Political Notebook

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Endorsing Coats? Shine says he’s not

Steve Shine isn’t supporting Dan Coats, he promises.

Despite the Allen County Republican Party hosting a news conference Thursday to announce its headquarters would be open for people to sign the petition to get Coats on the ballot, Shine, the local GOP chairman, said that does not constitute an endorsement. In fact, he pointed out repeatedly that the local party bylaws prohibit endorsing candidates in a primary election.

Because former Sen. Coats started his campaign so late, he asked to use the headquarters to gather the needed signatures to get on the ballot. A candidate needs signatures from 500 registered voters in each congressional district to make it to the ballot.

Shine said he would have offered the same venue to the other four Republican candidates, but they had already reached their signature requirements. He even mentioned northeast Indiana has two good candidates with local ties: Coats and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe.

Coats had the needed signatures from the 3rd Congressional District by Thursday evening.

Overriding conflict

Apparently, a conflict of interest can be overridden if your vote is really needed.

Fort Wayne City Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, last week switched his vote at the last minute to ensure Fort Wayne Newspapers received a $166,000 tax break. The company, which is the business agent for The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel, failed to file its annual paperwork on time to receive its already granted tax abatement related to the press building.

Didier abstained from voting on granting the company a waiver during committee session, and the waiver failed to get the five votes needed for approval.

But between the committee session and final vote, Didier spoke with Council Attorney Joe Bonahoom to see whether he could vote on the issue even though his wife works for the company. Bonahoom said he could as long as he announced the perceived conflict, noting it did not involve a contract with city government.

So Didier announced the potential for a perceived conflict and cast the deciding vote granting the waiver and the tax break.

Didier and others on council approved a similar waiver for a different company last week as well.

Kill it in Allen

Allen County Councilman Darren Vogt made the odd decision to conduct a news conference to announce a homeowner incentive plan was dead before the project ever began. He even took the opportunity to give the shelved plan a name, Own it in Allen.

In January, Vogt suggested the county provide a cash incentive to encourage the influx of new General Motors workers to buy a home in Allen County instead of a neighboring county. A small committee quickly formed to research the idea and decided it would cost too much, with little benefit.

Councilman Roy Buskirk and Commissioners Nelson Peters and Linda Bloom took time out of their day to attend the news conference announcing the plan’s demise.

Vogt called the fast decision to kill the plan, with zero public dollars spent, “government at its finest.” Vogt also said, “I am happy it didn’t take six months,” perhaps a barb at the drawn-out building co-location debate.

New candidates

The list of area Hoosiers vying for the state Senate or House of Representatives continues to grow.

Two new candidates have arisen for the Senate – Huntington County Commissioner Tom Wall will challenge Jim Banks in the Senate District 17 Republican primary.

And Fort Wayne attorney Jack Morris – a Democrat – announced he will run in Senate District 15 against longtime Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne.

A number of Republicans have also filed to run in the House.

Longtime Winona Lake Clerk-Treasurer Retha Hicks will challenge Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, in House District 18; Syracuse resident Rebecca Kubacki will take on Rep. Bill Ruppel, R-North Manchester, in House District 22; Ron Fusselman will challenge Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, in House District 50; Fort Wayne teacher Mike Obergfell will challenge Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne in House District 81; small-businesswoman Audrey Queckboerner joins the fray in House District 85, where Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven, and Denny Worman have already filed.

The filing deadline is Friday.

Avila throws hat in

Democrat Mike Avila announced last week he is running for Linda Bloom’s long-held county commissioner seat.

He likely will be unopposed in the primary and will face either Republican Bloom or Roy Buskirk in the fall.

Avila has served on the management committee of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers of Indiana and Kentucky and is also vice president of the Northeast Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, a group that is suing the county over its practices for setting wages on large public projects.

Avila said he wants to improve city-county cooperation, tackle dispatch consolidation and address the lack of funding for the county building department.

His work in union management involved overseeing large budgets, pension and health care plans and negotiating contracts that affected thousands of people, which he believes gives him the experience to serve as a commissioner.

He said he would work full time for the county and would stop working for the bricklayers if elected.

Amanda Iacone of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook via 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.

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