Political Notebook

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Time zones no longer on Hinkle’s mind

Disgraced Indianapolis Rep. Phil Hinkle is stepping down after all.

Well, not really.

While the embattled lawmaker refuses to heed calls from leadership to resign his seat, he has parted ways with a group pushing for the observance of Central time in Indiana after details surfaced about his hotel tryst with a younger man.

The Indianapolis Star reported this month that Hinkle responded to an online Craigslist ad posted by an 18-year-old Indianapolis man, seeking a “sugga daddy.”

Hinkle paid the young man $80 and drove him to the JW Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis. The stories from Hinkle and the teen diverge greatly from there, except they agree the two did not have sex.

After the exposé, word spread that the Central Time Coalition had asked Hinkle to back away from the group and even replaced him as a speaker at an upcoming conference.

Sue Dillon, president of the coalition, clarified that it was Hinkle who contacted the group expressing concern about the effect of the recent publicity. He then offered to step down.

“Rep. Hinkle has always championed issues that affect the welfare of Indiana’s citizens and he is a staunch advocate for the advantages of Central Time on education and safety of Indiana’s students. The Coalition is very grateful to him for taking the legislative lead on Central Time this year and we count on his continued support,” Dillon said in an email.

“This is a very difficult time for him; we respect his request to step down, and we all wish him the very best.”

Spat about speaking

The current Fort Wayne City Council has built a reputation for political fighting, and council members Tim Pape, D-5th, and Liz Brown, R-at large, can be credited for many of those disagreements.

The two hit another level of disdain last week as Brown provided a brief budget presentation at the beginning of her finance committee session, which was scheduled to discuss only a few perfunctory bills.

After Brown outlined stats showing why she believes the city faces extremely difficult finances, Pape began to criticize her for being wrong with her numbers.

This prompted Brown to cut Pape off immediately and say he could not discuss the issue without the facts in front of him, or a bill before the council.

Pape questioned whether Brown was barring him from speaking during a committee session, which he noted would be a first in his dozen years on the council. Brown said the two could discuss the issue privately when Pape had the information, a gesture Pape quickly dismissed.

While he acknowledged Brown had the authority to cut his speech in her committee, he questioned her use of that power and essentially asked Brown to be stripped of her committee chair post.

Brown countered with pointed questions at Pape about his data – whether he could simply remember budget numbers from years past – but Pape only responded by asking her whether he’d be allowed to speak. He wasn’t.

Of course, he was able to get his points in later during the council’s regular-session open-comment period.

Listening to voters

Indiana’s congressional delegation might be more receptive to public feedback than other states’ contingents.

No Labels, a national group that urges bipartisan cooperation in government, said Monday that only 40 percent of the 435 members of the U.S. House had scheduled town-hall meetings during the chamber’s August recess.

“Our concern is that elected officials are only hearing from their respective partisan bases and will not expose themselves to criticism,” No Labels co-founder William Galston said in a news release.

But six of nine Hoosier congressmen had scheduled public events, according to the group’s telephone survey of House members.

In comparison, only six of Ohio’s 18 lawmakers and five of Michigan’s 15 had scheduled forums, while 11 of Illinois’ 19 congressmen did.

Reps. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, and Dan Burton, R-5th, were among Indiana congressmen who planned town-hall meetings. Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, who is running for governor, and Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, who is campaigning for the Senate, were among those who scheduled no such meetings, No Labels said.

Stutzman conducted a public forum Aug. 6 in Kendallville; spoke and fielded questions Aug. 10 at Ag Appreciation Day near New Haven; and, with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., held a “farm bill listening session” Thursday at the Allen County Fairgrounds. Stutzman is a farmer and a freshman member of the House Agriculture Committee.

GOP leader visits

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus popped into Indiana on Monday as part of an effort by the Indiana Republican Party to keep the state relevant in the 2012 presidential election.

He said he didn’t want to dwell on 2008 – when Republican John McCain largely snubbed Indiana and then lost by a razor-thin margin – except to say it won’t happen again.

“I think Indiana is a perfect example of a state in the Midwest, America’s heartland, that barely went for Barack Obama – that ever-so-slightly fell for the empty rhetoric and the words of Barack Obama – but will clearly go back to red in 2012,” Priebus said.

“As of today we’re declaring Indiana red country again, and we’re here to make sure we get it that way and we keep it that way moving into 2012.”

He declined to promise specific visits from the eventual nominee, saying instead that the candidate would want to lock in Indiana’s electoral votes.

Priebus also met with Gov. Mitch Daniels and spent time raising funds for the state party. He said he is happy with the GOP presidential field but would be OK if others entered.

“Primaries are a good thing,” Priebus said.

Lugar vs. Obama

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., appears to be running against President Obama in his latest fundraising letter sent to Indiana constituents.

Nowhere in the letter does Lugar mention his opponent in the 2012 Republican primary election, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Instead, he repeatedly takes on Obama, referring to him by name 11 times. Many of the references are in connection with the rising national debt.

“Let’s keep Indiana in Republican hands, achieve Republican control of the Senate, and defeat Barack Obama and his policies,” Lugar writes in the last paragraph.

Under his signature is a P.S. about “an attack commercial against me.” Although Lugar does not name the group, he apparently is referring to the conservative Club for Growth, which in July ran a TV ad critical of Lugar’s support of federal aid for banks and auto companies in 2008.

Lugar writes that a non-profit consumer advocacy group called the ad “exaggerated,” “not true” and “misleading.”

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

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