Republican milestone a long time in coming
Gov. Mike Pence is earning deserved praise for appointing Dwayne Sawyer as state auditor, the first African-American Republican to fill the post.
It is a worthy accomplishment but also highlights how long it has taken the party to match a Democratic milestone. Pamela Carter was elected attorney general 21 years ago – and she wasn’t the first black elected to statewide office.
Democrat Dwayne Brown defeated a Republican incumbent to be elected clerk of courts in 1990.
The post later became an appointed position.
Democrat Karen Freeman Wilson, now the mayor of Gary, was appointed to fill Jeff Modisett’s term as Indiana attorney general in 2000. She sought election to a full term that year but was defeated by Steve Carter.
Brown’s term did not end well.
He was convicted on seven counts of felony ghost employment for ordering clerk’s office employees to work on his unsuccessful campaigns for attorney general and Congress. He died earlier this year at age 50.
Journalism gets boost in esteem
A new poll from Pew Research Center finds a newfound appreciation for watchdog journalism.
By a margin of more than three to one, survey respondents said they believe journalists’ criticism of public officials keeps leaders from doing things that should not be done.
Most encouraging was the growing share of young people who believe media oversight makes a difference in public officials’ behavior. In 2011, just 56 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 held that view. Two years later, the figure has grown to 75 percent.
The poll found similar views of watchdog journalism among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Not all was encouraging for the media. Sixty-five percent of respondents said the media focus on unimportant stories; 58 percent believe journalists are politically biased; and 75 percent believe the news media are influenced by powerful people and institutions.
College leader bonuses abound
Purdue President Mitch Daniels isn’t the only Indiana higher education leader collecting a bonus this year: Ivy Tech trustees voted this week to award President Tom Snyder a $60,000 bonus.
The bonus reflected an excellent job the college did last year in the face of a whole host of challenges, according to trustee Richard Halderman.
Those challenges included declining enrollment and a shortfall in Corporate College funding.
Snyder earns $300,000 a year. While his base salary has not increased since 2007, the performance funding formula established by the trustees allows him to earn a bonus of as much as $75,000. Last year his bonus was $50,000.
Daniels earned a $58,000 bonus after his first six months at Purdue. Indiana University President Michael McRobbie’s 2012 bonus was $34,138.
Pond’s plans likely to set dominoes to tumbling
Rep. Phyllis Pond has announced her 18th term in the Indiana House will be her last, likely triggering a stampede for her District 85 seat.
Pond, a retired New Haven teacher, has warded off Republican primary challenges in recent years to return to her front-row desk at the Statehouse. Health issues might keep her from finishing her current term, but a wide-open primary would be good for voters. Pond said five or six interested candidates already have contacted her about the seat. Fort Wayne attorney Casey Cox is the only one to announce plans to run.
If Pond steps down early, GOP precinct committeemen will choose her successor in a caucus, positioning the winner to seek election in 2014 as an incumbent. Pond herself was an unsuccessful caucus candidate when Sen. Charles Bud Meeks died in 2004. Then-Rep. Dennis Kruse won the caucus vote and still holds the seat.
Pond’s retirement threatens to leave Allen County with a lone female legislator. Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City, has shared Indianapolis accommodations with Pond during past sessions. Heuer’s District 83 seat includes Aboite Township and the southwest corner of Wayne Township.
Among the largest counties, only St. Joseph County has less gender diversity in its Statehouse delegation, with no female members. Four of the six lawmakers in Vanderburgh County are female. Marion County has nine female legislators and Lake County is represented by five women.