Political Notebook

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Shine opens caucus to include reporters

Despite defending his right to call a private political caucus, Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine is changing the format of this week’s gathering.

Shine originally called a caucus of all county commissioners and council members after a dispute arose between them regarding county employee retirement benefits. In an op-ed in The Journal Gazette last week, Shine defended his right to have the groups meeting privately to discuss behavior but not policy.

Regardless, he is now “transforming” the meeting from a caucus to a Republican Leadership Conference and has invited all Republicans who are elected officials for city and county offices to attend Tuesday. In addition, the media will be allowed to attend.

The Rev. Thomas Smith – no relation to City Councilman Tom Smith – will provide his experience on the issue of leadership at the event. The speaker was the pastor of the Presbyterian Chapel of the Lakes in Angola and is an adjunct teaching assistant in philosophy at Trine University.

Civic duty

Although Tom Henry is mayor of Fort Wayne, that doesn’t mean he’s above one of the basic civic responsibilities: jury duty.

Henry was called last week to possibly be a juror in a civil trial in Allen Circuit Court. It was the third time he’s been called to serve in the past decade, but the first time since becoming mayor.

Henry said it soon became apparent he would not be chosen as a juror for the case involving a broken leg. He said the jury pool members were asked whether they had broken their legs, broken their legs more than once and been sued. Henry had to raise his hands to all the questions.

“As a government official, my name is on a lot of lawsuits,” Henry said he told the group, eliciting some chortles.

Pence at work

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Pence is racking up some impressive numbers while campaigning around the state, including:

•About 10,000 ballot petition signatures received.

•39 counties visited since he announced his run in May.

•24 Lincoln/Reagan Days completed this year.

•92 county grassroots coordinators appointed; 9 regional coordinators.

•7 candidate fundraisers/events completed, including one for Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, and for Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Paula Hughes.

Endorsements

The Indiana Democratic State Central Committee announced Monday it has endorsed five state and federal candidates in the 2012 election. All figure to have little or no competition in the May primary election.

The committee, meeting in French Lick over the weekend, unanimously voted to endorse John Gregg for governor; Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, for the U.S. Senate; incumbent Reps. Andre Carson, D-7th, and Pete Visclosky, D-1st; and congressional candidate Brendan Mullen in the 2nd District.

So far, only Mullen, an Army veteran and businessman, is opposed as he seeks to replace Donnelly in the House. Andrew Straw, a lawyer, filed a statement of candidacy in June for the South Bend-area district, and Mullen filed in July.

Democrats said in a statement that the state committee announcement follows meetings of those congressional district committees that have endorsed candidates. A spokeswoman said only the 1st, 2nd and 7th Districts have made endorsements to date.

Attacks attacked

It’s not even Labor Day and political ads are already causing controversy in the Fort Wayne mayoral race.

Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine last week blasted the Tom Henry campaign for running television ads attacking Republican nominee Paula Hughes.

“This is a clear sign that Tom Henry is in a difficult electoral position,” Shine wrote in the statement.

The release attacks the ads as being misleading and going negative earlier than ever in a mayoral campaign.

The ad criticizes Hughes for pledging never to raise taxes as mayor despite having a history of supporting tax increases in the past.

Justin Schell, Henry campaign manager, said that despite the criticism, neither Shine nor Hughes is denying any of the specific charges made by the ad.

“We ran this ad because voters in Fort Wayne deserve to know the truth about Paula, and not just her empty political promises,” he said.

He also noted that Hughes began running paid direct-mail ads months ago attacking Henry. “For her to play the victim now is laughable.”

Political Notebook: The Blog

Political Notebook is expanding.

Beginning after the Labor Day holiday, The Journal Gazette launches a new daily political blog – an online extension of this long-standing Sunday column.

Statehouse reporter Niki Kelly and City Hall reporter Benjamin Lanka, along with Washington Editor Brian Francisco, will bring you state, local and national political tidbits during the week.

Then, the best items will be published in Sunday’s Political Notebook.

We hope the new arrangement pleases both the traditional readers of this column and more voracious political junkies who need a daily fix.

Starting Wednesday, the blog can be found at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

Feel free to send tips and ideas to nkelly@jg.net or blanka@jg.net and bfrancisco@jg.net.

You can also find Kelly and Lanka on Twitter, @nkellyatJG and @BenLanka.

Journal Gazette Washington Editor Brian Francisco 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.

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