Saturday, May 30, 2015

In Memoriam: Beau Biden (1969-2015)

Beau Biden
Tragedy again has struck the family of Joe Biden.

For the second time, Joe Biden will stand at a funeral for one of his children.  This time, it's his son, Beau Biden.  Beau passed away from complications of brain cancer at the young age of 46.  He is survived by his wife, Hallie, and two young children.  Besides his father and step-mother, Beau also leaves behind his brother, Hunter, and a half-sister, Ashley.

Joe Biden has been through this losing a child thing before.  Soon after his election to the U.S. Senate in 1972, Biden's then-wife Neilia and his three children were in a traffic accident.  Both Neilia and Biden's one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed.  Beau and Hunter were left battered and broken.  It was such a blow to the young Senator-Elect that he actually thought about resigning.  He didn't, but he did nurse his boys back to health.  He also made it work as a single father by commuting back and forth to Washington on the train.

Biden has talked many times about his emotional state following the death of his daughter and his wife.  He's talked about the place he was in.

I feel so much for the Vice President, but I also realize that we lost a shining star in Beau Biden.  He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps but not exactly and was in the midst of a burgeoning political career.  He served his country in Iraq and his home state of Delaware as its attorney general.  He was considering a run for Governor of Delaware in 2016 before cancer took him.

Earlier today I was at an event for the American Cancer Society called Relay for Life. Cancer plays no favorites. We just need to find a cure. Contribute to the American Cancer Society here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Pelath Passes on Governor Run in 2016

Pelath at work in the Indiana House
Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said he’s going to pass on running for Governor in 2016 leaving Democrats with two confirmed candidates and one possible choice for the Indiana’s highest executive office.

The Michigan City Democrat said essentially that getting into the race would further divide the party at a time when that would not be helpful to its hopes of beating Mike Pence in 2016.

Seven years ago, the party did experience a bitter primary. Millionaire architect Jim Schellinger was the choice of many of the party’s insiders, but he lost to former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson. A poor campaign and a lack of funding sent Long Thompson to a crushing defeat at the hands of incumbent Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Schellinger did publicly come out in lukewarm support of Long Thompson, but the camps of each candidate never seemed to come together.

In 2012, neither Mike Pence nor John Gregg had much in the way of challengers in the primary. Libertarian Rupert Boneham joined the race, and it was seen pretty much as Pence’s race to lose from there on out. He had an 18-point lead in some polls just weeks before Election Day.

A strong close from Gregg and strong performances in the debates by the former House Speaker left the margin just a little bit over three percentage points when the votes were finally counted.

Pelath said he’d like to see Karen Tallian, John Gregg, and Glenda Ritz, if she runs, come together and get behind one nominee heading into 2016. Pence may or may not have the luxury of an unchallenged primary. Former Angie’s List CEO Bill Osterle is said to be thinking about a run, and Bob Thomas, a Fort Wayne car dealer, says he might give it a go. Contested primaries mean using resources that some candidates would rather see used in November. Of course, some voters like choices.

I'm disappointed Pelath isn't running, frankly.  I am glad he's staying in the Indiana House.  He's done a tremendous job as minority leader.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ritz To Announce Governor Ambitions in June

Glenda Ritz
Glenda Ritz is considering a run for Governor. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction will allegedly announce sometime in June her future plans. Indy Democrat is hearing that it's going to be We already know she is running for reelection for Superintendent of Public Instruction. She announced that at Ben Davis High School back in November. If she does seek the state’s highest office, she has one person and one group to thank for it: Mike Pence and Indiana’s GOP.

Because they have stripped away so much of Ritz’s power, the only Democrat in state executive elective office can play the victim as she considers a run for the state's highest office.  It's a strategy that just might play out as effective if she does things right.  In 2012, she did almost everything perfectly during the campaign.

To begin with, Tony Bennett was not a popular candidate.  Ritz knew that.  While he wasn't popular, he was extremely well-connected and well-funded within the school reform world.  Knowing that she couldn't compete head-to-head in a traditional campaign, Ritz utilized social media and the strength of teachers loyalty to propel herself ahead of Bennett.

If she ends up against Mike Pence, Ritz could certainly use these tactics to her advantage again.  It's getting to the general election that's going to be her big step.

In the primary, Ritz has to convince statewide Democrats that she can do the job of Governor and do it better than Karen Tallian and John Gregg.  Both Tallian and Gregg have legislative governmental experience, but Ritz's entry adds a new wrinkle to the entire race.

Personally, I'd like to see Ritz run again for Superintendent of Public Instruction, but there's no question that the Governor has become the most important office when it comes to education in Indiana since Mike Pence has been in the office.  That means maybe an educator can do a lot more good in the Governor's seat than a politician.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lame Duck Ballard: Lamest of Lame Ducks

Mayor Greg Ballard
It’s almost June, and my friend Amos Brown brings up a good point in his Indianapolis Recorder weekly column: When is Mayor Greg Ballard planning to do his State of the City address for 2015?

Usually, the SOTC would have happened early in the year…typically in late January or February. The fact is that the Mayor doesn’t have much to celebrate, and, while the city is not on fire, it has not been a good run for the Chief Executive of Indianapolis and Marion County.

As Brown points out, the Mayor keeps trying to regenerate his Justice Center plans over the bipartisan concerns of the Council. At this point, the Justice Center, as planned by the Ballard Administration, is a zombie at best roaming aimlessly around the City-County Building just looking for support. It’s gotten so desperate that Mike McQuillen, the Republican leader on the Council, begged union workers to contact the Councillors.

Brown mentions the failings of the development that wiped out one of the two big parking lots adjacent to the City-County Building, 360 Market Square. Brown points out an Indy Star article detailing the failings of this project so far and the concerns that cost overruns could end up costing taxpayers more than they were told or bargained for.

Then, there’s the mess over the Freedom Fleet agreement, the Mayor’s pet project to replace gas-powered cars with electric ones. Admitted “sloppy legal work” by the Mayor’s Office could mean that the entire deal is illegal and detoured proper public process. Brown again points out the bi-partisan concerns over this issue.

Brown criticized the Mayor’s “Your Life Matters” program for its slow start saying the Mayor isn’t personally invested enough in the project to make it work. In fact, it sounds like Joe Hogsett may be more invested in the plan than Ballard is announcing a teen jobs program a couple of weeks ago that fits right in with the goals of this program.
On Ballard’s reputation, Brown writes:

It’s amazing. Outside Indianapolis, Ballard has created this aura and image of a Republican big city mayor who gets things done.
But, of America’s 20 largest cities, only San Diego, Indianapolis and Ft. Worth are headed by Republicans. 
Ballard’s been the beneficiary of municipal affirmative action. Because there are so few Republican big city mayors, national media and civic groups tend to provide them outsized publicity. The sort given to endangered species.

Go and read Brown’s full piece. It’s deserving of your attention.

Ballard is losing what little grasp he had on city government, and you wonder if he even cares at this point. His flippant answers to reporters asking legitimate questions make you wonder if his heart even remains in the job. He’s becoming the lamest of the lame ducks having even lost control of his own Council caucus.

He seems to be thinking, like all of us are, January can’t get here soon enough.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fighting Same Sex Marriage Cost Hoosier Taxpayers

Indiana's crusade to keep same-sex couples from the right to marry cost its taxpayers $1.4 million.

That's what the Indianapolis Star says the state has paid out in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs in a handful of cases.  That total doesn't include the amount the state paid to its own attorneys and to construct its own unsuccessful case.

Greg Zoeller insists it was his duty to defend the state in court, but other attorneys general in other states have decided not to fight what has become clear in light of the Supreme Court decision to federally recognize same-sex marriages.

The largest settlement, according to the Star, went to Amy Sandler and the late Niki Quasney whose fight for recognition of their marriage in Indiana became a race against time.  For the last few months of her life, Quasney finally saw her relationship recognized as a marriage in Indiana before she succumbed to cancer in February.

Mark this down with the growing amount of money wasted by the Republican regime in Indiana fighting against LGBT Hoosiers.  At least those $1.4 million went back to the community and those that defended it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

It's Memorial Day

Thanks to all who serve and who have served and have sacrificed. We honor all of you today.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hogsett Lapping Brewer in Mayor's Race

Hogsett Making Phone Calls
Photo from Joe Hogsett for Mayor on Facebook
Not much of a race of Mayor so far, is there?

This “race” is starting to resemble the 1984 Indianapolis 500 where Rick Mears lapped the entire field and won by two laps.

In the “Yellow Submarine” Pennzoil Z-7 Penske March is Joe Hogsett. He’s driving a great race so far just like Mears did that year. He’s barely put a wheel in the wrong spot.

Struggling to keep up is Chuck Brewer. It was going to be a long haul for the businessman and restaurant owner anyway, but Hogsett has already announced two major policy initiatives.

Brewer is stuck in neutral. Hogsett could have his car in neutral, too, but he knows that won’t win an election going away. He wants to put some margin between himself and Brewer.

He’s doing it. His jobs initiative for teens represents a public/private partnership that promises to really make a difference in crime in this city. Now he’s introduced a package of government ethics reforms that will prevent the kind of corruption he prosecuted when he was U.S. Attorney. Hogsett’s rolling things out and showing that he’s ready to lead Indianapolis. Brewer is…stuck in the garage.

There’s a long way to go and many laps to run in this Mayor’s Race before it can be called, but it’s clear that Joe Hogsett is running away with this one and is well on his way to crossing the yard of bricks before Chuck Brewer even gets off Gasoline Alley.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hogsett Proposes Sweeping Changes in Operation of Mayor's Office

Joe Hogsett
Joe Hogsett, coming off his overwhelming Primary victory, announced sweeping changes that would change the way the Mayor of Indianapolis does business.

Here is the news release from his campaign.

INDIANAPOLIS – Former federal prosecutor Joe Hogsett announced today a comprehensive plan that would toughen the Indianapolis city ethics code and provide for an unprecedented level of transparency in local government. The plan focuses on promoting honesty and integrity among all local government officials, and echoes guiding principles that Hogsett focused on during his four years as the United States Attorney. 
“As federal prosecutor, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent a message to those in government that it doesn’t matter who you are, or what party you belong to – if you betray the public trust, you deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Hogsett. “As mayor, I would apply that same attitude to every level of city government, from the top to the bottom.” 
Today’s announcement comes three months after the conviction of two former city officials as a result of the Indy Land Bank prosecution that was launched by Hogsett’s office in July 2013. During his four years in office, Hogsett also oversaw the investigation and prosecution of two Indianapolis City-County Councilors – one a Democrat, and one a Republican – as well as more than a dozen other public officials across the state. These efforts led to Hogsett being awarded the “Mr. Clean” award by the local watchdog group Common Cause. 
The Hogsett ethics plan includes: renouncing mayoral perks and complimentary club memberships; complete transparency in out-of-state and overseas travel; restoring the two-term limit for Indianapolis Mayor; a top-to-bottom review of city spending and operations; tightening loopholes in the current City-County ethics code; regulating lobbyist influence; as well as the introduction of increased competition among professional service providers. 
Joe Hogsett served for four years as United States Attorney, where he accumulated a notable crime-fighting record. Under Hogsett, the U.S. Attorney’s Office broke all-time records for the number of defendants charged, the number of criminal convictions obtained, and led the nation in the average length of sentences imposed. The office also reduced total spending every year of Hogsett’s tenure.
It's a pretty impressive proposal, and it should make those that have been calling for transparency happy.  Now that he's proposed the rules, he has to get them passed and has to live by them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Indy 500 Brings Out the Kid in Me

I Had One Just Like It...Only Smaller
As a child, I was bitten by the bug of auto racing.

Blame my grandmother.  She worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gift shop, and she would always bring me the coolest t-shirts and toys.  My entire room was decorated in auto racing.  I had curtains with race cars on them.  I had crossed checkered flags on my wall, and I had a ceramic Bobby Unser and Rick Mears cars racing for the win on the wall.

One of my earliest toys that I can remember was a van with a trailer and on that trailer was A.J. Foyt, Jr.'s number 14 Gilmore-Copenhagen Coyote.  It came with a figure of A.J. himself along with his father, A.J. senior.  I played with that car until the wheels fell off.  I also had a big plastic yellow Pennzoil car with Johnny Rutherford's name on it.  I remember when Rick Mears started driving the Pennzoil car, so I marked out Rutherford's name and added Mears' name.

This was always the month.

The month of May in Indy was my favorite time of year.  For some kids, it was Christmas they pined for.  For me, it was sitting in front of my radio and listening to the Indianapolis 500.

I could identify all the cars.  I could identify all the sponsors.  I would voraciously read anything that had to do with the Indy 500.  In short, the Indianapolis 500 is a big part of my life and has always been like another family member to me.

As sure as I'm sitting here, I believe IMS is a living, breathing animal. You have to treat it with the utmost respect.  As we've seen this week alone, it has no favorites.  It will crush a driver's dreams as quickly as it will reward them.  How else can you explain that Rick Mears led 429 laps at Indy and won four 500's, but Michael Andretti led 431 and never won one?  Fairness means nothing to the racing gods at Indianapolis.  It's one of the only races where you can become immortal for how you LOST the race.

I even had the chance to work there for a few years and be a part of the events.  You really appreciate what it takes to put on that big event every year when you work for the Hulman-George Family.  It was a 2:30 a.m. wakeup call on Race Day that found me at my post by 4:00 a.m. slinging hot dogs and working with our team.  My mom was the concessions stand manager and I was her assistant.  We had to be a team.  Each person had his or her role, and if one broke down then the line would get out of hand.  "Just don't look up," my mom would say.  "We have to serve them all."

I anxiously await this upcoming Sunday each year.  With a kid-like glee, I'll turn on my radio on Race Day and get ready to listen once again to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  Later in the day, I'll watch the rebroadcast knowing full and well who won the race earlier in the day.  The Indy 500 is one of the big reasons I got into radio.  I still dream one day of being a turn announcer.

I dream someday of getting rich and buying an IndyCar team.  Well, get to ad clicking.  I'm going to need a lot of help.

Maybe it will happen...maybe it won't.  At 39, you still have to have dreams.

So many things have changed in my life.  My mom and dad are now both gone.  My grandma has long since passed.  I have no idea what happened to that plastic Pennzoil car, and A.J. Foyt is now 80 years old.  One constant...on Sunday (weather permitting) the green flag will drop on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

It will be race day yet again in Indianapolis, and it will continue each year long after I'm gone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pence to Announce Reelection Bid on June 18

From badly kept secret department, Governor Mike Pence will announce he's running for reelection on June 18 at the annual Indiana Republican Party Dinner.

It  doesn't look like the good Governor is going to have it his way and his way only.  It sounds like he might have a primary opponent on his hands in Fort Wayne businessman Bob Thomas.  Angie's List CEO Bill Osterle also is rumored to perhaps be thinking of running.

Two opponents is probably good news for Pence.  That would have to favor the incumbent.  It's certainly good for the Democrats in the far Karen Tallian and John Gregg.

We'll see who else decides to jump in the race in the next few weeks.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hill Appears Ready to Announce US Senate Bid for 2016

Expect an announcement by Baron Hill that he's running for Senate in 2016.  

Former Congressman Baron Hill
The former U.S. Representative has been making phone calls to key constituency groups and has also tipped off enough people in the know that he's running to go ahead and put him in the race.  Hill is not a bad candidate by any stretch of the imagination, but he has his negatives.

For one, voters in Indiana's 9th Congressional District defeated him in 2010.  He lost by a tick under 10 percentage points to Republican Todd Young.  The 2010 election cycle was not kind to Democrats, so it's easy for Hill to pivot away from that one.

Hill has also been largely away from the political scene since he left office in early 2011.  He may have to work on his name recognition.  This move will lift his profile right back into the center of the ring.  

Hill's conservative leanings won't endear him to the liberal wing of the Indiana Democratic Party, either.  That, however, makes him strangely electable.

In many ways, Hill fits right in with the stereotypical statewide Democratic candidate that we've seen over the past few election cycles.  He's conservative for a Democrat, but he's not as far right as some.  For example, he has some pro-life positions but also some pro-choice positions.  He could be described as pro-LGBT in some ways and anti-LGBT in others if you examine his voting record.  In essence, he's in the middle.

One of his strongest aspects is how he runs a campaign.  He is a great and tireless campaigner.  Famously, when he ran for Senate against Dan Coats in 1990 and famously walked the entire state.  He lost by eight points in that midterm.  

For Hill to maximize his support, he will have to be clear about his views and modernize them where necessary.  Politics has changed in the last four plus years that he's been out of the game, and he would be wise to see it.  

Hill could also be helped by a messy Republican Primary, and it looks like he will get it with Eric Holcomb playing more to the center of the R's and Congressman Marlin Stutzman will play to the far right.

Democrats could also get competition if Christina Hale steps in.  The State Representative has not ruled out a run and neither has former Senator Evan Bayh.

Friday, May 15, 2015

McQuillen Desperation Showing on Justice Center Cause

So, how desperate are the Republicans to get the Justice Center revived and passed?

That desperate.  That happened.  It's that awkward moment when Mike McQuillen, the City-County Council's Republican leader, is so desperate to get a bad deal through the Council that he resorts to trying to rally union support.

To be frank, this project is a sore spot for the unions.  They would love to have the construction jobs that this new center would provide.  Of course, with the new common construction wage law, those same union jobs that used to pay a good wage likely won't now.  I didn't see McQuillen out there championing that cause.

Union members should not worry.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  The jobs will be there.  This is a project that cannot wait, and Council Democrats know that.  It's just that this Mayor's deal is not the one to sign up for.  Please, be patient brothers and sisters.  It will be worth the wait for taxpayers in Marion County.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blame Democrats for Justice Center Failure According to Republican Council Candidate

Jeff Coats
Lawrence City Councillor Jeff Coats wants to be District 5’s City-County Councillor, but his opponent, Curtis Bigsbee, just got a nicely wrapped campaign issue handed to him after the Republican’s rant on Facebook over the Justice Center’s demise.

Coats used the “blame the Democrats” card to lodge his disapproval with the Council’s bi-partisan decision to allow the flawed plan by Mayor Greg Ballard to die on the vine. It never got to a vote because there weren’t enough votes to pass it, and I hear it’s not even that close.  It’s another example of where Mayor Ballard has put the cart before the horse and then has told the Council to push the horse. 

Well, the failure of the deal to come to fruition really ticked off Coats, and I’m surprised Coats didn’t use all capital letters in this rant:
This is failed leadership at its worst. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and barring a miracle, it will slip through our fingers. We will live with the repercussions of this for decades either by suffering along with our current dilapidated facilities or drastically higher costs of building in the future rather than now. The next time you're in the City-County Building for jury duty, need a police report for insurance purposes, paying property taxes, etc and find yourself in a elevator with a chaingang of prisoners, make sure to thank the Democrat leadership of the City-County Council for their failure to act.

Guess what? We’re going to have a new jail in this town, and it probably will contain much of what was proposed in the Justice Center. It’s just going to have to be a good deal for the city and for its taxpayers. This deal that Mayor Ballard tried to sell was another public-private partnership mess that had uncertainty and even boondoggle written all over it.

Sheriff John Layton has stated the need for a new facility, and the Council wants to get it done.  The only problem with this particular proposal were the details in the Mayor's deal.  That's why this failed in a bipartisan manner.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Justice Center Proposal Gets Death Penalty

The Ballard Administration suffered yet another agenda setback Monday night when the City-County Council refused to revive the failed Justice Center proposal.

The proposal technically never reached the full council because the Ballard Administration could not twist enough arms and promise enough alleged kickbacks...I mean...incentives for the Council to put another huge city property or project on the city's credit card for taxpayers to pay back over some long period of time.

There's no question that Indy needs a new jail and needs it sooner rather than later.  The current jail is falling apart and maintenance costs are on the rise.  Marion County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Katie Carlson has said in public meetings that I've attended that when things break that at times parts have to be specially made to fix them due to the age of the facility.  The old parts just aren't stocked anymore.  She said that the safety of the Sheriff's Deputies and the inmates could be at risk if things continue to decline.

Ballard's plan unraveled over concerns the way the new justice center was bid out and how it would be financed.  WMB Heartland Justice Properties was chosen by the Ballard Admin to construct and operate the new facility leasing it back to the city for 35 years.  Disagreements over the cost of that plan and the location of the facility were also at the forefront.

Council President Maggie Lewis summed up the frustrations of the Council and many taxpayers in a statement.
“While there is widespread agreement on the pressing need to address our city’s outdated, inefficient criminal justice facilities, it is clear that there is no confidence that this proposal is affordable for taxpayers and its time has passed. 
Despite the concerns over this particular plan, however, we must not allow ourselves to ignore these critical criminal justice issues. That is why tonight, I call on all key stakeholders to join with the Council and participate in a renewed, bipartisan process to find a fiscally-responsible solution for our city‘s public safety needs. 
I again want to thank Mayor Greg Ballard, Sheriff John Layton, and all of the county officials who are working to address the systemic problems with our criminal justice facilities.”
In essence, it's time to hit the reset button and get a better deal for the entire city.  It's something the Council has done on Pre-K, infrastructure improvements, and public safety.  It's why the Council Democrats along with the promise of a new mayor seems to be the best option for the city in this case.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stutzman's in for Senate 2016

Rep. Marlin Stutzman
Marlin Stutzman has entered the race for Indiana Senate.

The 3rd District Congressman will battle Eric Holcomb and a burgeoning field of Republicans for the nomination in May of 2016.

Stutzman represents the right wing of the party and is the darling of the Tea Party, a party Hoosier voters seem ready to throttle at the polls.

Only 38 years of age, Stutzman entered political office at the ripe age of 26 when he was sworn in to an Indiana House seat.  He stayed there while serving in the office of Congressman Mark Souder.  Stutzman ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 garnering support from such Republican bigwigs as Mike Huckabee.  It wasn't enough and he finished behind Senator Dan Coats in that primary.

When Souder resigned in disgrace, Stutzman was ready to take that seat and was elected later in 2010 to replace Souder.  In one of the safest of the safe districts, Stutzman easily has won reelection fights in 2012 and 2014.  That's why this move seems strange for the small businessman and farmer turned politician.

Stutzman does bring a faction of voters with him, but will that be enough to prevail in what looks to be a rapidly crowding primary field with a bunch of heavy hitters?

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill and current state Rep. Christina Hale are both considering runs.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tallian to Announce Bid for Governor

Sen. Karen Talllian in Action
Photo from the Indiana Senate Democrats
The pool of Democrats running for Governor will increase by one this week as State Senator Karen Tallian announces her campaign for the state's highest executive office.

Tallian, a Northern Indiana attorney, brings her progressive record into the race.  She represents District 4 along the shores of Lake Michigan including the cities of Portage, Chesterton, and parts of Michigan City.

The veteran legislator is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and also serves on the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, the Environmental Affairs Committee, and is also the ranking member on the Pensions & Labor Committee.

Her official Senate biography shows a wide range of expertise.  She's been an attorney and has taught law at Valparaiso University.  She was active in township and Porter County government before being elected to the legislature in 2005 in a caucus to fill an unexpired term.  She has been reelected by her constituents ever since in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Tallian has a great background, but, frankly, no one knows her.  That leaves her behind in the name recognition game to John Gregg, currently the only Democrat in the race.  New isn't necessarily bad, but she will need to work extra hard to lay groundwork John Gregg doesn't have to lay.  That work has to happen NOW.

I say best of luck!

Friday, May 8, 2015

GOP Will Struggle to Find Council Majority in 2015

As of January 2016, it will take 13 seats to control the City-County Council.  By my count, the Democrats are nearly there already before the campaign begins.

With a strong candidate at the top of the ticket, the Democrats could end up with more than just control of the Council.  It could be very bad news for Republicans.

Of course, it's a long way to go until Election Day.  By my count, there are 10 safe Democratic districts on the Council.  By contrast, I can only find five or maybe six safe Republican seats.  Republicans are going to have to pick up seven or eight seats, and I just don't see that happening with Chuck Brewer at the top of the ticket.  Joe Hogsett will have some coattails in close races.

That doesn't mean that Democrats can go to sleep.  I'm assuming that Dems will turn out in the fall to elect a Mayor and a Council.  Democrats must do what they've done under the leadership of Maggie Lewis and continue to govern from the position of what's best for the city over what's best for the party.

I need more time to crunch numbers before I put out my official forecast, but I would say that despite the Republican attempt to keep the Council by rushing these Republican-drawn districts through in the last few moments of the lame duck session, the Republicans have an uphill climb to find the majority.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

With Others Out of Way, Hogsett and Brewer Set to Battle

Finally, it's here.

Chuck Brewer and Joe Hogsett won by wide margins over their May opponents, so it's off to November with these two candidates carrying their respective party standards.

Let's be honest.  Republicans were lucky to find Chuck Brewer.  He seems like a nice enough guy who comes across well when he speaks.  Brewer would be a great candidate for Mayor of any number of towns or cities across the state, but not Indianapolis.  His Marine Corps background and business experience sound extremely familiar to another Republican candidate that ran for the Mayor's Office back in 2007.

This is not 2007.  For the first time this century, there's no incumbent on the ballot.  Chuck Brewer is the standard bearer for the Republican Party that has held the Mayor's Office since January 1, 2008.  While he may be the frontrunner, Joe Hogsett is the challenger to the Republican throne.  The former U.S. Attorney seems more than ready to lead.

Indianapolis needs a guy like Joe Hogsett.  Indy needs someone that knows his way around and that doesn't require gowik  Joe is not tall in stature, but he's larger than life.  When he stopped at the site I was campaigning at on Tuesday, he was near the end of his 100-plus mile trek across Marion County.  He had been shaking hands and kissing babies all day long.  That said, he hopped out of the SUV he was riding in and hit the campaign trail again.  He didn't look a bit tired and looked like he was more than ready for more.

Brewer vs. Hogsett...Hogsett vs. Brewer...

I look forward to what will be a great discussion of the issues facing our city.  Here we go.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Scales, Evans Beat Recommended Candidates in Council Primary; Robinson Holds On

Both parties experienced setbacks yesterday with recommended candidates in Marion County, and a third setback was narrowly averted.

On the Republican side, voters elected incumbent Christine Scales as their nominee in District 3 by a 53-46 margin over slated candidate Tim Craft.  This had been a very interesting race to watch.

Over the past few years, Scales rubbed her own caucus on the Council wrong by refusing to be blindly partisan in her voting habits.  She also took on Mayor Greg Ballard a few times mostly over financial priorities and government transparency.

The Republicans got so annoyed with her that they banished her from their caucus and attempted to "primary" her with Craft.

Craft turned out to have his own issues.  While it didn’t play out much in the mainstream media, Craft was nailed by Advance Indiana’s Gary Welsh for real estate licensing problems he eventually rectified or corrected, depending on the story you believe.

Campaign tactics also may have taken out Craft. In the final days of the campaign, the Marion County GOP put out an extremely nasty mailer to voters of District 3. Councillor Mike McQuillen, the minority leader of the Republican caucus, also sent out what some considered a nasty letter against Scales.

Clearly, the tactics galvanized support around Scales much in the way Republicans used to backhandedly galvanize support for the late Congresswoman Julia Carson. Scales will not get any rest. She will take on one of the best-financed fellow incumbents, Pam Hickman, in November. Hickman’s At-Large seat was dissolved during the 2013 session of the General Assembly by SEA621 (more on that later).  Hickman vs. Scales will be a HUGE race to watch.

On the Democratic side, things were not nearly as nasty between Stephanie Vibbert and Jared Evans in District 22. In fact, the recommended candidate, Vibbert, did almost nothing to campaign despite the benefit of the Marion County Democratic Party behind her.  It's hard to blame the party for a candidate that does nothing for themselves especially against Evans, a well-known candidate in his own right who ran a great campaign.  Make no mistake...Evans won this race because he ran like he was behind the whole way.

Evans, who ran for the Council in 2011, dusted Vibbert, 65 to 35 percent. Evans will face incumbent Republican Bob Lutz in November for a seat that is more than winnable for the Democrats under the right conditions.  If Evans runs with the same effort he did against Vibbert, Lutz will have to work harder than he ever has to keep his seat.

There's a better chance for Evans to reconcile with the party than there is for Scales.  Every seat will be critical to get the necessary 13 seats to control the Council.

Democrats averted another loss by a recommended candidate by just 26 votes as At-Large Councillor Leroy Robinson built up a big lead and then held on to defeat District 2 Councillor Angela Mansfield in newly-drawn District 1's Democratic Primary.  The current holder of the District 1 seat, Republican Jose Evans, decided to move on and is not seeking reelection.  Republicans have yet to field a candidate for the fall.  With an opponent, Robinson is the heavy favorite to win the seat.

The Council cannot replace Angela Mansfield.  She's been a great Councillor with a tremendous focus on her constituents and making Indianapolis a better place.  Mansfield was heavily outraised in the Primary fight and was without the benefit of the backing of the party but made more than a respectable run to stay on the Council.

Blame Senator Mike Young, Mayor Greg Ballard, and Senate Enrolled Act 621 (2013) for much of this mess.  The piece of garbage General Assembly legislation that no one asked for eliminated the At-Large seats on the City-County Council which ended up pitting Mansfield and Robinson against each other.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It's the Primary!

Make sure you get out and vote!  The polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  To find out where you vote in Marion County, go to the Voter Information Portal

I'm going to take a few days off to deal with the campaign trail.  I'll be back later in the week to deal with the results from the primary.

See you all on Thursday!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Garrison Possibly Steals Yard Sign; Maybe Gets in Rough and Tumble

Garrison in happier times
Sometimes, as a blogger, a story just comes right from heaven and lands in your lap.

Now, with Rush Limbaugh's show getting the old heave ho at WIBC, I know Greg Garrison must think his show might be next.  After all, the 67-year-old Garrison stands out like a sore thumb among his younger colleagues on the air.  Besides, I think Greg Garrison has been doing the same darn show for years.

His show is more stale than the loaf of bread that's been sitting on my counter for weeks.  Anyway, the pressure or something MIGHT be getting into the man who put away Mike Tyson.

Allegedly, according to reports, a gray-haired man got out of a BMW SUV registered to Garrison and took down a "Mike Pence Must Go" sign.  This was witnessed by the neighbor of the house with the Pence sign in his yard.  When confronted, the white haired man and the neighbor got into a tussle resulting in minor injuries to both parties.

Now, the police can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Garrison is the man who took the sign and got into a rough and tumble because, according to reports, the neighbor isn't interested in pushing the case further.

Am I the only one that wishes there was a video of the incident?

Pelath For Governor? Peterson and Bayh Attend JJ Dinner; Hogsett Soars with Speech

Will Scott Pelath run for Governor?

That question, along with the appearances of Evan Bayh and Bart Peterson, was the talk of the 2015 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner on Friday Night at the Indiana Convention Center.

Pelath got a warm welcome from the audience as he gave a well-received stump speech.  The Michigan City legislator certainly sounded like a guy that could go toe-to-toe with Pence in the 2016 race for Governor and do some heavy damage on the Governor's chances for reelection.

On Thursday, Pelath danced around the question about would he run for Governor.  At 44, he would be a young choice with a beautiful family that Democrats could rally around.  Pelath also has military experience serving as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve where he served as a first lieutenant.

As a minority leader, Pelath has done just about all he could do.  With small numbers he has, it's nearly impossible to drive debate in the House.  Still, he's made the Republicans work a lot harder than they should have had to work for things.  He also has brought a new tone to the caucus than B. Patrick Bauer did.  This is still an aggressive caucus, but it's one that isn't overly aggressive.  Pelath has kept everyone on pretty much the same page, and that's not easy to do with Democrats.

I think he would be a very good candidate for Governor and could perchance take the frontrunner mantle away from John Gregg.

Pelath would pull the party more left of center which is what Terry McAuliffe, the Governor of Virginia, advocated in his JJ Dinner speech.  He said that he ran a campaign on progressive principles and won in Virginia.  Whether that would work in Indiana remains to be seen.
On Peterson and Bayh
As far as the appearances of Bayh and Peterson at the dinner go, it looked to me that Peterson was there in support of Joe Hogsett.  He sat right next to Hogsett and seemed to be back in his element.  Bayh sat across the aisle from that table.  Maybe he just wanted a piece of dry chicken and green beans?
On Joe Hogsett
Hogsett gave one of the longer and more notable speeches of the night.  He joked with Dem Chair John Zody that he wasn't sure he'd ever given a speech shorter than the two or three minute timeframe he had been given.  Hogsett was in pure campaign mode linking the past of the Indiana Democratic Party to the future yet to be written.  It was well-done.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Personal Prerogative: After Tuesday, My Race is ON!

Candidate Jon Easter
I clean up pretty well...
Tuesday's a big day for me.  It's the first time I've faced the primary voters.

When I ran for Decatur Township Advisory Board back in 2008, I was named to the ballot to fill a vacancy in June.  This time, I filed my exploratory committee in June of last year for City-County Council.

So far, my only advice is to take advantage of that exploratory time.  I didn't do much when I was an exploratory committee that I wish I would have done now.  I've been scrambling a bit since declaring myself a candidate.

On Sunday, I went to the Marion County Clerk's Office, and I voted.  It was surreal to see my name on that ballot and exciting at the same time.  I know all candidates probably feel that way no matter how many times they do it.

Come Tuesday, the race will be on.  Again, you won't see any difference on the blog.  That was a condition of me running for this office.  I told Chairman Miller that I had to be me, and I'm trying.  I can't run from what I've written here, and I am proud of it unless I've had to apologize for it.

Let the next part of my candidacy begin!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Gregg Clarifies Positions on Energy, Abortion, Same Sex Marriage

John Gregg
On Friday afternoon, I had a phone conversation with former Indiana Speaker of the House, John Gregg. He wanted to clear the air on a few issues that I had approached him on earlier in the day and some things I'd been hearing about him on Facebook.

First of all, he believes in climate change, and he’s not quite sure where it’s gotten told that he doesn’t. He acknowledges his work in the coal industry of Southwest Indiana saying that it paid for his law school and that many of the good paying jobs in the area around Sandborn were in that industry when he grew up. He also pointed out that when he ran for Governor in 2012, he talked about alternative sources of energy.  "It was a part of my stump speech.  One of the five things I hit on was energy...all kinds of energy including both wind and solar."

Secondly, he’s a pro-life Democrat, and that comes out of his religious beliefs. He said he's held the same belief for over 30 years and doesn't shy away from it. Despite being pro-life Gregg said that he never brought an anti-abortion bill to the floor when he was in the General Assembly, "It wasn't my issue." 

Gregg stated that he agreed with “96 percent” of what Planned Parenthood does including providing birth control services and preventing “unplanned parenthood.” He also talked about how early detection of his cancer 10 years ago saved his life and what Planned Parenthood does for women in early screenings.

Finally, Gregg says that the issue of same sex marriage has been fought and it has been won by the supporters. He says that he's told many ministers around the state that same-sex marriage is the law of the land in Indiana, and it's not going to change.

As Governor, Gregg said he would veto any bill curtailing that law. He said that repealing “every word” of RFRA and adding LGBT Hoosiers as a class to the state’s non-discrimination clause would be key planks in his platform as he campaigns.

Gregg also said that he would attend, if invited, a same sex marriage ceremony of someone he knew. “I don’t want it to be perceived as me scoring political points by attending any ceremony. It’s quite possible that I could be attending one soon as I have friends that are considering it. I have no problem attending a same-sex marriage ceremony.”

Ritz Could Be Formidable Challenger for Pence

Superintendent Glenda Ritz
Glenda Ritz announced yesterday afternoon that she's considering running for Governor.

I'm sure some on the Republican side gave that a chuckle.  Perhaps even a hearty guffaw.  To every giggling elephant, I say remember this...

Glenda Ritz-1,332,755
Tony Bennett-1,190,716
(Mike Pence-1,284,877)

Yeah, that was 2012 they'll say.  2016 is entirely a different year.  True, but can  you imagine Pence getting more votes this time around?  Nah.  I can't either.  Brian Howey's Bellwether Poll from mid-April put Ritz behind by just three percentage points to Pence at 42-39.  That was within the margin of error of the poll.

Let's take the next three anticipated attacks together.

  • "She hasn't done anything as Superintendent of Public Instruction."
  • "She's just a trouble maker."
  • "She can't even run her own office effectively."
To those attacks I would counter that Ritz has been the sole Democrat that Republicans have sighted their lasers on.  From Mike Pence's shadow Department of Education that was suddenly scuttled to the emboldening of the State Board of Education, Glenda Ritz from nearly hour one has been disrespected and never given an opportunity to succeed in the office.  

Has she made some mistakes? Most definitely, but even the most staunch Republican has to admit that House and Senate Republicans have done little to help her.

The electorate has seen this, too.  Glenda Ritz remains extremely popular among those who elected her because of the way she built that coalition.  At the top of the Democratic ticket, she will have a lot more questions to answer, and she cannot rely only on her base.  She will be targeted with the nastiest of nasty ads if Pence gets desperate...and he will be in 2016.  

Ritz will have to come up with a plan for Indiana in 2016, and it will have to deal with more than education.  If she can do that, her viability as a long-term candidate looks even better.  Ritz still needs to be heard on a myriad of issues from improving Indiana's economy to critical agricultural issues to even human rights issues.  

John Gregg, in my view, is still the frontrunner for the nomination (if Scott Pelath stays out).  He is the more well-rounded candidate.  Glenda Ritz, however, has a role to play in 2016 on the ticket and advancing the ball against the Pence machine whether it's as a candidate for reelection or a candidate for Governor.

I wish her the best in her consideration for 2016.