Political Notebook

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Looking for new challenge

Fries throws his sheriff’s hat into 2014 senate race

Fort Wayne state Sen. Tom Wyss may not be on the ballot this year, but re-election is on his mind.

That’s because Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries has made no secret about his plans to challenge Wyss in the 2014 Republican primary for the Senate District 15 seat.

“The great thing about America is that anyone can run for a position and the voters get to decide who they want,” Fries said. “I’m not one to stand back and say, ‘Oh well, someone else is in the job.’ ”

Term limits prevent Fries from serving a third term as sheriff, and his tenure ends in 2014.

When he ran for sheriff originally, Fries started his campaign almost two years before the election, so his early jump is nothing new.

Wyss has served Fort Wayne in the Senate since he was appointed in 1985. He has been re-elected seven times and has rarely – if ever – had primary opposition.

“Kenny Fries is telling everyone that he is going to run,” Wyss said. “Even if I had decided I wasn’t going to go, that is enough incentive for me to want to run again.”

Wyss has been a moderate Republican voice in the Senate, which has been moving further to the right. He specializes in public safety, homeland security and transportation issues.

His last campaign finance report showed he has a good amount of cash on hand – $66,000.

Fries said there are state issues he wants to work on as a senator, including 911 funding and rising health care costs of inmates. He also opposes a law allowing Hoosiers to use force against police officers they reasonably believe are acting unlawfully.

“I would stay (as sheriff) if they allowed me,” he said. “I need to find something else that challenges me and serves the state.”

Streaks on the line

Hoosiers are going to break one of two streaks this year in the governor’s race, and Democrat John Gregg hopes it deals with facial hair.

Gregg, who sports a moustache, said Hoosiers haven’t elected a governor with facial hair since picking Thomas Marshall in 1908. Marshall went on to become vice president of the United States.

It should be noted that Samuel Moffett Ralston, who was elected in 1912, appears to have a moustache in his official portrait, but there isn’t a way to know whether he had it during the campaign.

Gregg has made a brand of his moustache, placing it on postcards and bumper stickers. But he noted that at one time, it had a strong detractor: his mother. When he was a college student, Gregg said, his mother told him to shave and eventually offered him $50 to remove his moustache. When he did, his mother declined to pay, saying he had to keep it off.

The ’stache came back.

The other streak on the line is that Indiana hasn’t elected a sitting member of Congress as governor since picking Alvin Hovey in 1888. Congressman Mike Pence is the only Republican seeking the position this year.

Of course, Hoosiers potentially could end the facial hair streak by picking Libertarian Rupert Boneham – which would also end a streak of never picking someone who starred on a reality television show.

Lien skeleton

It didn’t take John Court long to learn his tenure as the new Allen County Democratic chairman won’t be all fun and games.

Just a day after Court was overwhelmingly selected to lead the party, information was presented to Political Notebook showing Court had a lien on his home for $22,000 in unpaid federal income taxes.

The tax lien notice, which was filed in 2009, shows Court owed $21,899.98 in taxes for 2006.

Court, who was initially taken aback by the information, said the lien stems from a time when he served as an independent contractor. He said he fell behind on his taxes at this time – as they are not automatically withdrawn from payments.

Court said he believed more than half of the debt would be paid when he files his federal tax return this spring. Soon after, he said he plans to pay the lien completely.

“I will absolutely guarantee it will be done by the November general (election),” he said.

Heavyweights

The April 11 debate between Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and GOP primary-election challenger Richard Mourdock will be broadcast at 7 p.m., the Indiana Debate Commission announced Tuesday.

The commission said voters can submit questions for the candidates on Facebook or at the panel’s website.

The campaigns signed a document regarding the debate’s format and rules Tuesday at WFYI Public Media in Indianapolis, the site of the hour-long debate, according to a statement by the commission. The TV station will broadcast the debate and make it available for other news organizations to carry.

There will not be a studio audience for the debate.

The commission said Phil Bremen will be the moderator. Bremen is a retired TV broadcaster who teaches at Ball State University.

Questions for Lugar and Mourdock, the state treasurer, can be submitted at www.facebook.com/IndianaDebateCommission or at http://indianadebatecommission/submit-your-debate-question.The commission said people who submit questions chosen for consideration will be offered the chance to ask them in person or by pre-taped video.

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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