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Saturday, September 14, 2019
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Thursday, October 15, 2015 9:20 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    
INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence kicked off the infrastructure debate with a $1 billion proposal to repair state highways, interstates and bridges. Local government officials want the governor and General Assembly to take it several steps further, and provide what the Indiana Association of Cities & Towns calls a “sustainable” funding source. IACT President Matthew Greller told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that the Pence plan is a good start. “The big thing is it’s good the administration is addressing infrastructure in a very serious way with a very serious proposal and a lot of money. But it includes no money for city and town streets and county roads. I’m disappointed because the vast majority of road miles in Indiana are maintained by local governments.”
  • Atomic! Myers cites 'scandals'; Pete's debate; Vape threat
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Dr. Myers comes out swinging: Here are your Friday power lunch talking points: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Woody Myers came out swinging against Gov. Eric Holcomb with an op-ed citing recent "scandals" in the administration. "It’s time for accountability. It’s time for scandal-free leadership," Dr. Myers said, citing the July resignation of Department of Social Services Associate Director Todd Myer and Indiana National Guard Adj. Gen. Courtney Carr in August. "In the short two months since my announcement that I’m running for Governor, Hoosiers have seen numerous scandals and missteps by our state government that have me very worried about the direction Indiana is headed.” 
  • Buttigieg's 3rd debate unlikely to project him into top tier
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - Frontrunner Joe Biden turned in a feisty, credible debate performance in Houston Thursday night likely to maintain his polling status, while South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg struggled to break through with a performance that would elevate him to the top tier.  Buttigieg's best line came on the topic of President Trump's trade war with China. "The president clearly has no strategy. You know, when I first got into this race, I remember President Trump scoffed and said he'd like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping," Buttigieg said. "I'd like to see him making a deal with Xi Jinping." 

  • HPI Horse Race: Merritt seeks to climb his 'Mt. Hogsett'
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Three times in the last two decades, the winning Indianapolis mayoral nominee advanced to the City-County Building’s 25th Floor with around 92,000 votes. That was the case when incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett dispatched little-known Republican Chuck Brewer in 2015, when Mayor Greg Ballard defeated Melina Kennedy in his 2007 reelection, and in Mayor Bart Peterson’s 2003 reelection over Republican Greg Jordan. The big upset came in 2007 when Ballard took advantage of a catalytic anti-tax fervor and upset Peterson 50.4% to 47.2% with 83,239 votes. For State Sen. Jim Merritt, the Republican nominee challenging Mayor Hogsett, getting to 92,000 votes is his summit. Or as Merritt put it when he talked with HPI Tuesday afternoon, “It’s my mountain. It’s slippery and steep, but I’m climbing it.” Merritt knows what it takes to pull off an upset. He was chairman of Greg Ballard’s stunner over Peterson in 2007. Today he faces a race against Hogsett in which he faces, perhaps, a five-to-one money disadvantage. Hogsett began the year with $3.2 million and had $3.8 million cash on hand last April, while Merritt posted $267,000.
  • HPI Interview: Banks says it's time for Trump, Congress to step up on gun reform
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – In last week’s Howey Politics Indiana edition, my column “Of celphalopods and CEOs” called out the lack of spine Congress and the White House have shown in reaction to an epidemic of mass shootings that have created a jittery nation. That afternoon, I sat down with Republican U.S. Jim Banks at Sahm’s Place. The questions I had were along the lines of is this the “new norm” in American life, where people fear assaults at schools, universities, malls and bars? I had also called the growing cohesion among mass shooters in fringe websites as a virtual “guerrilla war.” Banks is considered a Republican rising star, moving from Whitley County Republican chairman, to the Indiana Senate, and now Congress. Still young at age 40, with a military tour in Afghanistan under his belt, many consider him to be on a future gubernatorial track and beyond. He didn’t dismiss interest in a future Statehouse run, but he could also have a future in House leadership. Banks agreed that it is time for Congress and President Trump to “rise up” and confront the myriad of security challenges facing the population, as Congress and President George W. Bush did in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. 
  • Horse Race: Buttigieg faces telling moment in third debate
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – If South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is to have a realistic shot at winning the Democratic presidential nomination, he’s going to have to make some serious inroads beginning at 8 tonight (E.T.) during the third Democratic debate in Houston. It will run three hours on ABC. Buttigieg now says he’s in his “phase three” of his longshot presidential campaign. “We knew coming into this campaign that its early stages would unfold in roughly three phases,” Buttigieg explained. “The first was to convince Americans that a small-town mayor with a funny-sounding Maltese name was a viable candidate for president. On the strength of our vision, the urgency of our convictions, and some help from phonetic pronunciation, we’ve done that. We’ve climbed in the polls and been on two debate stages, and now, we continue to earn opportunities to share our plans.” 
  • INGOP to return convention to Indy

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Republicans announced that they will hold their 2020 biennial convention in Indianapolis. The convention will bring 1,800 Hoosiers from across the state together in the state’s capital city. “Under the leadership of Gov. Holcomb and Republicans across the state, we are Putting People First,” said Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party. “Republicans are delivering new jobs, record infrastructure investment and exciting new opportunities for all Hoosiers, which will be on full display next year from our state convention in Indianapolis to communities throughout Indiana.”

  • Atomic! Irish ire; Pence did what? 'Bama double down; Eric the Normal
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Pence’s traipse through the Old Country: Here are your Friday power lunch talking points: He did what? Vice President Pence’s return to the Old Country didn’t go to his script. First there was the Doonbeg controversy, where Chief of Staff Marc Short said President Trump “suggested” he stay at his resort there despite the bizarre logistics (motorcades, traffic jams, 140 mile flights for meetings in Dublin on the other emerald side). Trump threw Pence under the tour bus, saying, “I had no involvement, other than it’s a great place. It wasn’t my idea for Mike to go there.”  Paging Nikki Haley: Call your office. Then came Pence's praise for Brexit, which was excoriated in the Irish press. Irish Times  columnist Miriam Lord concluded that the vice president, a “much-anticipated visitor,” turned out to have “shat on the … carpet.” Never before - either figuratively or literally - has a former Indiana governor or current veep been suggested to have exerted a bodily function in a diplomatic setting. The Cork Examiner’s political editor, Daniel McConnell, said that Pence "humiliated" his hosts, writing, “The cheek of him coming here, eating our food, clogging up our roads and then having the nerve to humiliate his hosts.” Then Pence was on to London, meeting with embattled PM Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. It came after Johnson's Brexit power play was rejected by his party, his brother and Winston Churchill III, all in humiliating fashion. Pence delivered a message from President Trump: “He told me this morning, he said, ‘You tell my friend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that we’re ready to go to work on that free trade agreement just as soon as you’re ready.” Johnson responded by joking about how Americans chlorinate our chickens.

  • HPI Horse Race: Mayor Henry faces new challenge in Smith
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    FORT WAYNE – Democrats have controlled Fort Wayne City Hall for five elections following Mayor Paul Helmke’s exit in 1999, with incumbent Mayor Tom Henry seeking an unprecedented fourth term. But Henry faces a new breed of Republican in businessman Tim Smith, who won the nomination by defeating long-time Councilman John Crawford in the GOP primary last May. Smith used social issues such as abortion to separate himself from establishment Republicanism, relying on the conservative Indiana Policy Review network while bringing along a new breed of voter. His campaign appears to be feeding on a large network of smaller donors. Henry is relying on his own brand, an extensive family network embedded in many Summit City institutions, and a thriving downtown. Both Henry and Smith are using modern data and digital campaign techniques, though Henry has been up on broadcast and cable TV for much of August. Thus, Smith is a very different challenger than past Henry foes who have included Matt Kelty, Paula Hughes and Mitch Harper.
  • Horse Race: Buttigieg's best hope is if Biden falters

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    MICHIGAN CITY – Ted Kennedy whiffed on the question of why he was running for president way back in 1980. Hillary Clinton could never sum up the overall rationale for her candidacies in 2008 and 2016, beyond it was her turn and it was time for a female president. And Joe Biden this past week? He was asked the question in Iowa and responded, “I think it’s really, really, really important that Donald Trump not be reelected. Could I die happily not having heard ‘Hail to the Chief’ play for me? Yeah, I could.” 

  • Horse Race: Holcomb reelect faces personnel issues
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb begins a four-nation Asian trade tour this week, heading to Japan and South Korea, and then China and India Sept. 22 to Oct. 5. “Markets are more connected now than ever before, and we’re proud to support a growing global dynamic economy in Indiana,” Holcomb told the NWI Times. “That growth is evident in our business sector, with 1,000 foreign-owned companies throughout Indiana employing 21st Century talent in communities all across our state.” His campaign announced the return of senior leadership, with Joe Elsener returning as deputy campaign manager and political director, Mindy Colbert as finance director and Matt Huckleby as deputy campaign manager. “After witnessing what Joe, Mindy and Matt could do in 2016, I can’t wait to see the unstoppable fundraising and political operation they’re going to lead going into 2020,” said Kyle Hupfer, campaign manager of the Eric Holcomb for Indiana campaign. The wildcard for Gov. Holcomb’s reelection comes on the personnel side of the administration following news of the real reason Department of Child Services Associate Director Todd Meyer resigned following what was described as “creepy” emails he sent to an intern. 
  • Atomic! Election seasons begin; Holcomb campaign; Biden whiffs
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Labor Day election milepost: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: We've passed the Labor Day mile post, the typical starting point for the election home stretch. In the municipal elections this year, we're watching potential tight races in Fort Wayne where Mayor Tom Henry is seeking a fourth term against Republican Tim Smith; the open Kokomo seat where Democrat Abbey Smith is facing Republican Howard County Commissioner Tyler Moore; New Albany where Republican businessman Mark Seabrook is challenging Democrat Jeff Gahan; and the open Elkhart seat where former mayor Dave Smith is facing Democrat Rod Roberson; and the open Muncie seat where Democrat Terri Whitt Bailey faces Republican Councilman Dan Ridenour. All of these races are either tossup or leans. We give Henry an early advantage, while Seabrook may be in the best position to pull off an upset. We think incumbents in Indianapolis (Democrat Joe Hogsett), Terre Haute (Republican Duke Bennett), Evansville (Lloyd Winnecke) and Anderson (Democrat Tom Broderick) are all likely winners. Labor Day 2019 marks a year out in a state and national context. Gov. Eric Holcomb will likely face Democrat Dr. Woody Myers, though State Sen. Eddie Melton is still a potential, albeit long-shot nominee. A Morning Consult Poll in July puts Holcomb's approve/disapprove at 50/22%. Nationally, the Real Clear Politics composite national right/wrong track stands at a sour 36.3/56.7% while President Trump's RCP composite job approval stands at 42.8 approve and 54.1% disapprove. More troubling for Trump is that he could not poll over 40% against any of the top four Democratic contenders in a recent Quinnipiac Poll: Joe Biden 54-38%, Bernie Sanders 53-39%, Elizabeth Warren 52-40%, Kamala Harris 51-40%, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg 49-40%. Things can change, as 2016 proved, but at this point Donald Trump is in Herbert Hoover territory.
  • HPI Analysis: Americans face unsettled future on this Labor Day
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. - The trifecta of plagues afflicting an unsettled America were all evident as we headed toward Labor Day. Americans were witnessing massacres, an epic Category 5 hurricane and the death of a young California Angels pitcher due to fentanyl and oxycodone, yet another reminder of the opioid scourge that has yet to be quelled. It comes as the Real Clear Politics  composite national right/wrong track stands at a sour 36.3/56.7%. President Trump's RCP  composite job approval stands at 42.8 approve and 54.1% disapprove. Recent presidential election polls revealed he could not register above 40% against any of the top five Democratic contenders. Despite a robust economy and record low unemployment, President Trump is not benefiting from these economic tailwinds and, in fact, a new round of tariffs he imposed on China today further enmesh American farmers and manufacturers in a trade war likely to extend beyond the 2020 election.
  • Could ransomware attacks on counties jeopardize 2020 election?
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Twice this summer Indiana counties have faced cybersecurity assaults, with LaPorte County actually paying $132,000 in ransom to sophisticated hackers. LaPorte County Commissioner Vidya Kora said the payment was made with the virtual currency Bitcoin after FBI experts weren’t able to unlock the county’s data. In Vigo County, a ransomware attack targeted a software vulnerability in 129 of the county’s 489 computers, according to Government Technology. By the end of the month, 95% of the county computers were running again. GT reported: “The county’s information technology personnel are now sending analytical information to the FBI to help it discover patterns in the ransomware attack, said Jeremy Snowden, director of the county’s information technology department. ‘[The FBI] are putting together information in the back end to see if it relates to similar attacks of this nature,’ Snowden said, adding it is standard protocol to contact the FBI and others, including the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, after such an attack.” But it begs the question, what if randsomware hit counties during an election? It is Russian President Putin’s dream to disrupt and discredit a U.S. election. Targeting a handful of counties in several critical states could do that.
  • Horse Race: Ruckelshaus to seek reelection rather than 5th CD
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - The open 5th CD race continued to take shape on Thursday with State Sen. John Ruckelshaus announcing he will seek reelection rather than mount a congressional race, while Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell is in, filing FEC paperwork earlier this week. It brings the Republican field looking to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks to three. Mitchell is joining Noblesville pastor Micah Beckwith and former legislator Steve Braun in the race.

  • HPI Analysis: A history of Hoosier bolts out of the blue
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    NASHVILLE, Ind. – The shocker. The gut punch. The thunderbolt out of the blue. That’s what Hoosiers went through on Saturday night and into Sunday morning when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced he was retiring – at age 29. It came just after he was honored as “Comeback Player of the Year” in 2018 following a miserable three-year stretch that included wounded shoulders and lacerated kidneys. In the world of competition, the sudden retirement be it by an athlete or a politician can be a body blow to fans and supporters. In the sporting context, Hoosiers have had four such blows in modern times. In the political realm, since Howey Politics Indiana  began publishing 25 years ago in August 1994, there have been a handful of stunning decisions made by Dan Coats, Joe Kernan, Evan Bayh and Mitch Daniels that rendered supporters speechless while dramatically altering the landscape.
  • Horse Race: After 4th CD upset, Steve Braun shifts to 5th
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    FRENCH LICK – Steve Braun is back on the congressional stage, this time in the 5th CD where he actually lives. The former legislator and brother of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun ran in the neighboring 4th CD in 2018, was considered a favorite with a significant money advantage as a self-funder, but was upset by State Rep. Jim Baird. Braun filed his FEC paperwork this week, joining Republican Micah Beckwith in the race, though Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, businessman Terry Henderson, former senator Mike Delph and State Sen. John Ruckelshaus are currently weighing bids. Braun raised $1,241,320 for his 2018 race, which included an $830,000 loan from himself. But the frontrunner made two mistakes. His campaign sent out the “arm and a leg” direct mail piece that was controversial because Baird had lost an arm while fighting in the Vietnam War. He also underestimated Baird’s support in the 4th CD farm community, which the farmer quietly worked. Baird had less than half the funds Braun did – $564,244, of which $250,000 came from a loan from himself – but used a grassroots campaign to clip Braun by a little under 6,000 votes, or by 36.6% to 29.5%.
  • Horse Race: Trump's bizarre week
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Think about what has occurred this past week. Last Wednesday, President Trump talked of his unilateral trade war with China and said, “I am the chosen one,” before turning and looking up toward the heavens. He later said he was being “sarcastic.” Later at a Louisville AMVET appearance, President Trump awarded a Medal of Honor to veteran Woody Williams, then said, “Nothing like the Medal of Honor. I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody. I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’  They said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’” He hasn’t been able to hold a policy position on gun reform and taxes. This past weekend, he began the G7 weekend threatening China and U.S. corporations who do business there “ordering” them to come home, called President Xi an “enemy” before saying he had “second thoughts,” and ended in by claiming a phantom phone call saying President Xi wants a deal (psst, Mr. President, Xi can wait you out). Meanwhile, the Chinese are matching tariff for tariff, paid for by American consumers.  He skipped an environmental meeting on the burning Amazon rainforest crisis. Trump pushed to include Russia in the next G7, this after President Putin has invaded two counties prompting his G8 explusion, and continues to assault U.S. elections (see Page 8). At a bizarre 68 minute press conference, Trump praised Putin and Kim Jong-Un. This emerging dynamic is cautionary after a 2016 blue wave ended up in the Trump election miracle. But at this point, given the whiplash policy, a president who appears unstable, and a reelect based on racial exploitation, this is a landslide in the making if ... IF ... Democrats can nominate a coherent and credible nominee. 
  • Atomic! Bucshon's Bloody 8th; Parkland reforms; The Chosen One
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Bucshon's town halls: Here are your Thursday power lunch talking points: Give U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon credit for conducting a series of town halls across the 8th CD this week. It's part of a congressman's job, to listen to constituents in a public setting. If a congressman or woman isn't prepared to do this kind of outreach; is afraid of the constituency,perhaps they are in the wrong line of work. Proponents and adversaries show up to ask questions, applaud if they like the answers and boo if they don't. Bucshon has a new twist, giving attendees green and red cards that can be flashed when folks agree or disagree with a point. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star's  Alex Modesitt reported the town hall in his city Wednesday night some times resembled a Christmas tree. Bucshon was asked about the epidemic of mass shootings afflicting and unnerving America  these days. On background checks, Bucshon said: “First of all, you cannot legally buy a firearm from any federally licensed dealer without getting a background check. You can’t buy one from a dealer on the internet or at a gun show without getting one. The only way you can legally purchase a gun without a background check is through a private sale. ... And to be clear, none of these shootings would have changed if the background checks were any different.” Bucshon added, with Modesitt reporting "much to the chagrin of many in attendance," that nothing short ofrepealing the 2nd Amendment  and sending federal agents door to door to collect guns would be enough to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. “Everybody wants these shootings to stop,” Bucshon said. “But look at the shooting we just had in Philadelphia where they guy who used an AR-15 had a 30-page-long rap sheet. He didn’t go to the gun shop to buy that AR-15."

  • Atomic! GOP gun capitulation; Mounting threats; South Side Pete
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The GOP capitulation: Here are your hump day power lunch talking points. President Trump and the Republican controlled Senate appear to have capitulated to the NRA’s embattled Wayne LaPierre. All it took was one 30-minute phone call to send Trump in full retreat on any measure of meaningful gun reform. “We have very, very strong background checks right now, but we have sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle,” Trump told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I have to tell you that it’s a mental problem. Democrats would, I believe, give up the 2nd Amendment.” You can easily envision LaPierre whispering these talking points into Trump’s ear. It's a bizarre pattern. Atrocity after atrocity, Trump meets with the families of victims, gives lip service to reform, then retreats when the hardliners get to himThis capitulation quickly spread to Capitol Hill. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise speaking at a fundraiser for Rep. Jim Banks in Columbia City, said, “What I would like to see is us to continue to focus on making the existing laws actually work,” said Scalise, who was critically wounded in an assault on the GOP congressional baseball team. “In many cases with mass shootings, we've seen people falling through the cracks that shouldn't have been able to legally buy a gun.” And Banks? “As Steve says, we need to enforce the laws that we have.”  Say what?
  • Atomic! Pence & fundamentals; Ag cross hair; Torch clutch
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. About those ‘fundamentals’ … Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Vice President Mike Pence returned to the Detroit Economic Club (where in 2010 the one time fervent anti-Keynesian famously stressed the concept of free trade and eschewed government bailouts), blaming the news media for conveying economic uncertainty. "Despite the irresponsible rhetoric of many in the mainstream media, the American economy is strong, and the U.S. economic outlook remains strong  as well," Pence said. "Now, last week, despite some volatility in global markets, leading retailers also reported strong sales and earnings, and consumer spending posted its strongest reading since March." This comes in the face of a 20% decline in RV shipments and that yield-curve inversion on the bond market. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star’s  Howard Greninger talked to Hoosier economists: On this inversion, Indiana State Prof. Robert Guell explained, “It is a relatively solid signal of an economic downturn as signals go. It hasn’t been wrong, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be wrong now.” And Purdue Prof. Larry DeBoer explained, “This is all a measure of confidence. It is weird, in a way, because sometimes the markets act as a yield curve inversion causes a recession, but all it is really is a read on what they [investors] are really thinking."  National Association for Business Economics reported that 74% of its members are forecasting a recession by the end of 2021.

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  • Banks makes election promise to Trump
    "I promised President Trump tonight that Indiana would be the first state on the board for Trump/Pence shortly after 6pm on November 3, 2020!" - U.S. Rep. Jim Banks in a Facebook posting after House Republicans met with President Trump for their retreat in Baltimore. Indiana's polls are one of the first to close on Election Day and the state typically is one of the first to declare its 11 Electoral College votes for the Republican nominee, with the exception of 2008 when Barack Obama won the state.
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  • The NFL's Century season
    The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers kicked off the 100th season of the NFL Thursday nigth, meeting for the 199th time. The Bear defense lived up to billing. But Chicago third year QB Mitch Trubinsky ... not so much, as the Packers won 10-3, much to the howling, growling chagrin to the Bear faithful at Soldier Field. This, despite a pre-game appearance by the Punky QB (Jim McMahon). 

    There were 10 original teams of the NFL, including two in Indiana: The Hammond Pros and the Muncie Flyers. The others were Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Tigers, Dayton Triangles, Decatur Staleys, Racine Cardinals, Rock Island Independents, and Rochester Jeffersons. The Staleys would become the Bears. 

    The NFL wouldn't return to Indiana (beyond the Bears training camp at St. Joseph College at Rensselaer where Dick Butkus once said the statues were so ugly the pigeons wouldn't crap on them) until the Colts arrived in Indianapolis in 1984. It took 15 years before consistently great quarterbacking would establish itself in Indy, first with Peyton Manning and then Andrew Luck. Jacoby Brissett is now on the clock. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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