HOLCOMB TESTS NEGATIVE FOR COVID: Gov. Eric J. Holcomb has tested negative for COVID-19. The Governor was tested out of an abundance of caution after learning that State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box had tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday after spending time with her grandson and daughter, who also tested positive. Dr. Box will quarantine for 14 days (Howey Politics Indiana). Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Chief Medical Officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, several members of the Governor’s Office, and several members of the state department of health were also tested out of an abundance of caution. The Governor, Dr. Weaver, and staff members received both an Abbott rapid test and a nasopharyngeal PCR test, and all had negative results on both. According to Dr. Box and Dr. Weaver, the Governor and staff members did not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of close contact as they were socially distanced and wore masks during their interactions with Dr. Box. “Janet and I are wishing Dr. Box and her family a speedy recovery,” Gov. Holcomb said. “The coronavirus does not discriminate, and this further highlights the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.” Dr. Box and Dr. Weaver have advised Gov. Holcomb that he can resume his normal schedule with vigilance about masking and social distancing.


MYERS ACCUSES HOLCOMB OF COVID 'FREEZE': Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Woody Myers says Gov. Eric Holcomb is “frozen in the intensifying spotlight” after he refused to reimpose COVID-19 restrictions in the face of worsening numbers (Smith, Indiana Public Media). The average number of new COVID-19 cases has jumped 93 percent since Holcomb rescinded almost all statewide restrictions. Holcomb laid the blame on a lack of personal responsibility. And he said the state’s focus will be supporting local governments to address hot spots. Myers – a former state health commissioner – called Holcomb’s response a lack of leadership. “So, we’re going to let 92 different approaches occur in 92 different counties based upon a color-coded map that changes weekly as the numbers, which are delayed, get reported," Myers said. "That makes no sense from a public health standpoint.” Myers said he would reimpose capacity limits on bars and restaurants and implement “consequences” for not following proper COVID-19 precautions – including, potentially, fines.


RAINWATER DOESN'T PLAN COVID TEST PRIOR TO DEBATE: Libertarian gubernatorial nominee Donald Rainwater isn't planning on getting a COVID test before next Tuesday's debate, but will "comply" if the Indiana Debate Commission requires one (Howey Politics Indiana). "According to the current guidance from the CDC, those who should get tested are people who have symptoms of COVID-19, people who have had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) with someone with confirmed COVID-19, or people who have been asked or referred to get tested by their healthcare provider," Rainwater said. "Since I do not fall into any of these three categories, I do not believe that taking a COVID-19 test is necessary. The Indiana Debate Commission does not require a COVID-19 test as a prerequisite for participating in the debate, but if they decide to change the rules, I will comply.  The candidates don't make the rules, the IDC does."


PFIZER COULD APPLY FOR VACCINE EMERGENCY USE BY LATE NOVEMBER: Pfizer Inc. said it could be ready to apply for emergency-use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine by late November, assuming it receives positive efficacy and safety data from late-stage human trials, the first time it or any other leading Western vaccine developer provided such a specific timeline (Wall Street Journal). The drug giant, which is developing its vaccine candidate with German partner BioNTech SE, said it continues to expect to have data on the vaccine’s effectiveness—whether it protects at least a majority of vaccinated people from the disease—later this month. It then expects to have data on the drug’s safety by the third week of November.


HOLCOMB HAS $10M MONEY LEAD: Gov. Eric Holcomb continues to hold a vast fundraising lead over his two opponents in the Nov. 3 election, according to a review of third-quarter campaign finances filed Thursday (Sikich, IndyStar). The Republican incumbent reported raising $1.8 million for the quarter. His campaign has $10.9 million total. He has $6 million left in the bank to spend down the final stretch. Holcomb, who has dominated TV and social media advertising in the race, spent $3.7 million this quarter. Democratic candidate Dr. Woody Myers has about $80,000 in the bank. He raised about $464,000 this quarter, putting him at roughly $1.2 million for the year. He spent about $456,000 during the quarter. Myers has loaned his own campaign nearly $238,000 this year. Neither Holcomb nor Libertarian Donald Rainwater have loaned their campaigns any money. Rainwater has a little more than $131,000 left to spend. He has raised more than $187,000 for the quarter. He spent more than $62,000 beefing up his campaign this quarter after receiving an influx of cash from out of state donors.


LATE MONEY CONTINUES TO GUSH INTO GENERAL ASSEMBLY RACES: Howey Politics Indiana continues to monitor late money gushing into General Assembly races, including several Indianapolis-area Senate seats and Speaker Todd Huston's reelection campaign. In SD30, State Sen. John Ruckelshaus received $160,000 from the Senate Majority Campaign Committee and $10,000 from Eric Holcomb for Indiana. In SD32, State Sen. Aaron Freeman received $10,381 from the Indiana Republican State Committee and $1,000 from Zink Properties LLC. In SD35, State Sen. Mike Young received $1,000 from the Insurance PAC. In SD36, State Sen. Jack Sandlin received $18,985 from the Indiana Republican State Committee and $2,500 from Mishler for State Senate. In House races, Speaker Huston received $50,000 from Hoosiers for Great Public Schools, $1,000 from POET LLC, $1,000 from Health PAC, $25,000 from Indiana Merit Construction PAC of ABC, $2,000 from Mishler for State Senate and $2,500 from William Barrett of Greenwood. State Rep. Jerry Torr received $60,000 from HRCC, $10,000 from Eric Holcomb for Indiana, and $2,500 from Douglas Rose. State Rep. Dale DeVon received $4,000 from the Indiana Merit Construction PAC of ABC. In HD7, South Bend Councilman Jake Teshka received $35,000 from HRCC. In HD81, State Rep. Martin Carbaugh received $55,000 from HRCC. For Democrats, HD5's Dr. Donald Westerhausen received $1,000 from  Laborers Union, and State Rep. Melanie Wright received $21,500 from I-PACE.


28K FILE JOBLESS CLAIMS: More than 28,000 Hoosiers filed first-time unemployment claims in the week ending on Oct. 10, more than double the previous week's total (McKinney, WRTV). The number of claims for the week was 28,864, an increase from the previous week's adjusted total of 10,076. That was the lowest number of first-time claims since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of claims in Indiana remained above 20,000 for 17 straight weeks from early March to mid-July. After that, it stayed in the 10,000 range until last week. The large jump is likely attributed to a requirement that claimants refile initial claims to continue on federal benefit programs, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.


NOTRE DAME STUDY FINDS 6M MORE IN POVERTY: After an ambitious expansion of the safety net in the spring saved millions of people from poverty, the aid is now largely exhausted and poverty has returned to levels higher than before the coronavirus crisis, two new studies have found (New York Times). The number of poor people has grown by eight million since May, according to researchers at Columbia University, after falling by four million at the pandemic’s start as a result of a $2 trillion emergency package known as the Cares Act. Using a different definition of poverty, researchers from the University of Chicago and Notre Dame found that poverty has grown by six million people in the past three months, with circumstances worsening most for Black people and children.


SEN. SASSE'S STUNNING CRITICISM OF TRUMP: Republican Sen. Ben Sasse criticized President Donald Trump earlier this week during a phone call with constituents, saying a number of unflattering things about the President, including that he's "flirted with White supremacists" and "kisses dictators' butts," his office confirmed to CNN. "The way he kisses dictators' butts. I mean, the way he ignores that the Uyghurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn't lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong Kongers," Sasse said in response to a constituent's question about his relationship with Trump and his past criticisms of the President. "The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership. The way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor. The ways I criticized President (Barack) Obama for that kind of spending I've criticized President Trump for as well. He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He's flirted with White supremacists," the Nebraska Republican said.


HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: After weeks of controversy surrounding voting by mail, absentee ballots and a crippling of the U.S. Postal Service, Hoosiers and Americans are turning out in record numbers across the nation, and voting early. They are voting in person so that it is registered on Election Night. - Brian A. Howey




WEINZAPFEL POSTS $798k: The Weinzapfel for Indiana Attorney General campaign announced it has raised nearly $1.8 million since its launch, including $798,375.53 in the 3rd quarter (Howey Politics Indiana). The campaign, which has $1,002,742.41 cash-on-hand, reported 2,894 individual contributions. This is in stark contrast to Todd Rokita’s campaign, which relied on the Republican Attorney General’s Association for more than half of its funds. “Unlike our opponent, who is being funded by Washington D.C. special interests, Jonathan’s campaign is powered by Hoosiers from all across the state,” said Ann Bochnowski, chair of the Weinzapfel for Attorney General campaign. “They know that Jonathan has the experience and vision to help rebuild Indiana after the pandemic, to strengthen the trust between our criminal justice system and the communities they protect and to fight to protect our health care coverage from people like Todd Rokita who want to strip it away.”


LAKE GETTING RACIST PHONE CALLS: In the final months of her run for the 6th Congressional District, Democratic nominee Jeannine Lake said she has increasingly been bombarded with racist phone messages, has received packages in the mail she finds threatening and has had property at her home vandalized. "I'm white and you're nothing but a loud mouth fricken' (racial slur)," a man says in one message left on a campaign phone this week, which she shared with IndyStar. Lake, who is challenging Republican incumbent Greg Pence, is the only Black woman running for statewide office or for Congress Nov. 3 in Indiana. She said she hasn't received a direct threat, but some callers warn she could find herself in trouble. She is worried matters will escalate.


WHERE GOV CANDIDATES ARE ON HEALTH ISSUES: Nine months ago, before most people had even heard of the word “coronavirus,” Dr. Woody Myers announced he would run for governor, focusing on education, jobs and health care. No one knew that last pillar would come to dominate our lives with a microscopic germ that would upend our economy and kill thousands (Rudavsky, IndyStar). Myers, who served as state commissioner of health under a Democratic and then Republican governor, might seem to have the perfect resume for assuming the helm amid a pandemic. But if Myers has the formal training, incumbent governor Eric Holcomb has had the real-life trial by fire. Over the past six months he has mastered terms such as positivity rate and PPE while repeatedly exhorting Hoosiers to take steps to lower viral spread, such as social distancing and wearing masks. He put in place a statewide mask requirement, though without any penalties for failing to do so. While Myers criticizes Holcomb for not taking bold enough steps to halt the virus, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Donald Rainwater said Holcomb has done too much.


INDIANA RTL ENDORSEMENTS: Indiana Right to Life has endorsed President Trump, Gov. Eric Holcomb, Todd Rokita for attorney general and Victoria Spartz for 5th CD (Howey Politics Indiana). In Indiana House races, it endorsed State Rep. Ed Soliday in HD4, Rep. Dale DeVon in HD5, Jack Teshka in HD7, Tom Wichlinski in HD12, Hal Slager in HD15, Julie Olthoff in HD19, Elizabeth Rowray in HD35, Speaker Todd Huston in HD37, State Rep. Todd Huston in HD37, Cindy Ledbetter in HD75, State Rep. Martin Carbaugh in HD81, State Rep. Chris Jeter in HD88, State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer in HD89, State Sen. John Ruckelshaus in SD30, State Sen. Aaron Freeman in SD32, State Sen. Mike Young in HD35, and State Sen. Jack Sandlin in HD36.


BUTTIGIEG ENDORSES HOOSIER DEMOCRATS: Pete Buttigieg announced that Win the Era is endorsing 47 candidates running for office in state and local governments across the country, including Gary Davis in SD8, Belinda Drake in SD32, State Rep. Chris Chyung in HD15, Ashley Klein in HD39, Aimee Rivera Cole in HD37 and Donald Westerhausen in HD5 (Howey Politics Indiana). “We need to send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House, but we also need to elect good leaders at the state and local level," Buttigieg said. "That’s what this endorsement slate is about: Making sure that we have forward-thinking, dynamic leaders at every level of our government who will deliver solutions to the biggest challenges we face,” said Pete Buttigieg. “These forty-seven candidates are generational leaders, diverse and reflective of the country and communities they are seeking to serve. I’ll be urging our network at Win The Era to join me in supporting exciting candidates up and down the ballot.”


COLE, DRAKE REACT: Aimee Rivera Cole said, "Pete Buttigieg has inspired countless Americans across the nation and put on display the values and virtues of Hoosier families. I am honored to receive this endorsement and work together so Indiana can be a state that leads the way forward" (Howey Politics Indiana). Belinda Drake said, "The importance of generational leadership that can speak to the unique experiences of our communities is essential, especially with the unconventional issues we all are encountering today. I’m proud Mayor Pete included me in this set of endorsements and I believe that the bold yet pragmatic policy solutions articulated in my platform will form solutions to the challenges that Hoosiers deal with in our daily lives.”


SLAGER, CHYUNG DEBATE: There's no question both state Rep. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, and former state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, are bursting with ideas for what they'd do at the Statehouse to improve the lives of Region residents. So what very well could be the closest election on the Lake County ballot this year, as it was in 2018, may hinge on whether House District 15 voters prefer Chyung's ambition or Slager's experience (Carden, NWI Times). The first-term lawmaker and former three-term lawmaker each made their case Thursday night during a one-hour debate hosted by Lakeshore Public Radio. "We need to make sure that we elect leaders in this district who don't want to play the greatest hits of yesterday over and over again, but who want to face the problems that we're facing today," Chyung said. In response, Slager argued not only is he more in tune with what voters in Schererville, Dyer and Griffith want, he also has the ability to deliver on that agenda thanks to his six years experience in the House majority, including service on the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, and 10 years as a Schererville town councilman. "I have a record of getting things done. I've shepherded a lot of bills through the General Assembly," Slager said. "I want to rebuild this economy — everything we do needs to be focused around that so we're bringing all of our Hoosier citizens along in getting back to business."


LUCAS DEBATES 1 OF 2 OPPONENTS: There were no rude interruptions or outbursts when two of the three candidates for the Indiana District 69 state representative seat faced off in a public debate Tuesday night in Seymour (Columbus Republic). Incumbent Republican Jim Lucas and his challenger, Independent Katrina "Kat" Hardwick, both of Seymour, spent 90 minutes going back and forth answering questions on topics including the pandemic, the economy, law and equality, agriculture, education and abortion. Democrat Jeffery Prewitt of Seymour, also on the ballot, did not participate in the debate. As a health care worker, Hardwick said she puts her faith in science when it comes to making informed decisions related to the virus. "COVID is very real. I trust science, I trust health care workers and I trust doctors," she said. "I trust all the people that have the expertise to give us the correct answers when it comes to COVID. That’s why I look to them to make the decisions on what we need to do for our citizens." Lucas agreed the virus is real but said it’s the response causing the most devastation to individuals, businesses and local economies. "We have put almost 800,000 Hoosiers out of work this summer, and that’s something that cannot be ignored," he said. "We have long-term consequences that we are going to have to deal with, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, anxiety, depression, suicide, not to mention the financial aspects of it."


GRAHAM LEADS HARRISON IN NYT/SIENA POLL: Sen. Lindsey Graham holds a narrow edge over Democrat Jaime Harrison in South Carolina as the three-term GOP senator is locked in the most competitive and expensive reelection fight of his career, according to a new poll released Thursday (Politico). Graham leads Harrison among likely voters, 46 percent to 40 percent, according to the poll from the New York Times/Siena College.


Presidential 2020


DUELING BIDEN, TRUMP TOWN HALLS: Separated by five states, two television news outlets and a deep trough of mutual animosity, President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden held dueling town halls Thursday that offered a jarring contrast of their opposing political styles and approaches to major issues (Washington Post). The events—with Trump on NBC from Miami and Biden on ABC from Philadelphia—appeared to be broadcast from entirely different dimensions. The soft-spoken Biden leaned back in a white chair, relaxed and conversational as he hit upon notes of optimism and uplift under a non-confrontational line of questioning from former Democratic adviser George Stephanopoulos. Trump’s appearance was heated at times, with the candidate leaning forward as he defended his record and challenged the motivations of moderator Savannah Guthrie, who took a much more aggressive approach than Stephanopoulos. In a rapid-fire 60 minutes, Trump questioned the effectiveness of wearing of masks before finally saying people should wear them, declined to denounce a baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, repeatedly declined to say whether he was tested for the coronavirus before the last debate and battled with Guthrie, who pressed him for details.


TRUMP CALLS FAUCI A 'DEMOCRAT': President Trump accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of being a "Democrat" during a political rally on Thursday, his latest salvo against the top infectious diseases expert (CBS News). Fauci has been blunt about how the White House has handled the coronavirus pandemic, calling the White House ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett that's believed to have caused a West Wing outbreak a "super spreader" event and blasting the Trump campaign for using him in an ad without his permission. The president, speaking to supporters in North Carolina, questioned the efficacy of masks and criticized Fauci's handling of the pandemic, even as he also referred to him as a "nice guy." "You know they keep saying nobody wears masks, wear the masks. Although then they come out with things today, did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing the mask catch it. OK?" the president said. "And then you have my friend and he's a nice guy Tony, Tony Fauci. He's a nice guy. He said, 'This is not a threat, this is not a problem; don't worry about it — it's not a problem. It's the craziest thing.' Then, he said, 'Do not wear a mask — do not wear a mask under any circumstances. Don't wear a mask don't, don't, don't,' right?"


HARRIS SUSPENDS ACTIVITY DUE TO STAFF COVID: The Biden campaign halted Senator Kamala Harris’s in-person campaigning through Sunday after two people who had traveled with her tested positive for the coronavirus, the campaign announced Thursday morning (New York Times). Ms. Harris’s communications director, Liz Allen, and a flight crew member tested positive, the campaign said. Ms. Harris herself tested negative on Wednesday. “Senator Harris was not in close contact, as defined by the C.D.C., with either of these individuals during the two days prior to their positive tests; as such, there is no requirement for quarantine,” the Biden campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, said in a statement.


BIDEN/HARRIS SCHEDULE: Joe Biden will travel to Michigan. He will deliver remarks on health care in Southfield, Mich. He will also attend a virtual meeting with African American faith leaders. In the evening, Biden will attend an event in Detroit to support early voting. Sen. Kamala Harris will attend a virtual fundraiser.



SENATE JUDICIARY TO VOTE ON BARRETT OCT. 22: The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally scheduled an Oct. 22 vote to approve Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court (Politico). The move comes after three days of hearings where Democrats sought to pin Barrett down on Obamacare, abortion rights and other issues — questions she largely declined to answer, citing precedent. Republicans are aiming to confirm Barrett on the Senate floor before the Nov. 3 election.


YOUNG ON JHTO CRANE ANNOUNCEMENT: U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined Gov. Eric Holcomb, officials from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and other Indiana leaders to announce the establishment of a Joint Hypersonics Transition Office in Indiana at Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane (Howey Politics Indiana). “The Department of Defense is realizing what so many around our state have long understood, that critical work occurring around Indiana is shaping the future of our national security. This is further evidenced by today’s news that the DoD is locating the new Joint Hypersonic Transition Office right here in Indiana. While legislative language that we secured in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act set the conditions for today’s announcement, I am especially grateful to the hard working Hoosiers whose efforts brought this home. I look forward to working with our partners around the state as this office is established and Indiana’s leadership role is solidified,” said Senator Young.


BANKS STATEMENT ON JHTO CRANE ANNOUNCEMENT: U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, U.S. Sen. Todd Young and Gov. Eric Holcomb met virtually with Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Dr. Mark Lewis, Joint Hypersonics Transition Office (JHTO) Director Dr. Gillian Bussey and federal, state and military officials to inaugurate the JHTO Systems Engineering Field Activity (Howey Politics Indiana). Thirty engineers and program managers will be located on-site at Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane Division in Martin County, Indiana to support the program. Following the virtual event, Rep. Banks released the following statement: “I was proud to introduce the language in the NDAA that authorized the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office (JHTO),” said Rep. Banks (IN-03). “Hypersonics is critical to our national defense, and Indiana in partnership with NSWC Crane are prime contenders to lead these efforts. As we continue to innovate and modernize our defense capabilities, there will be many more opportunities for Indiana to lead in hypersonics research and development.”


General Assembly


LANANE QUESTIONS HOLCOMB COVID RESPONSE: Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) had the following statement after Governor Holcomb's Wednesday press conference (Howey Politics Indiana): "Indiana is in the midst of an uncontrolled and frightening spread of COVID-19. Yet, this dire situation was completely avoidable. Just last week, I pleaded with the governor to rethink his drastic reopening before the coronavirus surge worsened even more. Now, we find ourselves with record numbers of COVID-19 cases day after day. Governor Holcomb emphasizes social distancing and wearing masks, but there is absolutely no enforcement. He encourages Hoosiers to not attend large gatherings, but yet he has placed no restrictions on such events. His message is inconsistent, and Hoosiers know that he is not serious. The governor keeps saying that stopping the spread is up to personal responsibility, yet when folks' irresponsibility hurts others, the government must act. My question is this: What is preventing the governor from putting smart restrictions and enforcement in place to save Hoosier lives? What is he afraid of? Is he truly letting a pending election sway how he responds to a public health crisis?"


SOLIDAY PLANS SOLAR ENERGY BILL: Property tax uncertainty could drive away some companies looking to build solar farms in Indiana. That’s according to a presentation for the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force on Thursday (Thiele, Indiana Public Media). Katya Samoteskul is the manager for renewable development for Invenergy. The company has announced plans to build a 200-megawatt solar farm in Lake County. Samoteskul said, in Indiana, real property tax assessments for solar farms are up to local assessors and can vary widely from county to county — sometimes at such a high rate that the project is no longer viable. Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) co-chairs the task force. He said it's unfair that solar farms owned by utilities are largely assessed by the state, but privately-owned solar farms are assessed locally. Soliday says he plans to craft legislation to address the issue.


NFIB HONORS SEN. ZAY: The Indiana office of NFIB, the state’s leading small business advocacy organization, announced that state Sen. Andy Zay earned its Guardian of Small Business award. Sen. Zay was presented the award by NFIB State Director in Indiana, Barbara Quandt (Howey Politics Indiana). “Senator Andy Zay is a champion of small business with an impeccable NFIB voting record,” NFIB State Director Barbara Quandt said. “Senator Zay wears two hats – small business owner and state legislator. He works hard and understands the reality here in Indiana: small business owners are the backbone of the state’s economy. By keeping Indiana’s small businesses afloat, Indiana keeps the economy churning.”




GOVERNOR DISCUSSES STATE BUDGET, RESERVES: Just weeks after Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that the state would move to Stage 5 of reopening, recorded case numbers broke records, consistently reporting 1,000-plus new cases since Oct. 6. Though the numbers put Holcomb in a tough position, the incumbent governor highlights the fiscal decisions made in his first term as the backbone of the state’s recovery (Downard, CNHI). In mid-September, the state revealed it had held onto half of its funding from the federal CARES Act, maintaining $1.3 billion of the $2.4 billion rewarded. “We had to get some clarity … because this came together so fast,” Holcomb told CNHI newspapers Wednesday about the delay in spending. The state earmarked $300 million for local governments to apply for aid to cover their own coronavirus-related expenses. Of the $31 million set aside for small businesses, just $1 million had been awarded by late September, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. While the above funds have sluggishly received applications, the rental assistance program proved popular with nearly half of the $40 million funding allocated in the first few weeks and more applications being processed. “As we get closer to the end of the year we’ll be at zero,” Holcomb said. “We will allocate the dollars that were given to us and address things from a state perspective where they help small businesses as well.”


ISDH: THURSDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health today announced that 1,962 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 141,212 the total number of Indiana residents known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. A total of 3,632 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 23 from the previous day. Another 232 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days. To date, 1,521,402 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 1,511,060 on Wednesday. A total of 2,420,865 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26.


INDOT: SURVEY ON STATE RAIL PLAN - The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is now accepting public comments in a new online survey to update the Indiana State Rail Plan (Howey Politics Indiana). The general public and rail stakeholders are encouraged to take the survey and share their opinions on today’s rail system in Indiana and what it could look like in the future. The online survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/INSRP20) takes about 15 minutes to complete. A link to the survey can also be found on the INDOT website at www.in.gov/indot.


AUDITOR: FITCH REAFFIRMS AAA RATING - Indiana Auditor of State Tera Klutz, CPA, announced 2 major accomplishments related to Indiana’s fiscal health. Fitch Ratings, one of the three major credit rating agencies, recently reaffirmed Indiana’s AAA credit rating, the highest possible rating (Howey Politics Indiana). “Even during a pandemic-induced economic downturn, Indiana has maintained our fiscal integrity and discipline. As the State’s Chief Financial Officer, I am pleased that Indiana has maintained its AAA credit rating and remains a fiscal leader nationally.  Though this pandemic was unexpected, Indiana was able to manage the unexpected  financial hardships thanks to responsible fiscal leadership.” Klutz also announced Indiana was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).  This is the Twenty-Seventh consecutive year Indiana has attained this achievement for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).


JUSTICE: WRONGFULLY CONVICTED WOMAN TO GET STATE PAYOUT - A woman who spent 17 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted following a mobile home fire that killed her 3-year-old son will be financially compensated by the state of Indiana (IndyStar). Kristine Bunch, who was convicted of murder and arson in 1996, was found on Thursday by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s Board of Trustees to be eligible for compensation through the state’s exoneration fund. Jackson County Judge AmyMarie Travis, one of the board members, said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Bunch had been innocent all along. Bunch struggled to hold back tears as the decision was announced at a state government building in downtown Indianapolis. “I won’t ever get my day in court, but I got to hear it from these people here,"she said. "So that closes a chapter and gives me a different outlook on things because I feel like it’s just been a black cloud that I’ve carried around.”


AGRICULTURE: INDIANA GROWN SURVEY - Indiana Grown released a survey to its members as part of a partnership with Purdue University on a USDA Federal State Marketing Improvement Program grant. A nearly $200,000 grant is making the survey possible, which has goals of determining and improving the economic impact of the Indiana Grown program (Howey Politics Indiana). A three-pronged approach has been outlined to achieve the grant’s desired results. First, consumer awareness of the program and willingness to pay for locally made and grown products will be measured. Second, the drivers and benefits of producer participation in Indiana Grown will be identified and quantified, and third, data from consumers and producers will be gathered and analyzed to derive the economic impact of the Indiana Grown program. “This survey is a crucial step in providing us with the necessary information to propel Indiana Grown into the future,” said Indiana Grown Program Director Heather Tallman. “Our purpose as a program is to support all sectors of agriculture and increase market opportunities for our members.”


AGRICULTURE: HOOSIER COMPETES FOR FFA LEADERSHIP - Noah Berning will soon be vying for one of the six National FFA Officer positions. In the running are 38 of the United States’ most elite young agriculture leaders (Howey Politics Indiana). Berning was selected by a state nomination committee to serve as the National FFA Officer candidate on behalf of Indiana. “Indiana FFA is an exceptional youth organization that is developing strong leaders and agriculturists,” said Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler. “I truly admire Noah’s ambition to serve not only the state of Indiana but all of the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Best of luck, Noah!”




WHITE HOUSE: STAFF MEDDLING WITH CDC - President Trump and his advisers have taken a more hands-on role than previously known in shaping Covid-19 recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helping create a crisis of confidence in the nation’s top public-health agency (Wall Street Journal). The changes the White House has sought—in many cases successfully—go beyond the agency’s public messaging. White House advisers have made line-by-line edits to official health guidance, altering language written by CDC scientists on church choirs, social distancing in bars and restaurants as well as internal summaries of public-health reports, according to interviews with current and former agency and administration officials and their emails. In one previously unreported Oval Office meeting, the president and top White House officials in May pressed CDC Director Robert Redfield to declare houses of worship essential and allow them to reopen. Later, they pushed to strip certain language from the guidance, current and former administration officials said. Both efforts were successful. More recently, aides to Vice President Mike Pence asked Dr. Redfield to have agency officials publicly substantiate an assessment by Mr. Pence’s doctor that it was safe for him to participate in last week’s election debate with Sen. Kamala Harris. Some CDC staff members worried that the request, which Dr. Redfield honored, drew the agency into partisan politics.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP UNHAPPY WITH BARR - President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he is "not happy" with Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department's investigation of the Obama administration found no wrongdoing and quietly concluded with no criminal charges (NBC News). Trump made the comments to Newsmax TV. He also declined to say whether he would keep Barr on as attorney general for a potential second term. "Can't comment on that. It's too early. I'm not happy, with all of the evidence I had, I can tell you that. I am not happy," Trump said in the interview.


WHITE HOUSE: CHRISTIE REGRETS NOT WEARING MASK - Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who was recently battling a coronavirus infection, said on Thursday that he had been “wrong” not to wear a mask at an event honoring Judge Amy Coney Barrett or in his debate preparation sessions with President Trump, and that people should take the threat of the virus seriously (New York Times). “I believed when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that I and many others underwent every day,” Mr. Christie said in the statement. “I was wrong. I was wrong not to wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team.”


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP/PENCE SCHEDULE - President Trump will leave Doral, Fla., at 11:40 a.m. and travel to Fort Myers, Fla. He will give a speech about protecting seniors at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Amphitheater at 1:30 p.m. He will depart at 2:40 p.m. en route to Ocala, Fla., where he will speak at a campaign rally at 4:15 p.m. at the Ocala International Airport. Afterward, he will travel to Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, Ga. He will attend another campaign rally at 7 p.m. Afterward, he will return to Washington. He will arrive at the White House at 10:30 p.m. Vice President Pence will lead a coronavirus task force meeting at 10:30 a.m. in the situation room. He will leave at 12:25 p.m. and travel to Morrisville, N.C., where he will give a campaign speech. Afterward, Pence will travel back to Washington.


SCOTUS: NOTRE DAME PROS URGE BARRETT TO 'STEP AWAY' - About 100 faculty members at the University of Notre Dame are asking Amy Coney Barrett to step away from the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process until after the November election (South Bend Tribune). The letter, which was written by John Duffy, a professor of English, was sent to Barrett and posted on a website — teacher-scholar-activist.org — a few days ago. It has since been read hundreds of thousands of times on the site and via social media, and was referenced by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey during Barrett’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday. The names of about 100 Notre Dame faculty members are listed at the end of the letter. The letter congratulates Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor and federal appeals court judge, on her nomination to the nation’s highest court and acknowledges that it is “the crowning achievement of a legal career and speaks to the commitments you have made throughout your life.” But the letter also argues that fast-tracking the nomination process isn’t fair to Americans who have already begun voting for president, especially when many of the Republicans who are now pushing the nomination forward refused to act on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland nearly a year before the president’s term in office was set to expire.


USDA: McKINNEY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT U.K. TRADE DEAL - Trade talks with the United Kingdom continue as they are now in round five of negotiations. USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney says he believes the UK truly wants to make a deal (Pfeiffer, Hoosier Ag Today). “I would urge that you not read the UK media. I don’t think it quite represents where the negotiators are. I’ll tell you that, across the board, our friends at U.S.T.R. (United States Trade Representative) and my team that sit in on all those negotiations were more optimistic than not.” McKinney says a sticking point in negotiations is perceived differences in animal welfare practices.


USDA: CHINA BUYS MORE U.S. CORN - Private exporters report more large sales of U.S. corn to China. On Wednesday, USDA reported two large export sales, one of 420,000 metric tons and another totaling 264,000 metric tons for the new 2020-21 crop year (Hoosier Ag Today). China needs to continue increased corn purchases to reach the lofty targets included in the Phase One agreement with the United States. However, China is still behind pace to do so this year. There are increased fears of corn shortages in China.


MEDIA: SUNDAY TALK - ABC “This Week”: Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Yvette Simpson and Sarah Isgur. CBS “Face the Nation”: DNC Chair Tom Perez, Mike Rogers, Raphael Bostic, Scott Gottlieb. “Fox News Sunday”: Jason Miller. Panel: Karl Rove, Catherine Lucey and Bob Woodward. Power Player: Alan Alda. NBC “Meet the Press”: Donna Edwards, Mark Leibovich, Pat McCrory and Ashley Parker.


MEDIA: C-SPAN SUSPENDS SCULLY - C-SPAN announced Thursday it had suspended political editor Steve Scully indefinitely after he admitted he lied that his Twitter account was hacked after a message to former Trump aide-turned-adversary Anthony Scaramucci emerged (Fox News). Scully, the "Washington Journal" host who was slated to moderate the now-canceled town hall debate between president Trump and Joe Biden, went viral last week after a tweet sent from his account indicated he had reached out to the former White House communications director. Scully issued his first statement addressing the controversy to CNN following his suspension. "For several weeks, I was subjected to relentless criticism on social media and in conservative news outlets regarding my role as moderator for the second presidential debate, including attacks aimed directly at my family," Scully wrote. "This culminated on Thursday, October 8th when I heard President Trump go on national television twice and falsely attack me by name. Out of frustration, I sent a brief tweet addressed to Anthony Scaramucci. The next morning when I saw that this tweet had created a controversy, I falsely claimed that my Twitter account had been hacked."


MEDIA: NY POST BIDEN BOMBSHELL DOWNPLAYED - The mainstream media went into overdrive to dismiss Wednesday's New York Post bombshell revealing damning emails allegedly found on Hunter Biden's computer, with some outlets simply ignoring the development and others doing their best to cast the report as dubious (Fox News). The New York Post report, entitled “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad,” touched on suggestions that the former vice president’s son had unscrupulous financial and business ties to a natural gas firm in Ukraine -- Burisma Holdings -- and that his father later stepped in to have a probing prosecutor fired for looking into the matter. 


MEDIA: HUNTER BIDEN'S LAPTOP AT HEART OF CONTROVERSY - President Trump and his allies have launched a late effort to again tarnish Joe Biden by tying him to his son Hunter Biden's overseas business interests, publicizing emails and photos supposedly from a laptop alleged to have been abandoned by the younger Biden and timing their release in a manner reminiscent of Russia's efforts to dump damaging material about Hillary Clinton in 2016 (CBS News). Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, said his own attorney, Robert Costello, obtained the material from the owner of a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware, after Hunter Biden allegedly left it there for months. Giuliani provided the material to the New York Post on Sunday, and the Post began running stories about the supposed documents this week. But the owner of the computer store, John Paul MacIsaac, was unable and unwilling to answer key questions about how the laptop supposedly arrived in his store, and eventually, how the data was shared with Giuliani.


SPORTS: COVID WREAKS HAVOC WITH SEC FOOTBALL - For the first three weeks of its college football season, the Southeastern Conference and its powerhouse teams like Florida and Alabama dodged the worst of the problems that other leagues and schools had confronted while playing during the coronavirus pandemic (New York Times). Then came this week: swells of virus cases and contact traces in at least three football programs, the postponements of two games and the hasty isolation of college football’s most renowned coach, Nick Saban of Alabama, after he tested positive for the virus before the season’s most anticipated showdown, his second-ranked Crimson Tide’s Saturday night matchup against No. 3 Georgia. More than a month of college football games in leagues across the country has shown the fickle and treacherous reality of playing during a pandemic. No week has unfolded as planned, and as of Thursday night, 31 games involving Football Bowl Subdivision teams had been postponed or canceled for virus-related reasons since late August. Hundreds of players, coaches and staff members nationwide have tested positive for the virus in recent months.




KOKOMO: CITY MAKES VIDEO PITCH FOR PD OFFICERS - The city of Kokomo is ramping up its recruitment efforts of police officers (Juranovich, Kokomo Tribune). The city launched a website Wednesday and began airing a TV commercial in the Indianapolis and South Bend areas this week asking for applicants to become an officer of the Kokomo Police Department and become a “valued” part of the city. The 30-second commercial features Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore, Kokomo Police Chief Doug Stout and a handful of other KPD officers and city Councilman Ray Collins, R-District 3. The commercial highlights a 20% pay raise over three years KPD officers will receive starting in 2021 after the city approved a new union contract with the Fraternal Order of Police Local 78 this past summer. It also takes a jab at cities that enacted or considered policies to “defund the police.”


INDIANAPOLIS: 'SIGNIFICANT' COVID INCREASE - Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine says there has been a “significant and steady increase” in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and hospital admissions. However, the city of Indianapolis will not be making changes to the city’s current orders (Inside Indiana Business). Caine says the seven-day average positivity rate for Marion County is 5%, but hospitalizations are trending in the wrong direction. “We are not going to move back just yet. We would like to monitor maybe one or two more weeks to get a feel for this a trend (to see if) that's going to continue, albeit it's slowly increasing, but we really are keeping our eye on it,” said Caine. She says closing hours for restaurants and bars in Marion County will remain at midnight for now. Three weeks ago, the administration eased restriction which allowed for more capacity at entertainment venues., but it kept an early closing in place.


INDIANAPOLIS: HOGSETT SAYS 'BOO' TO HALLOWEEN ACTIVITIES - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine gave an update Thursday on the city’s coronavirus response including Halloween guidelines (CBS4). Hogsett announced Marion County’s current coronavirus mitigation efforts will stay in place and asked residents to avoid face-to-face trick or treating and indoor Halloween gatherings.


SOUTH BEND: MUELLER EYES COVID ENFORCEMENT - Businesses and even individuals who live in St. Joseph County can expect a crackdown on enforcing coronavirus restrictions and guidelines from city and county leaders (WIBC). South Bend Mayor James Mueller and Dr. Mark Fox with the county health department said in their regular press briefing on the coronavirus in the county Thursday that they will not be ramping up or rolling back any new restrictions. However, Fox said with the recent rise in people going to the hospital with COVID in St. Joseph County along with a higher number of people testing positive, they have to take measures to make sure everyone in the county is following the rules. “We will be issuing abatement orders for any business that is creating unsafe conditions,” Fox said. “Businesses are a part of it but it’s ultimately individual responsibility and behavior.” A point mirrored by Mayor Mueller. “We’ve seen a big spike in the last couple weeks to the highest level we’ve seen all year,” Mueller said. “This is going to be individuals making decisions. There’s no data right now to suggest it’s coming from bars or churches or different events.”


ELKHART COUNTY: NEW COVID RECORD SET - For the second time in eight days, Elkhart County has broken its record for new COVID-19 cases, leading health officials to issue a warning to the public about taking the virus more seriously (Jorgensen, Elkhart Truth). There were 152 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the county Wednesday and reported Thursday by the Indiana State Department of Health. The previous high, which was set a week earlier, was 128. Before that, the high was 112 on June 17. The seven-day average of new cases is 89 per day, which is worse than at any point during the first wave in the county, when the highest average was 78.


FORT WAYNE: NCAA DIVISION III FINALS COMMIT TO CITY — Fort Wayne will host the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Final Four for several more years (WANE-TV). The NCAA on Thursday announced that Manchester University, the Memorial Coliseum and Visit Fort Wayne will host the tournament through 2026. The previous agreement, signed in 2017, was through 2022. “It is an honor to have been awarded the bid to host the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Final Four through 2026!” said Manchester Athletics Office Manager and Tittle IX & Eligibility Coordinator Tami Hoagland. “The event we hosted in 2019 was highly praised by the participants and spectators, and the 2020 event would have surely met the same standards.”


GOSHEN: COUNCIL VOTES FOR $330K IN STAFF BONUSES — Some Goshen councilmen are uneasy with a bonus proposed for city staff members to thank them for their work during a public health crisis (Elkhart Truth). Goshen Common Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 in favor of giving up to $330,000 in bonuses to city staff members. Another councilman voted “present” and the seventh member was absent.


MARION COUNTY: PANDEMIC RULES REMAIN UNCHANGED - Marion County will keep its current pandemic rules in place, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday afternoon at a virtual news conference (IndyStar). "While our numbers have not worsened, now is not the time to throw away all of the hard work that we've been doing together," Hogsett said. The announcement by the leader of Indiana's most heavily populated city and county came one day after Gov. Eric. Holcomb announced the state would also stay in its current phase of reopening, despite record highs in new coronavirus cases and an increase in hospitalized patients. Marion County's seven-day positivity rate is slightly lower than the state's: 5.1% compared to 5.4%.Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine said the city's positivity rate is slowly trending downward or plateauing.


LAKE COUNTY: HIGGS FIRED FOR ALLEGED SEXUAL ADVANCES -  Longtime Region public official Anthony Higgs has been fired from his county job managing the Hammond courthouse for allegedly stalking and making sexual advances toward a male co-worker while on the government clock. That's according to a county memo issued Tuesday, and obtained by the NWI Times Thursday. The memo, written by county attorney Matthew Fech to the Lake County Commissioners, outlines the basis for Higgs' termination as building manager in Hammond. Higgs could not immediately be reached for comment by phone Thursday afternoon.


ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: EARLY BALLOTING SURPASSES 30K -  With a little more than two weeks to go until Election Day, the number of early ballots already cast in St. Joseph County surpasses early vote numbers seen in the fall of 2016 (South Bend Tribune). As of Thursday, more than 30,000 early votes had been cast in the county, compared with just over 25,800 total early votes cast in the last presidential general election.


ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: RECORD COVID CASES - St. Joseph County’s seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 infections and the number of active cases were at all-time highs Thursday since the pandemic began as the average number of cases also are spiking statewide (South Bend Tribune). The county’s 110 cases per day average topped the former record of 108.4 cases on Aug. 23. Moreover, there are 1,338 active coronavirus cases in the county, also a record. The former high-water mark for active cases in the county was on Aug. 29, when there were 1,261 active cases. Both former records were related to the spike in the coronavirus cluster at the University of Notre Dame. Indiana health officials also confirmed 28 more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, and the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases of the respiratory disease has doubled in three weeks. The Health Department’s daily update showed Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed COVID-19 infections reached 1,653 as of Wednesday. That number, up from 825 new cases on Sept. 24, is the highest level the state has seen during the pandemic.