Political Notebook


Brown’s rant sparks Goldner, Hines exit

Republicans on the City Council attacked Mayor Tom Henry for firing the city purchasing director – attacks that eventually led to most of the Democrats walking out of Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, called the firing of Jim Howard – an outspoken conservative Republican – last week “baffling” because of his value to the city, but the sparks really flew when Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, chimed in.

Brown attacked Councilwoman Karen Goldner, D-2nd, for saying Howard had made some mistakes in the handling of the city’s insurance contracts. Brown and others vehemently noted that Howard had no role in those contracts.

“Councilwoman Goldner was libelous when she said he had made mistakes,” Brown said.

This barb prompted Goldner and Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, to get up and walk out of the meeting, a move Hines has done to repudiate Brown in the past.

Brown, however, couldn’t let their exit go by unnoticed.

“This must be like Wisconsin where the Democrats always walk out,” she said.

Councilman Tim Pape, D-5th, had left before Brown’s comments, leaving Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large, as the only Democrat in the room as she finished her rant.

Brown went on to note what she saw as mistakes made by City Attorney Carol Taylor and Controller Pat Roller and the fact they were not fired. She concluded by saying Goldner must be the mouthpiece of the administration or that she had illegally accessed Howard’s personnel file to be able to share such knowledge.

Without skipping a beat, Brown then wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Field is likely full

Political bloggers and media websites are reporting that auto dealer Bob Thomas is considering a run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who seeks to unseat Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in next year’s GOP primary, doesn’t think Thomas will be a candidate.

In a recent interview, Mourdock noted that prospective candidates have until Feb. 20 to collect at least 500 signatures of registered voters in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts.

“I haven’t seen anyone – anyone, anyone – as I have traveled the state of Indiana, going out getting signatures” for the Senate race, Mourdock said. “I have never heard Bob Thomas’ name mentioned outside the 3rd Congressional District because of when he ran against (Mark) Souder.

“I just don’t see any evidence that he’s out there,” Mourdock said about Thomas.

Thomas, who lives in Carmel and owns Ford dealerships in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, received a third of the vote in the 2010 GOP primary won by eight-term incumbent Souder. Two weeks later, Souder resigned from Congress after admitting to an extramarital affair with a part-time staffer.

Thomas ran again, finishing fifth of 15 candidates in a Republican caucus election won by Marlin Stutzman, then a state senator. Stutzman later won the 2010 general election.

When Mourdock announced his Senate candidacy last winter, he released a list showing that 68 of the state’s 92 Republican county chairmen had endorsed him, even though GOP voters had nominated Lugar six times since 1976.

“That was a message to anybody else who was thinking about getting into the race that, ‘Gee, I guess the party has already coalesced behind Mourdock,’ ” Mourdock said.

That didn’t stop state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, from talking about a possible run before waving it off in September. And there has long been speculation that Chris Chocola, a former 2nd District congressman and leader of the conservative Club for Growth, might enter the primary race.

“I have no doubt that Senator Lugar would love to have a third candidate or a fourth candidate or a fifth candidate” to draw potential votes away from Mourdock, said the second-term state treasurer from Evansville.

David Willkie, political director for the Lugar campaign, said in an email: “Bob Thomas does not change Senator Lugar’s message. Hoosiers have responded to Senator Lugar’s message of job creation and his proposals to cut federal spending by supporting the Lugar Campaign in record numbers through financial contributions and volunteer hours.”

Thomas told a reporter for WISH-TV of Indianapolis he will decide after Thanksgiving about whether to enter the Senate contest.

Legal fight pending

The city election might be two weeks old, but that doesn’t mean its political fights are complete.

On Oct. 31, Republican nominee Paula Hughes had attorney David Hawk send a two-page letter to Mayor Tom Henry demanding that his campaign retract recent mailers accusing Hughes of not paying her taxes.

“Not only are the statements patently false, they impute criminal conduct and are specifically made with the intention of harming Paula Hughes’ reputation in the community,” Hawk wrote.

The attorney asked Henry to send new mailers to all recipients of the original, telling them the statements were false and asking Henry to issue a news release also retracting those comments.

The mailer was paid for by the state Democrats, but Hawk said Henry and others worked to spread “this lie to the public.”

The letter might sound like heated political rhetoric at the climax of the campaign, but Hughes last week said she is not ready to drop it quite yet.

“That has not been decided yet,” she said of dropping plans to sue Henry. “There is a fair amount of documentation and background that has to go into something like that.”

She said she plans to gather evidence and then decide, although she gave no specific schedule for when that might occur.

The small stuff

Almost immediately after the final results were in, and Republican Paula Hughes had lost, Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine noted that the independent candidate in the race had taken more votes than Mayor Tom Henry’s victory margin.

A recent poll by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, however, shows that Haley Ahrendt might have cost Henry more votes than Hughes.

The poll, conducted just a few days before the election, showed half of Ahrendt’s supporters identified themselves as independents and a quarter said they were Democrats. Fewer than 20 percent said they were Republicans.

While the poll was done before the election and was not of actual voters, it shows that a Hughes victory would have been unlikely had Ahrendt not been in the race. Hughes would have had to win more than 90 percent of Ahrendt’s votes to win the race, an amount exceedingly unlikely to have been acquired.

Advantage at home

This year’s mayoral election was a close race, so it is not surprising that the two main candidates won the support of their neighbors – but barely.

Mayor Tom Henry won 52.4 percent of his home precinct, No. 314, while Hughes won 55 percent of the vote in Precinct 218, where she lives.

The preliminary precinct data also made it clear that Hughes’ neighbors were a lot more active in voting than the mayor’s, regardless of who they supported.

Fewer than 20 percent of the registered voters in the mayor’s precinct participated in the municipal election, while nearly 40 percent of the voters in Hughes’ precinct voted.

Journal Gazette Washington Editor Brian Francisco contributed to this column.

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