ballot box next November. 5. If we get into a mode where we're impeaching an American president every 20 years, the fragile American experiment will be doomed. 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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