Political Notebook

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Wallflowers wait in House District 84

Indiana House District 84 in Allen County has a lot of upsides.

It runs decidedly Republican, is compact geographically and whoever holds the seat doesn’t have to walk in any parades.

So why the lack of interest in the vacancy left by the recent resignation of Randy Borror?

When former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder resigned his congressional seat, 15 men and women jumped to run in the caucus to fill the ballot for a special election and general election.

Similarly, when Rep. Matt Bell, R-Avilla, decided not to seek re-election to House District 83, seven people vied for the fall ballot spot.

But that’s not the case with House District 84, which includes much of St. Joseph Township and a handful of precincts in Washington and Adams townships.

Borror expected about 10 people to jump in the race – especially because a number of high-profile politicos live in the district.

And because Borror resigned immediately, whoever wins the first of two caucuses will serve in the seat for about three months before the fall election, making that person technically an incumbent.

Instead, only three people have declared – Allen County Commissioner Bill Brown, former Fort Wayne Community Schools’ board member Jon Olinger and former Souder aide Derek Pillie.

The deadline to file is July 28 for a July 31 caucus.

Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, said he thinks the poor showings of several candidates in the Souder and Bell caucuses have caused some people to take their time deciding.

“You don’t have to jump in as a candidate in order to get the temperature. I think that’s what’s happening,” Downs said. “I think a lot of people are calling around to the 50 or so precinct (officials) to see what their chances are.

“They saw folks get zero or one vote in the recent caucuses. Why would you put yourself through that? Find out if you have support before you announce,” Downs said.

Downs also noted that if anyone ever had thoughts of running for state office, this is the ideal situation.

“It’s a gimme,” he said. “You get 27 people to think you are the best candidate, and you are the winner.”

Office politics

One week on the subject of Mayor Tom Henry’s new offices in Renaissance Square wasn’t enough for the City Council, as several members chimed in a second time last week.

Councilman Tim Pape, D-5th, took the opportunity to attack the critics of the building’s executive suites by giving a detailed history of the offices that were originally built for Lincoln National executives.

He discussed how the suites were opened in 1994 and were designed by Schenkel Shultz to recognize the company’s 90th year. The executive foyer was inspired by Ford’s Theatre in Washington and featured a copy of the last portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

Pape’s effort seemed to work, as one of the chief critics of the offices, Councilman Tom Smith, R-1st, seemed to reverse his stance. Saying he understood it would be expensive to remove these features, Smith said the city should now embrace them and tout one of the best mayor’s offices in the country.

“I have no doubt that could get national attention,” Smith said.

Councilwoman Karen Goldner, R-2nd, who also criticized the opulence of the offices, said she realized people didn’t want to spend money to make the area less nice.

“It’s very clear that people are proud of their city,” she said.

Final numbers

Ford dealership owner Bob Thomas put $451,000 of his personal fortune into challenging then-Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, for the GOP congressional nomination in May, according to final campaign reports.

Souder, who won the Republican primary but resigned two weeks after the election, spent nearly $559,000 to defend his seat. Thomas spent $461,000 after raising less than $19,000 from backers. His campaign reported $8,700 on hand.

Souder reported $38,400 remaining in the campaign account but said there are outstanding bills that must be covered.

If there is any money left over, he said, it will be returned to donors.

Taking exception

Mayor Tom Henry made it clear last week that he didn’t like some comments from City Councilwoman Liz Brown.

Brown, R-at large, questioned the city’s $95,000 contract with a consulting firm to entice Navistar to stay partly because the company said it had no plans of remaining in the Summit City.

“If the girl doesn’t want to date you, move on,” she said.

Henry said he was stunned by the comments, saying they amounted to quitting in an important retention fight. He then made some fairly unusual remarks to prove his commitment to the city.

“I am more than just the mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana – a job I could not be prouder to hold. I am also a third-generation lifelong resident, with many family members living here, including my two children and both of my grandchildren,” he said.

Such comments, of course, have nothing to do with the policy of hiring the consultant. At least we know the mayor isn’t going anywhere.

Independent streak

Republican John Hidy has filed to run as an independent for Huntertown clerk-treasurer.

Hidy is on the town council along with his election opponent, David Rudolph, who narrowly ousted the town’s long-serving clerk, Robin Dove-Riley, in the Republican primary. No Democrats have filed.

Hidy submitted more than enough signatures to get on the fall ballot as an independent, according to the election board.

Hidy said Rudolph would take the town backward and would not serve residents well.

Hidy defended Dove-Riley and accused Rudolph of attacking the way she runs the office during the primary.

Hidy also would continue employing Riley’s staff – her sister and daughter, another issue raised during the primary.

Hidy lost his own Republican primary race this spring to Therese Brown, who will be the next Allen County commissioner.

Making him sweat

Few department heads or elected officials relish going before the County Council to beg for money for a grant that ran out or to replace a worn-out copy machine.

Looking down from their dais, which is not nearly as tall as the City Council’s, the council members can be intimidating even to those prepared for scrutiny.

Apparently, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mike McAlexander wasn’t so prepared when he filled in for Prosecutor Karen Richards during budget talks last week.

While the council questioned the prosecutor’s logic in her budget planning, Deputy Auditor Tera Klutz pointed out that McAlexander wasn’t expecting to present a request for additional funding.

“He looked a little sweaty,” Klutz said.

“Only the County Council could make the prosecutor sweat,” Council President Paula Hughes quipped.

Amanda Iacone of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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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