By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – The southwestern Indiana pocket has produced two lieutenant governors from House Districts. State Rep. Holli Sullivan is poised to become the third to advance to a constitutional Statehouse office.

Multiple informed and reliable sources are telling Howey Politics Indiana that Sullivan will be named the new secretary of state following Monday’s announcement that Connie Lawson is stepping down.

Sullivan represents HD78, the same district that put Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch into an enhanced statewide orbit. Crouch was subsequently elevated to state auditor, and then LG.

Sullivan has been viewed as a rising star after she succeeded Crouch in HD78. She is secretary of the Indiana Republican Central Committee and in 2016, she was elected to serve as president of POWER, the Indiana House women’s caucus. Sullivan has been an engineering consultant for the University of Southern Indiana, and managed a database manager for a church.

Secretary of State Lawson announced resignation Mon tday, citing her 32 years of public service and the toll the 2020 election year took. “I have dedicated the last 32 years of my life to public service. I have served with all of my heart and soul,” she said. “It has been an honor to serve, but it is time for me to step down. Like many Hoosiers, 2020 took a toll on me. I am resigning so I can focus on my health and my family. I will work with Gov. Holcomb to ensure our next secretary of state is up to the task and has the tools and resources to hit the ground running.” 

This resignation wasn’t totally unexpected. In the Jan. 7 HPI Power 50  edition, we observed: “Could 2020 be the last general election overseen by Secretary Lawson? Lawson may look to play a significant role in identifying her successor should she consider resigning before her full term is complete.”

Identifying an appointed successor is now a dominating factor at the Statehouse. In the General Assembly, 21.3% of current members were appointed by caucus following resignations. 

Of the five Statehouse constitutional offices, Gov. Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch were nominated via the Indiana Republican Central Committee after Gov. Mike Pence joined Donald Trump’s presidential ticket in 2016. Holcomb was appointed by Gov. Pence to fill out the term of Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who resigned in the winter of 2016. Auditor Tera Klutz was appointed to that position after Crouch was elected LG in November 2016. Lawson was appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels following the felony conviction and resignation of Charlie White in 2012.

Indiana Dems make Rokita records request


The Indiana Democratic Party formally submitted a records request to the Office of the Indiana attorney general after a news report revealed Attorney General Todd Rokita had not resigned from his role with healthcare company Apex Benefits after assuming office, presenting a potential conflict of interest for Indiana’s top law enforcement officer.  The same news report disclosed the state’s former inspector general, Lori Torres, may have issued a confidential advisory opinion claiming Todd Rokita is compliant to Indiana’s ethics laws. Torres was then hired to be Rokita’s deputy attorney general. This advisory opinion, however, has not been published, and the Indiana Democratic Party is asking this advisory opinion to be made public so that voters can understand the Rokita’s potential conflicts of interests between his role with Apex Benefits and serving as the state’s attorney general, especially since Roktia is a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act. “Public trust in state government regulators is paramount in ensuring the integrity of our justice system. If that system appears to protect special interests at the expense of Hoosier families, it has failed the state,” said Lauren Ganapini, executive director for the Indiana Democratic Party, in the request. 

Rokita refuses to sign letter


Attorney General Rokita, whose Valentine’s Day social media tweet alluding to a stolen election briefly drew a Twitter warning, declined weeks earlier to sign a nearly universal statement from attorneys general condemning the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol (Stafford, Indiana Lawyer). The letter condemning the Capitol attack from the nonpartisan National Association of Attorneys General was signed by 50 Republican and Democratic attorneys general of the American states and U.S. territories, but Indiana was one of three states whose AGs conspicuously did not sign. Louisiana and Montana were the others. All three of those states’ AGs are Republicans. Rokita on Wednesday pointed to a letter dated Jan. 12 that he sent to the association, which also is posted on his Twitter account. In the letter, the AG writes, “I certainly join you in the condemnation of the outrageous violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. I lament the violation of personal safety and destruction of property. And most of all, I mourn with you the unnecessary loss of precious life the events of that day wrought. “Instead of signing your letter, though, I have chosen to communicate with each of you via this letter. That is because I cannot help but wonder where your level of outrage was, as a group, when cities across our country burned last summer,” Rokita wrote.

Rokita Tweets the ‘big lie’

Indiana’s attorney general is promoting the same untrue claim that former President Donald Trump used to incite a mob of his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as members of Congress were counting the electoral votes from last year’s presidential election (Carden, NWI Times). Republican Todd Rokita tweeted from his campaign account on Valentine’s Day an image of Trump with the message: “You stole my heart like a 2020 election.” Records show officials in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., certified the Nov. 3 presidential election. Those officials concluded the election was conducted in accordance with state and federal law, and dozens of lawsuits filed by or on behalf of Trump claiming the election was “stolen” have been rejected by state and federal courts at every level, including by several Trump-appointed judges and justices. In a series of follow-up tweets Monday, Rokita insisted: “It is perfectly reasonable that many citizens in Indiana, and across the nation, have valid concerns regarding the conduct of the 2020 presidential election. Deeply rooted in these concerns is the fact that several left-leaning states conducted their elections without regard for the U.S. Constitution,” Rokita said. “We’ll never know the full extent to which these states’ actions impacted the 2020 presidential election.”

Weinzapfel seeks Southern DA

Former Evansville Mayor and AG candidate Jonathan Weinzapfel is applying for the U.S. attorney job in the Southern District. Informed and reliable HPI sources say that U.S. Sen. Todd Young is giving an assist. 

Census data won’t come until September

National Public Radio reports that the 2020 Census data needed for congressional and General Assembly reapportionment won’t be available until Sept. 30.  Last week, Senate President Rod Bray said he expected the data by the end of June, setting up a late summer special session to draw new maps. The data was originally scheduled for a March 31 legal deadline.