Political Notebook


Will Lugar’s colleagues back his rival?

Two Republicans in the U.S. Senate have hinted they might support primary-election challengers to GOP incumbents who voted to increase the national debt limit.

Among 19 Republican senators who backed the debt plan, six are up for re-election next year, including Richard Lugar of Indiana.

The Democratic-led Senate approved the bill 74-26 after the Republican-led House passed it 269-161.

The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., quoted a source close to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., as saying, “It’s not a threat that he’s going to oppose anybody, but … if he does, nobody should be surprised.”

DeMint championed tea party candidates in the 2010 elections.

Freshman Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he had set up a political action committee to fund conservative candidates in coming elections. Lee told the Hill he couldn’t rule out helping a GOP challenger try to unseat an incumbent.

Andy Fisher, press secretary for Lugar, downplayed the prospect of Lee and DeMint lending a hand to Lugar’s foe in the 2012 GOP primary election, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

DeMint “said he is not targeting incumbents; he has no intention of doing that,” Fisher said Wednesday, citing a story in Politico newspaper.

Fisher noted that Lee’s office is across the hall from Lugar’s and that Lee is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar is the ranking Republican on the panel.

Lee “has been a very good member of the committee already, a very thoughtful member, and I think is certainly onboard in terms of the Republican caucus in the Senate,” Fisher said.

Also Wednesday, Politico reported that the Citizens United PAC had endorsed Mourdock and would contribute $10,000 to his campaign.

“After 35 years in Washington, Dick Lugar does not understand what it means to be a conservative Republican,” Citizens United leader David Bossie said in a statement about Lugar’s debt vote.

Citizens United is a conservative group perhaps best known as the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case in which the court ruled that companies and unions can buy advertising to support or oppose political candidates.

IPFW political science professor Mike Wolf said: “It’s really remarkable. Lugar voted with his heart even though this is something that might show up in a negative ad.”

Testing the water

Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, might face a primary opponent in her first election for Senate District 13 next year. She won the seat in a caucus late last year, and an incumbent House member is contemplating taking her on.

Rep. David Yarde, R-Garrett, called Glick to tell her he was considering a challenge. He is upset that his education experience hasn’t been respected by the House Republican caucus. And he thinks the newly drawn Senate district is very attractive.

“It’s a free country,” Glick said.

Yarde did not return a call seeking comment.

In other legislative political news, it appears Rep. Dick Dodge, R-Pleasant Lake, will seek a fifth term despite earlier signs that he would retire.

And Reps. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, and Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, continue to prepare for a primary because they were both drawn into the same district.

Touchy times

At least a few viewers who came to the political circus – how some attendees describe City Council meetings – probably left disappointed last week.

The council again put off its highly anticipated debate over a bill to limit political contributions – anticipated because it is sure to include plenty of animated disagreement. But that doesn’t mean last week’s meeting was without political intrigue.

For even aspiring politicians got in on the action, with Republican clerk candidate Zach Bonahoom apparently asked to help Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, make a presentation in support of her proposal. Bonahoom regularly attends council meetings, but it is somewhat unusual for him to participate.

Democratic Clerk Sandy Kennedy was apparently not pleased by his inclusion. What’s next? Will Republicans ask mayoral nominee Paula Hughes to help it present cuts to Mayor Tom Henry’s budget this fall?

While Bonahoom’s appearance was cut short, that didn’t save him from some awkward recognition.

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, criticized Bonahoom’s father, council attorney Joe Bonahoom, by saying he might have given his legal blessing to the bill only because it would assist his son’s election chances.

The jab was quickly shut off by Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large, forcing Hines to apologize.

Of course, this could simply be the appetizer to next week’s full course.

Put on notice

The Bonahooms weren’t the only family to experience an awkward moment at the council last week.

City Controller Pat Roller was called to the council table to defend her policy for waiting until the end of the year to ask for additional appropriations. Council President Mitch Harper, R-4th, said the process is not appropriate and the council should vote on an appropriation for every expense not in the original budget.

Roller contended the state has never cited her for this practice, which allows the city to ask for a more precise amount of money to keep unneeded funds from being spent. Harper countered that the state didn’t know about this practice before and now has been put “on notice.”

“No doubt, thank you,” Roller responded and then quickly left the table.

Making the exchange more difficult is the council next invited Fire Chief Pete Kelly to the table to discuss some expenses. Kelly, who is Roller’s husband, did not have near the opposition from the council, and in fact drew strong support from Harper.

At least it likely gave them some dinner conversation.

Wayne’s in our debt

Fort Wayne took a brief turn in the national spotlight a week ago when “ABC World News” anchor Diane Sawyer came to town.

Sawyer stopped by a TinCaps game at Parkview Field and visited Sara’s Family Restaurant to find out what residents thought of the debt-ceiling debate.

In a short profile of Fort Wayne, she said the city was named after Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne, “a hero of the Revolutionary War.”

Wayne certainly was a key figure in the war, fought from 1775 to 1783. But Fort Wayne takes its name from the post that he and his army established at the Maumee, St. Marys and St. Joseph rivers in 1794 as they were securing the Northwest Territory in battles against Indians.

Of course, calling Diane Sawyer an anchor shortchanges her TV news career, so we’re even.

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

To reach Political Notebook via email, 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.