Political Notebook

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Bender on inside lane to lead Council

The Fort Wayne City Council will start the new year with its most political – and likely least critical – vote of the year: The selection of its president.

With the Republicans holding a 5-4 edge, they are likely to keep the post in the party. They met in a caucus to discuss the matter last month. Here is a breakdown of the favorites for the council’s leadership position.

The favorite: Marty Bender, R-at large

Bender was almost elected president last year with support of council Democrats. Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large, however, sided with the GOP to select Tom Smith, R-1st, as president. He said he agreed with some of his Republican counterparts who had concerns that Bender also worked as a city employee. He is a deputy police chief.

But a year later, those concerns may be forgotten. Bender is the most experienced Republican on the council who has not served as president this term. Smith even said the next president “could be someone you would salute.”

The long-shots: Liz Brown, R-at large, and Mitch Harper, R-4th

Although Brown has asserted herself as the chairwoman of the coveted finance committee and Harper has shown his knowledge of procedural rules, it is unlikely the council would select members who are entering only their third year on the council as their leader.

The repeats: Tom Didier, R-3rd, and Smith

Both have already served as president during this council’s term. Republicans have historically tried to rotate the position to pad their members’ résumés come election time. A more likely possibility is one of these two will be appointed president in 2011, a city election year.

The dark horse: John Shoaff, D-at large

Shoaff is the Democrats’ best chance for the minority party to take the presidency since Mayor Tom Henry won the post as a councilman. He has sided with conservatives on some issues, including opposition to Harrison Square and the Renaissance Square purchase. He also has been lauded for his knowledge of council procedures, but it still would be unlikely for the GOP to give up one of the perks of the majority.

Daily briefings

The Senate Democratic press office has a new feature called The Briefing Room on the caucus’s Web site.

The blog/newsroom format will give Hoosiers an inside scoop on daily session activities with video, audio, press releases, photos and editorial comments.

Go to the new feature at insendems.wordpress.com.

Over the block

Mark your calendars for Gov. Mitch Daniels’ State of the State address Jan. 19.

The governor said he usually works on his speech over Thanksgiving but had a “block.”

Now he is on track writing the speech but is worried that the late date of the speech, coupled with a short session, might mean legislators will already be done with some important work by then.

For instance, if they have already passed Daniels’ priority item – constitutional tax caps – he won’t get to pressure them in the address. He might just have to thank them instead.

State of the GOP

Allen County Republican Chairman Steve Shine will give his annual state of the party speech at 9 a.m. Jan. 16.

The speech will be given at GOP headquarters downtown and will focus on some party changes made in 2009 and its plans for this year.

After the speech, the party will host a candidate’s school for people interested in seeking office.

The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to all first-time candidates, elected officials, ward chairs, precinct committeemen and others.

For information, send a message to candidatedevelopment@allencountygop.org.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. To discuss this entry of Political Notebook or others, go to the Political Notebook topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net .