By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS  —  Could U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks be vulnerable in 2020? National and Indiana Democrats sense that the 5th CD is becoming one of those purple suburban districts where a well-funded candidate could find traction.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added the 5th CD to its list of potential targeted seats. While the Cook Partisan Index in 2017 listed the 5th CD as a +9 Republican seat, statistically her races have become closer in recent cycles. Brooks defeated underfunded Democrat Dee Thornton 56.8% to 43.2% last November. In 2016, Brooks defeated Democrat Angela Demaree 61.5 to 34.3%. In 2014, Brooks won the general election with 65% of the vote, defeating Democrat Shawn Denney and Libertarian John Krom. And in 2012, she won the seat by defeating former state representative Scott Reske with 58%.

So her closest race was against Thornton, but on the money front it wasn’t close at all. She out-raised Thornton $1.34 million to $189,042. In the 2016 race against Demaree, she posted $1.72 million to $147,943. Reske was the only Democrat that had any money traction, posting $399,589 for the open seat, but Brooks still had a million-dollar money advantage in that race.

Democrats sense an opening backed on several things. First, former Sen. Joe Donnelly carried the district in 2012, though Mike Braun carried it last November in his defeat of the incumbent. Democrats picked up SD29 with J.D. Ford defeating State Sen. Mike Delph by 9%, while Sen. Jim Merritt had a close race in SD31 against Derek Camp. But the more Democrat portions of those legislative districts fall outside of the 5th CD. 

If Brooks were to draw a top opponent like 2016 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Christina Hale, Democrats believe a well-funded challenger could make the 5th competitive. But there are a lot of variables. First, this will be the final cycle of the 2011 maps, and the 5th has probably moderated more than the other six Republican-held districts. Republicans in Indiana tend to do better in presidential election years, and Vice President Mike Pence will likely be on the ballot either for reelection to his current post, or possibly as president or the Republican nominee, depending on whether President Donald Trump weathers the Russia collusion probe. That’s the giant wildcard here.

The other aspect to consider is that while Brooks has won four easy races, she won a tough multi-candidate primary to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Dan Burton in 2012. She edged out former congressman and current Club For Growth President David McIntosh 30-29%. In 2016 in a caucus race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Brooks lost to Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb by one vote in a 22-vote caucus with the Republican Central Committee. So this is not a congresswoman who only knows landslides in safe districts.

Brooks has been tasked with recruiting female Republicans, as the GOP’s numbers in the U.S. House have dwindled to just 13.

Mayors

Fort Wayne Mayor Henry seeks 4th term

Fort Wayne cannot be satisfied with previous accomplishments, Mayor Tom Henry said last week, as he formally announced his 2019 reelection campaign, becoming the third candidate to enter the race since candidate filings opened this month (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). If elected, it will be Henry’s fourth term. He was first elected mayor in 2008. In addition to Henry, four other candidates filed paperwork with the Allen County Election Board on Tuesday, including one incumbent City Council member. “I sincerely believe that our city is moving in the right direction,” Henry said. “For the last several years, we have tried as a city to make sure that our voice was heard throughout the state of Indiana and throughout this country.” Speaking to a crowd at the Allen County Democratic Party headquarters Tuesday, Henry said he plans to focus on public safety, neighborhood improvements, stewardship of public money and continuing Fort Wayne’s economic growth. “I think the fact that we’ve been maintaining a 3.5% unemployment rate speaks volumes for our community,” Henry said. “Employers not only want to invest in our community, they want to stay in our community and grow in our community.” Documents filed with the Allen County Election Board show the three mayoral candidates – Mayor Henry, City Councilman John Crawford and businessman Tim Smith – had a combined total of $1,303,088 on hand at the end of 2018. Henry raised $542,207, Crawford raised $425,855 and Smith raised $335,027. “What you have in John Crawford and Tom Henry are two people who have been around a long time. They know how this works, they know how much it’s taken to win in the past,” Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, said Friday. “Tim Smith is obviously talking to people who have been around and know what it takes to win.”

Greenwood mayor seeks third term


Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers filed for reelection today, officially launching his campaign to seek a third term as mayor. A lifelong Greenwood resident and former volunteer firefighter, EMT and police officer, Myers was first elected mayor in 2011. “Greenwood is my home. I’ve lived and served here nearly all my life, and I’m committed to helping our city succeed,” Myers said. “I look forward to continuing our track record of promoting fiscally responsible growth, while balancing the budget and keeping taxes low for residents. I’m proud of what Greenwood has accomplished in recent years, but there’s more work to do to keep our city thriving,” Myers said. “Helping to attract new jobs and investment to Greenwood, strengthening our infrastructure and improving public safety are all priorities going forward.”

Evans drops out of Indy race

Former Indianapolis Councilman Jose Evans has dropped out of the Republican mayoral race, and has endorsed State Sen. Jim Merritt. 

Richmond Mayor Snow seeks second term

Richmond Mayor Dave Snow is seeking another four years.  Snow made the announcement through video on social media Sunday afternoon (Kicks96). “This week, I’ll be filing to run for reelection as Richmond’s mayor,” Snow said. Snow indirectly addressed some of the growing pains that have come with major projects that have taken place in his first term. “The alternative – sitting still, stagnation – will never lead us to prosperity,” Snow added. Snow will face Jack Cruse in the Democratic primary.  So far, no Republicans have filed for mayor.

Broderick posts $189,000

Although the municipal election is still almost a year away, incumbent Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. has a significant financial advantage (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). Campaign finance reports filed with the Madison County Clerk’s office last week showed Broderick’s election committee with a balance of $180,827 going into 2019. His two possible Republican Party opponents for mayor both have less than $5,000 available. Former Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith starts the year with a balance of $2,109. Smith has not officially filed for the May 8 primary to seek the party’s mayoral nomination. Madison County Auditor Rick Gardner has filed for the GOP nomination for Anderson mayor and has a balance of $4,472 in his campaign’s account. Broderick started 2018 with a balance of $93,795 and received $110,138 in donations last year. The campaign spent $23,106.

Barge to challenge Mayor Hamilton

Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge is challenging Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton in the Democratic primary.  Last November, Barge announced she was embarking on a community-wide listening tour to see if she might run for mayor in the 2019 Democratic primary election. She said she was convinced by what she heard from community members to run on a platform with an incremental approach to annexation and fiber infrastructure, a more collaborative relationship between government bodies and a more sustainable transportation system. “Bloomington deserves a mayor who will listen, learn, and lead in that order,” said Barge. “I pledge to bring true leadership to the office and put people before politics. Transparency and open governing are the foundation of creating inclusive policies that benefit all voices.” 

Winnecke is well-funded

The numbers dance across the pages of Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s inch-thick campaign finance report, mute witness to the construction of a war machine (Langhorne, Evansville Courier & Press). The perpetually sunny Winnecke blanched at the use of the word “war,” but he didn’t raise nearly a half-million dollars in 2018 in anticipation of an easy reelection. The two-term Republican mayor had to cover his bases in case Democrats find a worthy challenger this year. The deadline, by law, is noon Feb. 8. That also goes for any Republican who thinks he or she can oust Winnecke. So far, no one has come forward. But if someone does, Winnecke will be ready. He ended 2018 with more than $614,000 in his campaign account. He has a full-time campaign manager, former Parks Director Denise Johnson, who helmed his 2011 campaign, and a full-time political director. There are plans to hire a receptionist for a new campaign headquarters that will open in a now-vacant storefront at 506 Main Street in the next week. “At the risk of sounding repetitive, we’re just assuming that we will have an opponent until such time as all the deadlines have passed and there can’t be one,” the mayor said Thursday. “We’re preparing, as we did for 2015.” Throughout 2018, as he made speeches and appearances all over Evansville, Winnecke was periodically checking in with his Indianapolis-based political consulting firm, Limestone Strategies. Among the Republican firm’s other clients are Indiana Congresswoman Susan Brooks and U.S. Senator Todd Young. Winnecke has used the firm since his first campaign in 2011. He reported paying Limestone a total of $18,000 last year.

3 Democrats ponder Winnecke challenge

Three Democrats are “interested in running” for mayor of Evansville this year, according to party Chairman Scott Danks (Evansville Courier & Press). Danks declined to identify the trio of potential candidates. But HPI sources say one is Danks’ son, Jonathan. Democrats have struggled to scare up any candidates for mayor, given Winnecke’s $614,000-plus war chest, formidable campaign organization and perceived popularity. Nor has any Republican emerged to try to deny Winnecke renomination by the GOP.

Kokomo race heating up

Abbie Smith, who for years has led one of Howard County’s largest nonprofits, is running for Kokomo mayor (Myers, Kokomo Tribune). Smith, the United Way of Howard County’s president and CEO, will seek the Democratic nomination this spring, she announced during an event Tuesday evening at Martino’s Italian Villa. “I found myself thinking about how to ensure that Kokomo stays competitive in the constant change we’ve come to know as the 21st century, while holding tight to the things that have always made our community special,” remarked Smith, describing a “swirling” past week as she stood before vibrant paintings in a Martino’s event room. A political newcomer, Smith emerged with a platform focused primarily on economic development, infrastructure and public safety. She said her campaign will narrow its focus to specific ideas following “listening sessions” and interactions with city voters. Smith, who acknowledged being on the political sideline until Tuesday’s announcement, bemoaned the divisiveness of today’s politics and said she will invite prospective voters back to the electoral process largely through positive campaigning and regular engagement. “A mayor is responsible for an efficiently functioning city government that fulfills the needs of its citizens,” said Smith. “That’s the one. That’s the key. And that’s why I’m running.” 

Democratic mayoral candidate Kevin Summers detailed his platform for the first time Thursday evening, describing needs he believes range from road construction reversals to the return of a city-run ambulance service (Myers, Kokomo Tribune). Summers, joined by family and a coterie of supporters inside The HuB Downtown, laid out an agenda of items that in many ways serve as a rebuttal to the last 11 years of Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and assuage the concerns of residents who believe the city has misplaced its focus on public safety. The Democratic primary race that Summers thrust himself into in mid-December, however, made an unexpected turn on Monday when Goodnight announced that he will not seek a fourth term. The longest-serving mayor in Kokomo history, Goodnight broke the shocking news with a scathing speech that called on Summers and Republican Tyler Moore to drop out of the mayoral race. That call has gone unheeded. “Working on the Kokomo Police Department for 21 years and taking the oath of office to serve and protect, I have heard your cries,” said Summers, a former Kokomo School Board member, common councilman and KPD captain. He said fire staffing cuts “created the elimination of our ambulance service within the Kokomo Fire Department.”

Critchlow running in South Bend


“Every voice. Every neighborhood.” That’s the message from one South Bend mayoral candidate to his supporters (WNDU-TV). Jason Critchlow officially announced last week he will be on the ballot, vying to lead the city once Mayor Pete Buttigieg leaves office. The Democrat said he is focused on a number of issues, including stronger neighborhoods and schools, an inclusive economy and public safety. A South Bend native, Critchlow said the city has continued to progress, and now it’s time for someone with a new vision to keep the momentum going. “We really need to start addressing those huge issues that are affecting entire blocks of homes. There’s big drainage issues, there’s issue of public safety,” Critchlow said. “We need to work on affordable housing options for families that are coming into our city in order to get them to stay in this city.”

Candidates lining up in Muncie

With Mayor Dennis Tyler retiring, more candidates are lining up in Muncie. Other candidates for the Democrats to file with clerk’s office include Andrew Dale who was one of the first to file, and perennial candidate Kenneth Davenport. Steve Smith joins the primary race alongside fellow Republicans Tony Cox, Councilman Dan Ridenour, and  Delaware County Veterans Affairs Officer Nate Jones.

Jensen lays out priorities for Noblesville

Chris Jensen announced his campaign’s public safety priorities as part of the Noblesville’s Next Chapter policy platform. “Noblesville is ready to tackle the next generation of safety issues.” Chris Jensen said, “Our city is ready to fight the opioid epidemic, compassionately and proactively address the state of our city’s mental health, and equip our police, firefighters, and EMS with the tools they need to face these challenges.” 

National

Kasich DePauw speech moved to Thursday

John Kasich, former governor of Ohio and two-time presidential candidate (with speculation he will run again in 2020), will now visit DePauw University at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Kresge Auditorium for the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture Series. The event was set for today, but DePauw has decided to close due to record cold conditions forecast. Kasich’s talk, “Navigating These Partisan Times and Finding Your Personal Political Voice,” will be followed by a question-and-answer session. 

Buttigieg campaign staffing

Mike Schmuhl will manager South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s fledgling presidential campaign. They are boyhood friends. Marcus Switzer will be finance director (he’s from the Obama and Clinton campaigns), and Lis Smith is in charge of communications. Buttigieg called himself in a press call the only candidate “living a middle-class lifestyle, in a middle-class neighborhood, in Middle America.” He knows he’s a long-shot, saying, “I get the odds, but I also believe that we can do something that no one else can do.” And he vowed to keep South Bend running, telling the South Bend Tribune he has a “fantastic staff,” adding, “I will be engaged and at the service of the city whenever needed.” On a sad note, Buttigieg’s father, Notre Dame Prof. Emeritus Joseph Buttigieg, died on Sunday at age 71.

Harris gains in poll

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris gained traction in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. Over the course of four surveys this month, former Vice President Joe Biden has ranged between 26% and 33% among Democratic voters, roughly twice the support of the next candidate: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been between 15% and 16%. Harris is at 10%, up from 3% earlier this month. That puts her ahead of the next two candidates: former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both of whom are at 6% in the poll. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is in sixth place, at 3%.