By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – When the Indiana Senate reconvenes on Tuesday for Organization Day, it will likely include incumbent State Sens. Kevin Boehnlein and Erin Houchin.

Boehnlein is expected to face Floyd County Republican Charlie Moon in Monday’s 6 p.m., SD46 caucus to replace retiring State Sen. Ron Grooms, who had announced he wouldn’t run again and then quickly retired after the new maps were signed into law. A Facebook live stream of the caucus will be available at www.facebook.com/indgop.

Both Boehnlein and Moon will then be running in different districts in November 2022, Boehnlein in SD47 against State Sen. Erin Houchin and Moon in HD72 against State Rep. Ed Clere.

The filing deadline is 6 p.m. Friday for the SD46 caucus. 

Moon told the News & Tribune last month, “If you backpedal back from when [Grooms] announced his retirement and not seeking reelection, everything has kind of played in place with him coming out and supporting [Boehnlein], and now lo and behold out of the blue he makes it known on Thursday that he’s going to vacate his seat a year early. A political game should not be played with the citizens.”

“Boehnlein will win the caucus and he will be an incumbent the next session,” said Kevin Kellems, who is a consultant to the Greenville Republican. “So you’ll have two incumbent senators running for a new seat. This should be quite a donnybrook. New district, two incumbents. It will come down to grassroots support and issue differentiation.”

The Boehnlein/Houchin showdown has been a dilemma for the Senate Majority Caucus, with leadership indicating support for Sen. Houchin.

An Oct. 13 fundraiser for Boehnlein was originally to be co-hosted by Grooms along with Sens. Eric Bassler, Chris Garten, Justin Busch and Houchin. After the new districts, Grooms was the only host.

Kellems wouldn’t release Boehnlein’s haul from the fundraiser, but said that “95%” of the funds have come from the district and just 2% from political action committees.

Floyd County Commissioner Shawn Carruthers had also entered the original SD46 primary, but not Monday’s caucus at this writing. He has not decided whether he will seek SD47.

Governor

Braun blames reporting violations on staff


A Republican senator faces serious allegations that he illegally loaned his campaign millions of dollars from his company (The Daily Beast). But the senator in question – Republican Mike Braun of Indiana – says he can’t fully answer the government’s questions because one of his key staffers “vanished.” The Daily Beast found him within minutes. On Wednesday morning, the Federal Election Commission released its audit of Braun’s campaign committee, alleging a litany of serious financial reporting errors, as well as millions of dollars in allegedly improper loans Braun used to finance his 2018 bid – including $1.5 million routed from the candidate’s former company. However, the campaign claims it cannot fully comply because its former treasurer “vanished,” and they have not been able to locate him in three years. But the campaign must not be looking very hard. It only took The Daily Beast minutes to identify and locate the man. His mother said in a phone call that she would pass along a request for comment. The campaign’s Oct. 4 response to the audit explains that the treasurer in question, Travis Kabrick, “was, at least ostensibly, an experienced FEC compliance professional who had worked for many federal candidate committees over many years.” The auditors found that Braun’s reports show more than $8.5 million in “apparent prohibited loans” to his 2018 campaign. That includes $7 million in direct loans and lines of credit—with no collateral—“that did not appear to be made in the ordinary course of business.” The FEC also “identified two checks from one corporation totaling $1,500,000 that were reported as loans.” But that’s just the beginning. The report cites an array of violations, including millions of dollars in misreported contributions and disbursements, as well as reporting errors for another nearly $2 million in donations.

U.S. Senate

Young calls for ‘lower temperature’


U.S. Sen. Todd Young says the U.S. needs to lower the temperature of its political debates. In an address to the Economic Club of Indiana, Young warned the American tradition of self-government is at risk from two overlapping trends (Berman, WIBC). People don’t interact with their communities as much, a development which has been dubbed the “bowling alone” phenomenon. Young says that feeling of isolation has mixed with other forces – globalization, the tech revolution, the rise of China, the declining rural population – to leave many parts of the country feeling resentful of what they view as a “rigged” system. And Young warns that resentment has curdled into an increased political “tribalism,” in which both parties have given up on even trying to listen or appeal to voters on the other side. “Let’s shout less and listen more, to all voices, even those we disagree with,” Young said. The Republican senator steered clear of any mention of President Biden or former president Donald Trump, but he included an unmistakable reference to Trump’s campaign slogan. “Let’s just place more faith in one another, not one man or woman,” Young said. “It’s our responsibility to make America whole again.” In a brief audience Q&A after his address, a questioner identifying himself as a longtime Republican asked Young when the party will distance itself from Trump’s unsupported insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. “I don’t” support that claim, Young said, then paused for several seconds before adding, “I don’t know” whether other Republicans will follow suit.

McDermott backs marijuana reforms


Democrat Thomas McDermott Jr., said he smoked marijuana at a Grateful Dead Concert at Wrigley Field in Chicago this past summer and called for reforms during his Left of Center podcast on Friday (Howey Politics Indiana). Illinois is one of 18 states that has legalized recreational use while another 13 have decriminalized cannabis. It’s still illegal in any form in Indiana. On his Left Of Center podcast, Mayor McDermott said, “We were in Chicago. I went to a Grateful Dead show at Wrigley. It was a weird sensation for me to be by the Chicago Cubs dugout and everyone is smoking weed.” Asked by host Kevin Smith if he partook, McDermott said, “Yeah, I did. I was at a Grateful Dead show. I was in Chicago where it’s legal. I was there both nights. I had a ride there and from. I was in a state where it’s legal. I did. What’s the big deal? If it’s somewhere where it’s legal, why not? It’s the same thing as alcohol. I approach it the same way.” A generation ago, Bill Clinton said he smoked marijuana, but didn’t inhale. Evan Bayh said he did ... once. But in recent years a parade of conservatives ranging from Justice Clarence Thomas to Sarah Palin have urged cannabis reform. McDermott, who is seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. Todd Young, added, “If I’m elected to the U.S. Senate, I’m going to vote to decriminalize. I’m going to vote to legalize.” McDermott asked, “Is it a big deal that I admitted to smoking marijuana? It was a perfect situation.”

Statewides

Secretary of state: Wells eyes run

Indiana Democrats have struggled to find candidates interested in running for Secretary of State in 2022, but a source familiar tells Importantville that Destiny Scott Wells – an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel focused on military intelligence, and currently adjunct faculty with the Army Command and General Staff College – could launch her campaign next month when she leaves active duty (Wren, Importantville). Wells was associate corporation counsel for the city of Indianapolis and Marion County and Indiana deputy attorney general. She serves as Indiana Democratic Party’s deputy chair for coalitions and expansion.

General Assembly


SD26: Lanane to retire

State Sen. Tim Lanane announced he will not seek a seventh term. He was first elected to represent Anderson and Madison County in 1998 and ran successfully five times (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald Bulletin). Lanane said he made the decision not to seek a seventh term earlier this year but didn’t want to announce his intentions until after the new district maps were completed following the 2020 U.S. census. “It has been an honor to have served the citizens of District 25 since 1998, but I feel it is time to thank them for their confidence and allow a new person to step into that role,” he said. Lanane served as the Democratic Party minority leader in the Indiana Senate from 2012 through 2020 and was the ranking minority member on several Senate committees including elections, agriculture, the judiciary and fiscal policy. He authored bills to establish coach’s training to protect student athletes against concussions, guarding consumers from predatory lending practices, promoting public education and creating jobs at the Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Lanane has been an advocate of creating an independent commission to draw the district boundaries for the legislative and Congressional districts. This week he announced that he intends to introduce legislation again for the creation of an independent redistricting commission. “I look forward to finishing out the term next year and hope the General Assembly will seriously take its duty to find ways to move Indiana forward,” Lanane said. The new district maps approved by the Republican controlled legislature changed District 25 to include all of Madison County and two townships in Hamilton County. The map placed Lanane in the same district as Republican incumbent Mike Gaskill.

SD31: Vare to seek Dem nomination

Fishers Councilwoman Jocelyn Vare announced she will seek SD31. She formed an exploratory committee on Oct. 26. “I am so excited to announce my campaign for Indiana Senate District 31. Serving the people of Fishers as a city councilor has been the highest honor for me, and I look forward to the opportunity to take the same desire for transparency to the Statehouse,” Vare said on Twitter. Vare was the first Democrat ever to be elected to the Fishers City Council. “Since becoming an at-large member of the Fishers City Council, I’ve worked to serve residents, change the status quo and make government accountable to the people it’s meant to serve,” she said. “I’m excited to continue fighting for government transparency, civic participation, and the issues that will elevate your community, neighborhood, and household.”

HD57: Haggard seeks open seat

Lt. Col. Craig “Merle” Haggard (Retired) announced his candidacy for the newly formed HD57. Republican State Rep. Sean Eberhart occupies the current HD57 but he has been drawn into HD47, represented by State Rep. John Young of Franklin. Haggard, a lifelong resident of Mooresville, resides inside the district which encompasses parts of Morgan, Hendricks, and Johnson counties. “I care about my neighbors, I care about my community, and I care about the future of our state and our country. As someone who has dedicated himself to service, it is my honor to seek the support of voters to serve in the Indiana General Assembly,” said Haggard. “Central Indiana has become a critical part of our state’s economy and we have been fortunate to become a place where businesses want to locate and grow and where families want to live and prosper. I look forward to being an advocate for policies which help continue that record of success.” Learn more about Lt Col Craig “Merle” Haggard at https://HoosiersForHaggard.com.

HD72: Clere to seek reelection

Indiana State Rep. Ed Clere will be running next year for his eighth term representing District 72. Clere, R-New Albany, said that he is not yet focused on the primary election that is six months away but rather he is continuing his work to prepare for the House session that will begin in January (News & Tribune). “I’m working hard to prepare for that, but I hope to earn the opportunity to continue to serve the people of my district,” Clere said. In his time serving as representative Clere’s focuses have been on health, education and fiscal matters. He has served on and chaired numerous committees, including the Medicaid Advisory Committee, Ways and Means Committee and Education Committee. Floyd County Republican Charlie Moon has filed to challenge Clere in the primary.

HD73: Davisson sworn in

State Rep.-elect J. Michael Davisson (R-Salem) took the oath of office Monday to serve as state representative for HD73. Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush administered the oath in the House Chamber of the Statehouse during a formal swearing-in ceremony. Davisson will serve the remaining term of his late father, former State Rep. Steve Davisson of Salem, who passed away in September. “It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve our community at the Statehouse and to carry on the legacy and work of my father,” Davisson said. “I strongly believe in, and will always advocate for, a limited government that lives within its means – just as Hoosiers do every day.” Davisson is a lifelong resident of Salem. He currently operates a family-owned pharmacy in Salem.

Local

Macer to seek township post

Former state representative Karlee Macer announced  she is seeking the Democratic nomination to serve as the next Wayne Township Trustee in the 2022. 

Presidential

Biden approval at 38%

A year before the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans hold a clear lead on the congressional ballot as President Joe Biden’s approval rating sinks to a new low of 38%. Vice President Kamala Harris’s approval is 28%. A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, taken Wednesday through Friday, found that Biden’s support cratered among the independent voters who delivered his margin of victory over President Donald Trump one year ago. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, 64%, say they don’t want Biden to run for a second term in 2024. That includes 28% of Democrats. Opposition to Trump running for another term in 2024 stands  at 58%, including 24% of Republicans.

Christie jabs at Trump


Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, lacing up for a possible presidential run in 2024, told “Axios on HBO” he won’t back down from a fight with former President Donald Trump, taunting his longtime friend for losing the last election. Trump had said that when Christie left office, he had a 9% approval rating. “When I ran for reelection in 2013, I got 60% of the vote. When he ran for reelection, he lost to Joe Biden,” Christie said. “I’m happy to have that comparison stand up, because that’s the one that really matters.”