Political Notebook


Governor not behind any candidate yet


Gov. Mitch Daniels is still playing it close to the vest on endorsing a Republican 2012 presidential candidate.

He said he sees several who would be good presidents but isn’t ready to pick one.

Daniels does hope that whoever the nominee is will spend a little time campaigning in Indiana.

“Sometimes in the past, they haven’t,” he said. “Sen. McCain didn’t, and I think it was a mistake.”

President Obama narrowly won Indiana in 2008 despite its longtime support of GOP presidential candidates. Daniels doesn’t think that will happen again.

“My honest assessment is it will be very, very hard for the president to carry this state right now. I saw somewhere recently they had rather quietly dropped Indiana from the Obama list of targeted states,” he said.

As for Indiana playing a role in a Republican presidential primary, Daniels doubts that, too.

“The system is more or less rigged to settle itself pretty early.”

Council solicitations

Last week, City Council President Mitch Harper, R-4th, voted against a contract to renovate the Citizens Square parking lot because he felt its costs should have been covered by the original building bond.

“I will vote against more reckless spending tonight (Tuesday) because they should be able to find the funds for parking in what is now a $17,000,000 project,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “Government can truly never get enough of our hard earned tax dollars.”

He then asked those same supporters to donate $100, $50 or $25 to help him continue to fight “careless spending.”

The only problem is the email was apparently sent to many city employees at work. This prompted Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy to write Harper to tell him such solicitations should not be sent to taxpayer-financed accounts, especially coming from a member of the City Council, which oversees city departments.

“Your actions could be interpreted as coercive and at a minimum has made employees uncomfortable,” she wrote.

Harper said the email solicitation should not have been sent to city addresses, and he is investigating how it happened. He said the emails may have been forwarded from his campaign website by a third party or sent based on social media accounts.

4th District feud

While Malloy criticized Harper’s medium, his council opponent attacked his message.

Mike Avilla, the Democrat running against Harper in the 4th District, sent a release Wednesday criticizing Harper’s criticism of city debt. Harper said during Tuesday’s council meeting that he was concerned with the city’s debt and spending.

Avilla notes, however, that Harper voted for both the 2010 and 2011 city budgets.

“Now he’s attacking city spending, after voting year after year to approve the city’s budget. The residents of the 4th District deserve better,” Avilla said in a news release.

Attacking candidates for supporting the city budget is an old tactic, especially when those budgets include some type of tax increase.

Harper, who along with Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, has probably been more critical of city spending than other council members, defended his comments.

“I haven’t just held the line on spending increases, but I’ve consistently led the council to spending cuts. I voted against more nonsensical spending last night, and I’ll continue to do so while serving on City Council,” he said.

If this is the rhetoric we get in July, it is hard to imagine what we will see in October.

Indiana’s frenemies

It’s no secret Gov. Mitch Daniels and House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer have a simmering feud.

Last week, Bauer took a moment to say that Daniels’ much-touted $1.1 billion surplus came on the backs of children through cuts to education and other programs.

Daniels’ response was simple:

“I’ve been trying to educate the poor fellow for a long time and I just give up,” he said, contending Bauer bankrupted the state the last time he was in charge. “I guess maybe some students aren’t as educable as others.”

Bauer fired back in a written statement: “The state of Indiana has not been bankrupt since the digging of the canals. There is a constitutional provision preventing it. I have been trying to teach Governor Daniels this since he returned from Washington, D.C., where he turned a $600 billion federal surplus into a $2 trillion deficit in just three years.”

Pence and policy

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence tapped Chris Atkins as policy director last week.

Atkins previously served in the administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels as general counsel and policy director in the state of Indiana’s Office of Management and Budget.

“I am grateful to have someone of Chris Atkins’ experience and integrity on our team,” Pence said. “His knowledge of the accomplishments and progress Hoosiers have made during the Daniels administration will be invaluable as we work to build an even better Indiana in the years ahead.”

The irony of the appointment is that Pence told reporters he would travel the state and listen to Hoosiers – articulating specific policy initiatives only if he wins the Republican nomination in May.

Running in the 6th

Three people recently filed as candidates to replace Pence, R-6th, in the U.S. House.

Since mid-June, Democrats Jim Crone and Lane Siekman and Republican Luke Messer have filed candidacy statements for the 2012 election with the Federal Election Commission.

Pence is seeking the Republican nomination for governor next year.

Messer is a former state lawmaker from Shelbyville who ran for Congress last year in the 5th District. He joins financial adviser Don Bates Jr. of Winchester and real estate investor Travis Hankins of Columbus as candidates in the 6th District Republican primary.

Crone is a sociology professor at Hanover College and chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party. Siekman is an attorney in Rising Sun, a city in Ohio County.

Also planning to run in the Democratic primary is Barry Welsh of Connersville. The executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Fayette County was Pence’s Democratic opponent in 2006, ’08 and ’10.

Shelby, Jefferson and Ohio counties are new to the 6th District, thanks to congressional maps redrawn this year by the General Assembly as required after the decennial census.

The district currently includes southern Allen County and Adams, Wells and Jay counties. They will join the 3rd District in northeast Indiana for the 2012 elections.

Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman is the only candidate so far in the 3rd District.

Picking nominees

Democrats in Monroeville looking to seek office should start getting ready.

The Allen County Democratic Party will hold a town convention in Monroeville next month to nominate candidates for town council and clerk-treasurer. To run for office, candidates must file their intentions at the Allen County Election Board by noon Aug. 1.

To vote in the convention or run for office, a person must be registered to vote by Aug. 1.

The convention will be at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Monroeville Park pavilion, 421 Monroe St. Monroeville resident Max Meyer will serve as chairman of the town committee and conduct the convention.

Brian Francisco, Washington editor of The Journal Gazette, contributed to this column.

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