INDIANAPOLIS  – In the television age of Indiana politics, running for one of the statewide constitutional offices is a path for an aspiring bureaucrat and a middling salary. The Indiana auditor makes $66,000 annually. You’ll get a lot of free Lincoln (or Jefferson) day dinners, earning the polite applause of precinct folks and delegates. But if you aspire to Congress or see a future governor looking back at you from the mirror, running for secretary of state, treasurer, auditor or even attorney general isn’t a high-percentage way to go.

Only three modern secretaries of state have advanced up the political food chain. Republican Edgar Whitcomb won the governorship in 1968, Democrat Evan Bayh did again 20 years later, and Republican Todd Rokita parlayed his two terms in the southeast Statehouse corner into a congressional seat in 2010, before becoming attorney general in 2020. In 2018, he lost a U.S. Senate Republican primary race to Mike Braun.

Joe Hogsett wasn’t able to make the direct jump from winning a full term as secretary of state in 1990 into Congress (he had been appointed to fill out Secretary Bayh’s term in 1988), falling to David McIntosh in 1994, finally becoming mayor of Indianapolis seven years ago after an unsuccessful run for attorney general. Democrat Larry Conrad lost the 1976 gubernatorial race to Gov. Doc Bowen. Sue Anne Gilroy lost the 1999 Indianapolis mayoral race to Democrat Bart Peterson. Edwin Simcox has become the long-time GOP convention parliamentarian. Bill Salin created a banking company.

There have been no modern attorneys general who have advanced to governor or Congress. Republican Linley Pearson won the 1992 GOP gubernatorial nomination (though he almost resigned at the convention), before losing in a landslide to Gov. Bayh. Democrat Karen Freeman-Wilson was elected mayor of Gary. Attorney General Greg Zoeller made a stab at the 9th CD nomination, losing to previously unknown (but rich!) Trey Hollingsworth in 2016. Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill was on a course to challenge Gov. Holcomb in 2020 until a sex groping scandal aided and abetted his 2020 virtual convention floor fight loss to Rokita. Others who came and disappeared (politically) into the briar patch include Ted Sendak, Pam Carter, Jeff Modisett and Steve Carter, who lost a comeback bid to Hill in 2016.

State treasurers? Republican Richard Mourdock won a U.S. Senate nomination in 2012 when he upset Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary, but lost to Joe Donnelly in the general election. Two years ago, Treasurer Kelly Mitchell tried to make the leap into Congress, losing the 5th CD primary to State Sen. Victoria Spartz, finishing well back in the pack despite considerable establishment support and an elegant wardrobe. Tim Berry went from the treasurer’s office to Indiana GOP chairman. John Snyder was unsuccessful in gubernatorial and U.S. Senate runs after finishing his term in 1971. For Jack New, Julian Ridlen, Marg O’Laughlin (perhaps the most beloved statewide officer ever) and Joyce Brinkman, the office was their political capstone.

State auditors? The lone modern success there was Suzanne Crouch, who was appointed to that office by Gov. Mike Pence in 2014, after several terms in the Indiana House, and then was chosen as Eric Holcomb’s running mate in 2016. Lt. Gov. Crouch is preparing for a 2024 gubernatorial run. Others who ended up on political milk cartons were Trudy Etherton, Otis Cox (who has become an enduring Hoosier trivia question), Ann DeVore (who forgot to file her candidacy for the 2nd CD), Morris Wooden, Connie Nass and the unforgettable Dwayne Sawyer (who resigned after less than four months in office).

Supt. Glenda Ritz upset Republican incumbent Tony Bennett in 2012, then ran a brief and ultimately uninspired race for governor in 2015. That candidacy was measured in weeks.

GOP Convention floor fights this weekend

This weekend, Republicans will nominate a secretary of state, auditor and treasurer. Auditor Tera Klutz is uncontested for a second term. Appointed Secretary of State Holli Sullivan is seeking to fend off Knox County Clerk Dave Shelton, who announced the endorsements of 56 fellow clerks on Tuesday, Diego Morales and former Libertarian Paul Hager. The winner will face Democrat Destiny Scott Wells.

HPI believes that Sullivan remains the favorite, though it may take two ballots for the nomination. Gov. Holcomb’s tacit support (he appointed Sullivan to fill out Secretary Connie Lawson’s term) was supposed to be a drag, especially after he vetoed the transgender athletics bill, setting off palpable anger among social conservatives. But he has since announced a $1 billion tax rebate, calling a special session for late June, and there is considerable speculation on whether such a session will also allow for post-Roe abortion legislation. How delegates factor in the looming special session is a wildcard.

Convention floor fights can be unpredictable, as we learned in 2002 when Rokita defeated Mourdock, Mike Delph and Dr. John McGoff in a wild three-ballot battle. A word to the candidates: Take vows of support from delegates at face value, and don’t be surprised to watch between 10% and 20% of the delegates leave after the first ballot, even if there is no winner.

Another floor upset occurred in 2008 when Zoeller upset Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas for attorney general despite the endorsement of Gov. Mitch Daniels. While the governor was bruised politically, he went on to win a second term with 58% of the vote in his race against Democrat Jill Long Thompson.

In the GOP treasurer’s race, Boone County Councilwoman Elise Nieshella, GOP insider Pete Seat, Morgan County Republican Chairman Daniel Elliott, and Fort Wayne Clerk Lana Keesling are in the mix.

Seat has earned a wide array of endorsements and is seen as the embodiment of an establishment candidate. Elliott played a key role in the 2018 Republican Convention floor fight over the marriage platform plank and is expected to earn considerable social conservative support. Keesling became the first Republican Fort Wayne clerk since 1971. Nieshella appears to have earned shares of establishment and social conservative support and has spent the past couple of weeks refuting reports that she raised taxes. As of the most recent campaign finance report at the end of March, Nieshalla had outraised all of the other candidates, raising $123,000 since entering the race, in part due to self funding. No other candidate had broken $100,000 (IndyStar). HPI rates this race a tossup, with, perhaps, a slight edge to Seat, but in reality, who really knows how this race will turn out?

The winner will face Democrat Monroe County Treasurer Jessica McClellan, who is serving her second term. McClellan oversees the investment of over $100 million in public funds and has increased interest income to the county by diversifying investments. Additionally, McClellan is the vice president of the Indiana County Treasurers’ Association. “I have the experience to bring a balance of power to the oversight of our public funds and stretch the value of our healthy cash reserves to aid the needs of urban and rural communities,” McClellan said after the party unveiled its ticket on Monday.

Auditor Klutz will face Democrat ZeNai Brooks of Indianapolis. Brooks is a CPA, author, pastor’s wife and “millennial leader” with extensive business and civic experience. She has combined her passion for community advocacy and her professional career as the controller of the corporate responsibility function of Cummins, a Fortune 200 company. She also serves as a board member with the INCPAS and as the Central Region president and national director with the National Association of Black Accountants.

“It’s an honor to be running as the Democratic nominee for state auditor as an extension of my career and dedication to the accounting profession for almost 15 years,” Brooks said on Monday. “I also recognize the importance of representation and am excited about adding diversity on this ticket. I look forward to creating more exposure for the state auditor and building a bridge between policy and what the residents of Indiana care about.”

To the 2022 statewide field, enjoy Friday and Saturday. It’s likely to be your 15 minutes of fame.

Republican Convention schedule

The Indiana Republican Convention will be held at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Friday, June 17th, Crowne Plaza Hotel 

9 a.m. – 8 p.m.: Credential Pick-up (Illinois Street Ballroom)

10 a.m.: Committee on Resolutions (Illinois Street Ballroom)

11:30 a.m.: Committee on Permanent Organization, Rules, and Order of Business (Illinois Street Ballroom)

5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Welcome Reception & Entertainment (Crowne Plaza Hotel, Heavy Hors D’oeuvres Available)

5:30 p.m.: Convention Welcome & Opening Remarks 

6 p.m.: Vinnie and the Moochers Takes the Stage

7 p.m.: Hospitality Suites Provided by Candidates Open (Offering Various Food and Beverages)

7:30 p.m.: Main Reception Concludes

9 p.m.: Official Events Conclude for the Evening

Saturday, June 18th, Indiana Farmers Coliseum 

8 a.m. - 10 a.m.: Credential Pick-up

9 a.m.: Convention Floor Opens, Vendor and Candidate Booths Open

10 a.m.: Convention Convenes

Official Welcome

Committee Reports

Committee on Resolutions

Committee on Permanent Organization, Rules, and Order of Business

Committee on Credentials

Nominations/Voting for State Office: Auditor of State; Secretary of State; Treasurer of State

Indiana Democrat Convention schedule

Big Dem Weekend Schedule (all times listed are EDT):

Friday, June 17

10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.: SCC Meeting – The Skyline Club. General meeting begins at 12:00PM

3 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Temporary Credentials Committee – IDP Headquarters

5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Sponsors Reception – RM 235
Email for sponsorship levels

7 p.m.: State HH Dinner – Hall J

6 p.m. Doors open, General admission cocktail reception (cash bar)- Hall J Lobby

10 p.m.: Official HH After-Party hosted by IN Young Democrats- Loughmiller’s Pub

Saturday, June 18

7 a.m. -9:30 a.m.: Delegate Registration – Hall K Lobby. Delegates must pick up credentials by 9:30am

10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: District Meetings

1st Congressional District Meeting – RM 135-136

2nd Congressional District Meeting – RM 231-232

3rd Congressional District Meeting – RM 238-239

4th Congressional District Meeting – RM 130-131

5th Congressional District Meeting – RM 240-241

6th Congressional District Meeting – RM 233-234

7th Congressional District Meeting – RM 140-142

8th Congressional District Meeting – RM 137-139

9th Congressional District Meeting – RM 133-134

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Break for Lunch

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Constituency Caucus Meetings

College Democrats of IN – RM 130-131

IN Dem African American Caucus – RM 233-234

IN Young Democrats and IN Stonewall Caucus – RM 140-142

IN Dem Latino Caucus – RM 238-239

IN State Teachers Association – RM 133-134

Labor Caucus – RM 137-139

Women’s Council – RM 135-136

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Permanent Convention Committee Meetings, Credentials – RM 242, 
Resolutions – RM 231-232, Rules – RM 240-241

3 p.m. – 6 p.m.: General Session with Keynote Speaker: Congresswoman and Illinois Dems State Chair Robin Kelly – Hall K.