Political Notebook

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Stray vote causes stir at GOP caucus

Logic dictates that a two-person race decided by an odd number of voters cannot end in a tie.

Last week, politics once again showed it is no place for logic.

In the caucus to replace Rep. Matt Bell, R-Avilla, on the Republican ticket this fall, that exact scenario occurred in Churubusco.

After the seven candidates were narrowed to two, the 41 voters were asked to select either Kathy Heuer or Phil Troyer.

But before the results were read, it seemed something was amiss, because the ballot box was brought back out. Apparently, one caucus member voted for one of the five candidates who had already been eliminated, leaving Heuer and Troyer with 20 votes each.

The state party official said he could break the tie himself, but he instead let the voters have another shot at making a decision.

Three caucus members took it upon themselves to keep the stray voter from being a kingmaker by switching allegiance from Troyer to Heuer and giving her a relatively comfortable victory margin.

The question on everyone’s minds after the vote, however, was who had cast the stray vote, and for whom? Although state officials refused to reveal who the vote had been for, a caucus member with knowledge of the votes said it was cast for Brandon Seifert, a defense contract employee, who tied for third place.

Seifert, a precinct voter, denied casting the vote for himself, saying that wouldn’t have been proper. Because the votes are secret, the identity of the voter will likely remain unknown.

Report corrected

Two pilots donated nearly $1,800 worth of airplane trips to help Marlin Stutzman’s unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination in this fall’s U.S. Senate race. Stutzman said he didn’t report the donations when they occurred because he thought he could wait until the campaign was over and the bills were submitted.

He said he did not realize that Senate candidates must report the donations when they occur.

Brad Jackson, husband of the congressional employee who had an affair with then-Rep. Mark Souder, made $700 in in-kind donations by flying Stutzman to campaign events in Columbus, Greenfield and Bloomington late last year and in the spring.

Brett Schuck of Elkhart made $1,068 in in-kind donations for flights to unspecified cities.

Stutzman filed corrections to his required year-end and mid-April campaign reports June 15, three days after he won a GOP caucus’ nomination to run for the U.S. House seat that Souder vacated when he resigned over the affair.

A few days before the caucus, Souder sent a message through Facebook to two GOP officials in which he raised the issue of a possible violation of the law that covershow candidates must report campaign expenses and donations. Souder recommended that Stutzman “clean it up” after the June 12 caucus.

In an interview, Stutzman said he wasn’t aware that the expenses for a private airplane flight must be reported based on the dateof the flight, not the date the pilot submits the bill.

Democratic PAC

A number of high-profile Democrats recently announced the launch of a state political action committee designed to help Democrats unite and retain the majority in the Indiana House of Representatives in the coming November general election.

The Indiana Democrats Victory 2010 Committee PAC will be led by a group of directors including: former U.S. Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, former Indiana Speaker of the House John R. Gregg, former Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon and several others.

In anticipation of a hotly contested November election, with the House majority at stake and the prospect of redistricting hanging in the balance, Hoosier Democrats are concerned about raising enough money to mount a competitive campaign effort.

“Modern legislative campaigns have become extremely expensive, and that means lots of mail, television and radio just to get a candidate some name ID,” Gregg said. “We understand that our traditional Democratic constituencies are feeling the pinch and we recognize it’s time to pool resources and direct those limited funds in the most effective way possible.”

The Victory 2010 Committee is designed to bolster the Indiana Democratic Party’s fundraising efforts and counter Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher PAC, which has already raised $1 million.

Caucus ins and outs

Plenty else interesting occurred at the Churubusco caucus last week:

•The final tie vote was not the only one to cause problems at the event. In the third round of voting, Paul Moss and Brandon Seifert each received seven votes, but one of them was supposed to be eliminated. The state reported there were no rules for how to handle a tie for last place, so the candidates agreed to keep everyone in for another round of voting. They then both received six votes, and both were eliminated.

•Attorney Bruce Scott had one of the largest contingents of supporters in the audience Monday, including Paula Hughes, who plans to run for Fort Wayne mayor next year. He also had supporters handing out T-shirts at the door and giving out glossy fliers detailing his experience. This concerted effort won him two votes and elimination in the first round.

•It isn’t unusual for candidates to use slogans, but Joseph Hilger seemed a little out of place stealing some odd slogans to push his candidacy. Four times during his short speech, he promised to “git-r-done,” the popular catchphrase of comedian Larry the Cable Guy. He finished by saying he wanted to “Be like Mike” – referring to U.S. Rep. Mike Pence but using the old Gatorade slogan related to Michael Jordan.

•Candidates were given three minutes to speak, plus two minutes to have someone introduce them. Although nearly everyone broke this rule – without any discipline from the state officials running the caucus – Fort Wayne City Councilman Mitch Harper unofficially talked the longest while introducing Brandon Seifert.

Journal Gazette Washington Editor Sylvia A. Smith contributed to this story.

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.

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