Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Gregg pounced on a theme last week and ran with it – painting opponent Republican U.S. Congressman Mike Pence as an extremist with a manifesto from 1992 he is still following.
Gregg and running mate Sen. Vi Simpson conducted news conferences in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and other parts of the state to highlight Pences record on social issues, minimum wage, the younger generation and his philosophy on governing.
They pointed to a book printed by the Indiana Policy Review in 1992 – while Pence headed the group – titled Indiana Mandate, an Agenda for the 1990s.
It is labeled as a way to put issues back into Hoosier politics. The collection of essays is written by 22 authors – only one of which is penned by Pence.
But Gregg continually called it Pences manifesto, quoting from the book and supplementing its findings with votes Pence has made during his six terms in Congress.
He can run for governor, Gregg said. He cant run from his record.
Some of the issues Gregg raised included Pences quest to defund Planned Parenthood. Gregg is pro-life but said Pence goes too far by jeopardizing womens access to health care, including birth control, cancer screenings and more.
Then later in the week, Gregg hit Pence on voting against proposals to increase the minimum wage and passages in the book that called for repealing the Americans with Disabilities Act and opposing family leave.
On Friday he wrapped up the week by talking about Pences support for term limits in Congress, yet staying 12 years.
Former Congressman Baron Hill attended that news conference, saying he worked with Pence in Washington, D.C., and he is a radical Republican showhorse.
He would be disastrous for the state, Hill said. Hes gifted – hes able to say radical things in a way that doesnt seem radical.
Greggs so-called Pence Plan has garnered attention on Twitter and in traditional media, causing the Pence campaign to respond.
We want to set the record straight, Pence campaign spokeswoman Christy Denault said. The Indiana Mandate was not written or edited by Mike Pence. It is a collection of essays written by a number of different authors. It is inappropriate and inaccurate to attribute the writings of other authors to Mike Pence.
The fake Pence Plan Twitter account also was briefly suspended for impersonating the congressman but came back up with a disclaimer that this is a fact page, unaffiliated with the Pence campaign.
More than a candle
In announcing the kickoff to this years senior athletic games, Mayor Tom Henry on Monday noted the day also marked his wife, Cindys, birthday. He joked his wife was as old as the event, 34.
After opening the games and proceeding to lose in boccie to Parks Director Al Moll, Henry was asked about mentioning his wifes birthday at a public event.
The mayor winced, but then proceeded to note he tried to tell her he was lighting up the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge for her special day. The bridge lighting ceremony was also Monday.
The effort to impress his wife, Henry admitted, was rebuffed immediately.
Lugar aide to Trine
The exodus of staffers from U.S. Sen. Richard Lugars office has begun.
Three aides, including Fort Wayne native Mark Helmke, are leaving Lugar, R-Ind., for other jobs.
Lugar, a senator since 1977, lost the May 8 Republican primary election to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Lugar will exit office at the conclusion of this years Senate session, likely in December.
Trine University announced last week that Helmke is joining the Angola college as a communications instructor for the Ketner Business School. Helmke has worked for Lugar on and off since 1981 in various capacities, including as communications director for Lugars unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1995-96.
Even before the results of the election, I was thinking of moving on, Helmke said in an email. I have my federal pension, and Ive always wanted to teach. I wanted to spend more time at Lake James organizing my writing and being with my parents.
The North Side High School graduate is the son of Walter P. and Rowene Helmke. Walter is a former state senator and former Allen County prosecutor, and Marks brother, Paul Helmke, is a former three-term mayor of Fort Wayne. Grandfather Walter E. Helmke was a county prosecutor, city attorney and local GOP chairman; the IPFW library is named after him.
Mark Helmke, who has also been a communications consultant in Washington, will begin his Trine job in mid-August.
Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said two other aides have left the staff since the primary election. One joined a defense industry consulting firm, and the other went to work for Mitt Romneys presidential campaign.
Sen. Sanders to visit
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, will speak in Fort Wayne next week.
Sanders will talk at an Indiana AFL-CIO luncheon on Friday that is being put on in conjunction with the Democratic Partys state convention at Grand Wayne Center.
The AFL-CIO website calls Sanders a true champion of working people everywhere.
The luncheon will be noon to 2:30 p.m. at the former Scottish Rite Center, 431 W. Berry St., now the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $50 a person and $1,000 for sponsorship groups. Jeff Harris, communications director for the AFL-CIO, said he expects about 300 people to attend.
A lot of Democrats and progressives will be there to help out with our fundraising efforts, Harris said.
The organized labor federation lined up Sanders as the luncheon speaker by luck, really, Harris said. Union leaders had put out feelers for prospective speakers, Harris said, and Sen. Sanders office responded that he would be willing to come out and was aware of the fights we are having in Indiana.
Harris said those battles have included the right-to-work law that prohibits employment contracts from requiring all represented workers to pay union fees, an erosion of public employees collective bargaining rights and an expansion of charter schools and education vouchers at the expense of public schools.
Sanders was first elected to the Senate in 2006. He was a member of the House from 1991 through 2006 and is a former mayor of Burlington, Vt.
In December 2010, he gave an eight-hour speech on the Senate floor to denounce the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.
Journal Gazette Washington Editor Brian Francisco contributed to this column.