By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – Much like Richard Mordock’s U.S. Senate campaign fared in 2012 (there was the pre-primary success, followed by a General Election disaster following his final debate), it’s fair to wonder if Diego Morales is on the same course.

The Republican secretary of state nominee was everywhere and anywhere leading up to his Republican Convention upset of incumbent Holli Sullivan. But since winning the nomination, Morales has shifted his position on a key issue, his calling for early voting to conclude after 14 days as opposed to the current 28 days.

This comes after Indiana GOP kingmaker Bob Grand began advising the Morales campaign following the convention. He’s been joined on the road by operatives like Vigo County Republican Chairman Randy Gentry, who told HPI that Morales has kept up a frenetic “22-hour-a-day” schedule visiting mostly GOP groups.

Leading into the convention, Morales accused Gov. Eric Holcomb of “abusing his power” over the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Morales told Fox59 over the weekend, “I don’t think we ever changed anything then – before the convention. As a private-sector businessman, I talk about ideas and solutions. Let me be clear, what is working right now – early voting 28 days is working, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

“My sole focus is on earning Hoosier votes in this year’s election,” he said in a statement late Friday to the Capital Chronicle. “I have been and will continue to travel to all 92 counties in Indiana to listen to and learn from voters so I can best serve them. In addition to talking with voters, I am meeting with county clerks. Based on those conversations, I believe the current 28-day early voting timeline is working,” he said.

And despite his earlier comments about the 2020 election – he also deemed it “flawed” and “questionable” to Hoosier State Today – Morales said in a statement Monday to Capital Chronicle that he considers Joe Biden the “legitimate president.” But he told the Capital Chronicle in late June that he still had doubts about the election.

The Indiana Democratic Party accused Morales of “lying about his own campaign record” and called him “an unfit extremist who wants to destroy Hoosier democracy.”

“Diego Morales is unfit to serve in public office and he’s a threat to Indiana’s future,” the party said in a news release Monday. “His values are more about fulfilling a national extremist agenda than actually creating a better future for the Hoosier State.”

On Wednesday, Indiana Democrats launched DiegoNoMorals.com, a website “to expose how Diego Morales is simply unfit to be Indiana’s next secretary of state.”

“Diego Morales has more baggage than a baggage claim,” said Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl. “He was fired twice from the very office he seeks to lead and is unfit to be Indiana’s next secretary of state. Diego also made a campaign promise to restrict access to the ballot box, but is now trying to change his tune. He can’t be trusted. Diego Morales is a dangerous politician who will put special interests ahead of Indiana’s future, and Hoosiers will learn this and more through DiegoNoMorals.com.”  Horse Race Status: Tossup.

Briggs questions Morales’ military record

Indiana Secretary of State candidate Diego Morales released his DD214 on Wednesday after IndyStar columnist James Briggs questioned his military service (click on document to left). Briggs tweeted Wednesday: “Update: The Diego Morales campaign sent me his DD-214. I’m working to make sure I understand it. I’ve also requested an additional document, NGB-22.” 

Briggs writes: Diego Morales wears a hat that says “Army Veteran.” His profile photo on social media projects the image of a National Guardsman in uniform. In a recent Facebook post, Morales says he was “willing to put his life on the line to protect his country.” But Morales won’t provide proof of his veteran status – and his characterization of what he did differs depending on the platform (Briggs, IndyStar). The nature of Morales’ military involvement matters for two reasons: He is the Republican candidate for secretary of state and he’s branding his campaign around his stated record of public service, most notably in the military. He also happens to be facing another military veteran, Democrat Destiny Wells, in November’s statewide general election. Morales broadly refers to himself as a “U.S. Army veteran.” His LinkedIn page says he was an infantryman in the Army from 2007 to 2013. But his campaign website puts it a bit differently, describing his service as “completing numerous military drills with Bravo Company 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry in Cass County, and the 152nd in Floyd County.” That’s a curious phrasing. Here’s why. Morales said he served in the National Guard for about five years. But a typical National Guard enlistment period is eight years. The photo of Morales in a National Guard uniform? It does not include rank or unit identification, which suggests he had not spent time on active duty as of the time it was taken. I asked the Morales campaign whether it could provide documentation to verify Morales’ military affiliation and veteran status. Kegan Prentice, Morales’ campaign manager, said he could, but then sent a statement that did not address military records. He did not respond to follow-up questions or a request to speak to Morales.” 

U.S. Senate

Young campaign memo

U.S. Sen. Todd Young’s campaign released the following memo from campaign manager Eric Cullen and political director John Holtkamp on Monday: “With less than 60 days until Election Day, today Friends of Todd Young begins our initial round of statewide broadcast and television advertising. This seven-figure buy is in conjunction with digital and OTT advertising which began September 1. This cycle to date, Todd has participated in over 250 political events. Just this summer, Todd crisscrossed the state, participating in over 50 campaign events. He received the first ever endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council by an Indiana elected official.

“He received endorsements from the Indiana State Police Alliance and National Federation of Independent Business and led multi-stop tours with each to meet Hoosiers. He visited the State Fair and held roundtables with hundreds of farmers. Finally, he visited gas stations across Indiana meeting with Hoosiers to discuss the pain at the pump due to President Biden’s energy policies. He did all of this while maintaining a busy Senate schedule, including leading the passage of the boldest anti-Chinese Communist Party legislation in American history, the CHIPS and Science Act, which will help the U.S. outcompete the Chinese Communist Party.  Nationally, Todd is one of the GOP’s strongest fundraisers. He built a national finance network during his time as NRSC chairman. His in-state fundraising is anchored by a 70-plus member Indiana Finance Committee comprising civic and business leaders from all parts of the state. Due to this hard work, Todd has raised over $14 million; the last FEC report showing over $6.8 million cash on hand.” 

The Young memo continues: “This cycle, he also raised over $1.3 million to support the Indiana Republican Party’s Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts and voter targeting technology. Since early 2021, his partnership with the Indiana Republican Party funds staff, interns, and hundreds of volunteers who have engaged hundreds of thousands of voters on behalf of the Republican ticket. To date, over 320 prominent Hoosier conservatives endorsed Todd, the largest endorsement list in Indiana history.  These supporters include former Vice President Mike Pence, every Indiana Republican statewide officeholder, every Indiana Republican Member of Congress, over 96% of Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly, and over 92% of Republican county chairs. The experts who handicap political campaigns know that Todd is running a top-notch race.  Both the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and Stu Rothenberg’s Inside Elections call Indiana’s Senate Race “solid Republican.” Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight puts Todd’s chances of winning at 99%. Additionally, Larry Sabato’s University of Virginia Center for Politics rates Indiana ‘safe Republican.’

“On Oct. 16, Todd will debate all of his opponents in a debate hosted by the Indiana Debate Commission. This debate will be another opportunity for Hoosiers to hear from Todd about his bipartisan accomplishments and how he puts Hoosiers first. Todd Young is undefeated against five sitting or former members of Congress, more victories than any candidate in Hoosier political history over those elected on the federal level. This includes Todd’s win over Evan Bayh in 2016 by 10%, despite starting the race down 28% in the polls with only $1 million compared to Bayh’s $10 million. Todd has a proven record of electoral success, but he’s not taking this race for granted. Through Todd’s hard work and that of his supporters, this campaign is positioned for decisive victory on Nov. 8.” Horse Race Status: Safe Young.
  
Congress


3rd CD: Gotsch unveils billboard ads


Independent candidate for Congress Nathan Gotsch has launched the first phase of a comprehensive media buy as he builds on the grassroots enthusiasm and excitement his campaign has generated throughout the district since its launch in July. The first phase includes a five-figure purchase for three digital billboards that went up Monday in high-visibility, high-traffic areas in Fort Wayne. “This is a serious campaign, and serious campaigns make these kinds of investments,” said Gotsch. “Our billboard buy is the first step in a multiphase effort to make sure every voter in this district who is embarrassed by our current representative and exhausted by the two major parties knows they can vote for a true independent this fall. We’ve worked hard to connect with Hoosiers in every community and county of the district over the past few months,” he said. “The groundswell of support we’ve received, including financially, is what made these billboards possible.” Horse Race Status: Safe Banks.

7th CD: Grabovsky assails Carson

Angela Grabovsky’s campaign for Congress criticized the Biden administration and U.S. Rep. Andre Carson for being out of touch with reality when it comes to the impact of inflation on Indiana families. Tuesday, President Joe Biden held a an event at the White House celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. This came on the same day that it was announced that inflation increased by 8.3% in August and food prices increased by 13.5%. “Andre Carson continues to prove that he’s out of touch with reality,” Grabovsky said. “Carson and his allies are celebrating while our economy continues to plunge toward recession. Inflation and the cost of groceries are crushing Indiana families. This isn’t a game, as much as Carson and his political allies think it is. He needs to stand on a stage with me and explain to his constituents why he supported such a reckless piece of legislation and what his plan is to stop inflation from getting worse.” Horse Race Status: Safe Carson.

General Assembly

House, Senate rating changes

HPI’s Horse Race is making several race rating changes due to new information.

HD82: This race between Democrat Kyle Miller and Republican Davyd Jones is for the open and new HD82 in Fort Wayne. Last week we rated it “Likely” Republican. But House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta told HPI that President Biden carried precincts making up the new HD82 with 56% of the vote. Miller told HPI that tracking by Democrats revealed him to be up “by quite a bit.” Horse Race Status: Leans Miller.

HD71: Jeffersonville area incumbent Rep. Rita Fleming should retain this seat for Democrats, but she has a viable challenger in Jeffersonville City Councilman Scott Hawkins, a Republican. Hawkins, a Jeffersonville school teacher, is receiving assistance from Americans for Prosperity and the local FOP. Although Hawkins is a teacher, the ISTA is supporting Fleming. Controversy surrounding Republican 9th District Chair Jamey Noel may impact this race. Noel, who is also Clark County sheriff, is embroiled in a jail incident where an employee was paid to give inmates a key to the women’s section of the jail. There is a lawsuit related to the matter. In addition, Noel had to refute Anti-Defamation League reports that he had joined Oath Keepers, something he denied. Horse Race Status: Leans Fleming.

SD47: State Sen. Gary Byrne [R] v. Kathleen Forte [D]. We rated this one as “Likely” Byrne, but local sources tell HPI that Sen. Byrne is “rock solid safe.” Horse Race Status: Safe Byrne

SD45: State Sen. Chris Garten [R] v. Nick Marshall (D). We originally had this race as “Leans” Garten, who was named the new Senate Majority flood leader last month. Horse Race Status: Likely Garten.

Local

Carmel: Brainard won’t seek 8th term

After seven terms in office, the dean of Indiana mayors, Carmel Republican Mayor Jim Brainard, will not run for reelection in the 2023 election cycle. “I’ve been doing this for 26-and-a-half, 27 years,” Brainard told IndyStar ahead of his announcement. “I’m very proud of the progress we all made in Carmel during that period of time. I’m ready for new opportunities. We have our City Center, we have Carter Green, we have the Palladium anchoring our arts. All the things we set out to do have been accomplished.”  City Council President Kevin Rider in February acknowledged he has had conversations considering a run for mayor. As of Sept. 12, no other current city council members have filed paperwork signaling a run. 

Eldridge elected Indy Dem chair

Outgoing Marion County clerk Myla Eldridge has been elected in a landslide victory as the new Marion County Democratic Party chair, making her the first Black leader to hold the position, according to party spokesperson Jeff Harris (IndyStar). A party caucus was called Tuesday night to fill former party chair Kate Sweeney Bell’s seat after she resigned earlier this summer. Eldridge won about 95.8% of the votes cast by 287 precinct committee chairs and vice chairs present at the caucus; a little over half of eligible voters cast ballots at the meeting. “This is a win for all of us,” Eldridge, who campaigned for two weeks leading up to this election, said in her victory speech at the caucus. With a ‘Defend Choice’ badge pinned to her suit jacket, she said that she refers to the upcoming election as ‘Roe-vember’ and believes the near total abortion ban passed in Indiana will mobilize Democratic voters, especially women, to the ballot boxes. “We have a very important election in 55 days county-wide and statewide,” she told IndyStar. “It’s important for the county party chair, number one, to welcome more Democrats to be a part of the party.” Mayor Joe Hogsett reacted, saying, “Myla is a dedicated public servant who has exemplified the kind of principled leadership that Marion County residents have come to expect from Democratic Party candidates and elected officials. As chair, I am confident that her personal brand of tireless advocacy will lead to even more success in this critical election cycle, and beyond.” 

Oath Keeper denials

The Anti-Defamation League issued a list of more than 650 Hoosiers who are “members” of Oath Keepers, which it describes as an extremist domestic organization. Included are:

Clark County Sheriff and 9th CD Republican Chairman Jamey Noel: “I’m not now and have never been associated with this group. I didn’t even know there was a group called the Oath Keepers until I read about it in the news.”

Elkhart Commissioner Brad Rogers: “The original stated mission of Oath Keepers centered around non-violent non-compliance with orders that violated the rights of all individuals. However, Oath Keepers leaders began to go on record that there will be ‘blood in the streets’ and began promoting or encouraging civil war. When this violation of their bylaws began, I and many others left the organization. When board members brought up concerns about the shift in direction Oath Keepers was taking, they were ignored – circumventing the organizational structure. They became disorganized, hence, why my outdated contact information is still on some of these lists. I am an advocate for the protection of individual rights and the Constitution as our rule of law – something that Oath Keepers now stand opposed to. This is why I left the organization those years ago.”-

State Rep. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne, told the Capital Chronicle, “I stand by the oath of office I took when I entered the State Legislature, and the oath I took before I deployed to defend my country in Iraq. I will always stand by the rule of law. I have not been affiliated with the group for 7 years,.” 

LaPorte County Commissioner Joe Haney: He was listed but denies he has any involvement in the anti-government extremist group. “I spoke with their director of communications,” Haney said of the Oath Keepers to the NWI Times. “Since then, I haven’t had any contact with them whatsoever. I’m not a member, I have no affiliation. The most recent events they’ve been involved in is not something that’s acceptable.” But WVPE published an Instagram photo of Haney wearing an Oath Keeper logo. Haney told NWI Times today, “I honor and keep my Oath to the Constitution of both the United States of America and the great State of Indiana everyday, as anyone who has solemnly sworn should do,” Haney said in the statement. “What I will not do is apologize for taking my Oath seriously. This patch is not, nor has it ever been, an Oath Keepers group item,” Haney said.

Wells County Commissioner Michael Vanover, did not respond to Fox59’s request for comment.

Michael Sweney, a member of the Root Township Board in Adams County. 

Presidential 2024

The Hill on Sec. Pete’s chances

The ordinarily polished Mayor Pete suddenly was casual. “Who knows,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Vox Media’s Code Conference when asked last week about the idea of running for president again. “You don’t run for an office – well, maybe some people do – because you always wanted to,” he said. “But I think you run for an office because you notice something about the office, and something about yourself, and something about the moment that adds up. So who knows what the future is going to call me,” he said (The Hill).  “What he was able to accomplish in the Democratic primary for president is unbelievable,” said Joe Caiazzo, a Democratic strategist who worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaigns in 2016 and in 2020, including a senior role in New Hampshire. 

Biden approval rises to 45% in AP Poll

President Joe Biden’s popularity improved substantially from his lowest point this summer, but concerns about his handling of the economy persist, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Support for Biden recovered from a low of 36% in July to 45%, driven in large part by a rebound in support from Democrats just two months before the November midterm elections. The president’s approval rating remains underwater, with 53% of U.S. adults disapproving of him, and the economy continues to be a weakness for Biden. Just 38% approve of his economic leadership.