Political Notebook

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Brown chides city clerk over open house

Even an annual Christmas party couldn’t escape the heightened political tensions in city politics this year.

City Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, on Dec. 16 sent an email to Clerk Sandy Kennedy, questioning her annual holiday open house. Kennedy, a Democrat, was co-hosting the event with outgoing Democratic council members Karen Goldner and Tim Pape, Brown alleged.

“I see that you are hosting this open house with the two outgoing council members who are Democrats, although the Clerk is not supposed to ‘play favorites’ with respect to the Council ... I thought you served us all ... iPads and all?” she wrote.

Brown and Kennedy have had a rocky relationship for some time, especially as Brown worked actively with Republican Zach Bonahoom to oust the long-term Democrat this fall.

Kennedy’s staff supplies food for the open house every year, an event historically attended by people of both political parties. This year’s party was attended by several council members. It is done on city time, but Kennedy said her staff ensures the office remains open for business during the event.

Kennedy responded on Monday via email, writing that Pape and Goldner had asked her whether they could help with the event. She said if Brown wanted to join them, she was sure they would allow it.

“I have never played politics with city council members and I’m sure they will agree with that ... when you come to our ‘Open House’ (and I hope you will) you will see that this has nothing to do with politics,” Kennedy wrote.

“All the years of my working as a public servant, I’ve never been questioned as you’re questioning me … I’m really sorry that you feel this way about me.”

Brown thanked Kennedy for her response in a follow-up email, and then she began questioning her about other expenses related to the clerk’s office. It even appeared she tried to one-up Kennedy’s holiday cheer in her farewell.

Kennedy ended her response with, “May the beauty of this season bring you many special joys.”

Brown finished her final message with, “Merry Christmas to you and all your staff. May the grace and blessings of Jesus’ birth fill your heart.”

No payroll tax cut

Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, talked about high unemployment and Christmas goodwill, but not the just-passed payroll tax cut extension, when he gave the weekly Republican radio address Saturday.

Pence recorded the message at his home in Columbus.

“For far too many in America, these are difficult times,” he said. “Some of our neighbors, family and friends are struggling to make ends meet despite their best efforts, unable to find work in this difficult economy.

“This holiday season, let’s all make a special effort to come alongside these families in their time of need and support local charities as they provide for the needs across our communities,” said Pence, who seeks the Republican nomination for governor in 2012.

He also mentioned the recent exit of U.S. troops from Iraq as he urged Americans to keep in mind those who serve in the military.

“Even as one conflict draws to a close and joyful homecomings abound, let’s also remember the empty chair at every holiday table for those who won’t be with family this year by virtue of their service and sacrifice for our freedom,” he said.

Pence made several references to Christmas and his Christian faith but also said, “Americans from all walks of life will celebrate the holidays in their own unique way, in accordance with their own beliefs and traditions.”

Where’s Indiana?

The Republican National Committee contends President Obama’s re-election campaign is writing off Indiana in the 2012 election, a claim the Obama camp disputes.

The RNC cites a Tuesday story in The Hill newspaper in Washington reporting that the Obama campaign has filed with the Federal Election Commission to establish the Swing State Victory Fund. The fund will allow 11 Democratic Party state committees, including those in Ohio and Michigan, to channel campaign contributions to Obama and other candidates.

The Democratic state committee in Indiana is not included. Obama in 2008 became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win a majority of votes in the Hoosier State – and hence all its electoral votes – since President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Ryan Mahoney, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement about the swing-state list: “Noticeably missing? ... Indiana, Arizona, and Georgia – three states Team Obama has tried to spin as part of their path to re-election.

“Guess they are seeing the same numbers we are.”

An Obama campaign official in Chicago said in an email: “We have rolled out the first phase of the fund, which will target a number of battleground states but does not include all of the key states we plan to compete in next year. This will not be the last phase of the fund.”

The Obama campaign official asked that his name not be used discussing details of the campaign.

A stay on pay

The expectation of a possible fight over Fort Wayne elected officials’ salaries was short-lived Tuesday night.

Mayor Tom Henry’s salary had become a target during the campaign, and Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, questioned whether Clerk Sandy Kennedy was overpaid. The council, however, approved keeping all salaries flat for 2012.

The reason? Brown said state law prohibits the council from slashing the mayor’s or clerk’s salary.

The council’s only real power would be to cut any proposed increase – of which there was none.

The council could have reduced its own benefits, but that was not discussed.

Stop the music

Gov. Mitch Daniels has some experience with tacky Christmas ties.

He told reporters recently that he had one he really liked when his daughters were younger – it was bright red with little Christmas trees. It also played a hymn of some kind, which he thought was pretty cool – until he accidentally set off the musical tie during a Christmas Eve prayer service.

Daniels remembers panicking and trying to shut it off, which caused it just to start the song over.

“The girls were mortified,” he said. “That thing was retired the minute I got home.”

Journal Gazette Washington Editor Brian Francisco contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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