Diego Morales talks to the press after his second ballot victory over Secretary of State Holli Sullivan. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Diego Morales talks to the press after his second ballot victory over Secretary of State Holli Sullivan. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)

INDIANAPOLIS - Diego Morales won a second ballot GOP nomination for secretary of state Saturday afternoon, defeating incumbent Secretary Holli Sullivan 847 to 561, while Morgan County Republican Chairman Daniel Elliott won the treasurer's nod by three votes in a brutal day for so-called "establishment Republicans."

The party platform also was changed with the term "democracy" subbed with the word "republic" throughout.

Morales will face Democrat Destiny Scott Wells in November. Asked what his victory over Sullivan means, Morales answered, "I will say one word: Praise the Lord."

Morales, who accused Gov. Eric Holcomb of "abusing his power" during the COVID-19 pandemic, added, "I'm concerned now about how we can bring everyone together. My job right now is to unite our party so we can win in November. I look to have a good, positive message."

"This can happen only in America," Morales told the convention prior to the voting. "This is the American dream. The vision today is to keep that American dream alive. We must secure our elections ... so we can increase voter confidence."

Morales, who lost a 4th CD race in 2018, vowed to purge voter rolls, limit absentee ballots, and allow voting only on election day. "No one in Indiana cemeteries will be allowed to vote," Morales said, earning a standing ovation.

Sullivan had been appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb to finish the term of Secretary Connie Lawson, who retired. Lawson had endorsed Sullivan, but while Holcomb's approval was 73% in a recent Morning Consult poll, he was seen as a liability in this race. He didn't officially endorse Sullivan or campaign with her or for her. A mailer from Morales to delegates described Sullivan as "Holcomb's puppet" as well as an "elitist," borrowing from Attorney General Todd Rokita's 2018 unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign under the slogan "Defeat the Elite." There had been rampant speculation that delegates would lash out at Holcomb via Sullivan and they did.

After WIBC's Rob Kendall tweeted, "Overwhelming applause for Morales. Very vocal crowd. Certainly appears @indgop is about to nominate a SOS candidate who left the office under suspect circumstances not once, but twice," Wells responded with two words: "Bring it."

Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer told delegates that it was time to unite the party. "Words like RINO, they just need to go," Hupfer said. "I will speak just for myself on this one, we support all Republicans."

While former president Donald Trump remains a force in Hoosier politics, he didn't have an overt presence. Only a few delegates word MAGA hats and T-shirts. But when Sullivan addressed the delegates at one point she noted "I eliminated Dominion Voting Machines," an allegation used by Trump and his supporters, though campaign attorneys told the U.S. House Jan. 6 Select Committee that rumors surrounding Dominion voting machines were not credible.

Indiana Democrats reacted to the Morales nomination by saying: “With Diego Morales, the Indiana Republican Party has nominated an individual who was fired from Todd Rokita’s - yes, Todd Rokita’s - office, thinks the 2020 election was a ‘scam’, wants every Hoosier voter to prove their U.S. citizenship when they vote, and would cut the state’s early vote calendar in half."

In the second ballot of the GOP treasurer's race, Boone County Councilman Elise Nieshalla came from 442 votes to 605, taking the lead over Morgan County Chairman Daniel Elliott. Fort Wayne Clerk Lana Keesling finished with 371 votes and was dropped from the third ballot.

Elliott, who led a 2018 convention plank revolt over the marriage issue, defeated Nieshalla 716-713 on a third ballot.

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