By BRIAN A. HOWEY

FRENCH LICK –  After public polling showed Democrat Destiny Wells leading Republican Diego Morales in the Indiana secretary of state’s race 31-28%, this is becoming the marquee fall matchup in Indiana.

HPI interviewed Wells on the veranda of the French Lick Springs Resort on Friday and she said internal Democrat polling shows this race knotted.

“This has been a really great race because it is a tossup,” Wells said. “I’m the first Democrat to be in that position coming out of July and August. It makes us that much more competitive and excited. What is driving that is the frustrated, moderate voter.”

What’s happened since SEA1 was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this month? 

“So Kansas’s numbers just came out and they had a huge uptick in women registering to vote, so more women are showing up,” Wells said. How many Hoosier women are registering has not been disclosed by Indiana Democrats, but according to Targetsmart, female voter registration is up 70% in Kansas. In Wisconsin, since June 24, women have out-registered men by 15.6%, while Democrats lead Republicans 52% to 16.5%. In Michigan, women have out-registered men by 8% and Democrats are out-registering Republicans by 18%.

“That energy we’re seeing on the ground on Indiana isn’t just Democratic women,” said Wells. “There are many Republican women who believe their party has just gone too far. So from the secretary of state’s position, being the chief elections officer, it is our responsibility to tell why they are seeing these symptoms of gerrymandering. Like SB1 happening. We need to restore fair elections and have a secretary of state who is not trying to use the office as a partisan tool for a power grab.”

Asked about the size of the undecided voting block, Wells said, “They are significant enough that they are getting a lot of our intention.”

Asked if she backs a referendum on the abortion issue in 2024, Wells told HPI, “I would love to have (a referendum) that would show support for the reproductive freedoms they had. But we don’t have that mechanism so it is surprising to many that we don’t have these mechanisms that other states have.” 

Meanwhile, Morales has been relentlessly cris-crossing the state, concentrating on small Republican events, while putting in 20-hour days. He racked up 150,000 miles prior to the convention, and is adding more every day.

“We’re on the road, cris-crossing the great state of Indiana,” Morales told HPI on Monday. “After we won the nomination, I was so grateful. So honored by be in all 92 counties and the overwhelming support I’ve been getting. Our campaign is out there every night, seven days a week.”

Does he believe this is a tossup race? “The poll I believe is the one on Election Day,” Morales said. “Only their votes count. We’ll see on Election Day. Even before the convention, I said I’m running 30 points behind and have nothing in the bank.”

Morales said that “we’ve been raising a ton of money. That is one of my strengths. We’ll show our numbers by Sept. 30.”