Political Notebook

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Coffee clash: Right wing assails Coats

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., faced a tough crowd in his “Coffee with Coats” gathering Thursday morning in Fort Wayne – his own political party.

Many in the audience of about 50 people were Republican officeholders, volunteers and supporters.

“I was not trying to turn this into a partisan rally,” Coats joked near the end of the town hall meeting at the Aboite Township trustee’s office and fire department.

But some in the audience seemed to want Coats to tack further to the right – to libertarian and tea-party territory – than he already has. They demanded the elimination of the IRS and the defunding of the Affordable Care Act. They rejected the notion of U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war, even after allegations the Syrian regime used sarin nerve gas on its citizens.

One man said conservatives “are tired of the Republican establishment attacking conservatives like Ted Cruz and Marlin Stutzman, Rand Paul, who are standing up for … the conservative principles of our nation.”

A woman chided Coats for having “a dog-and-pony show.” She said his public meeting should have been in the evening at a larger venue, such as nearby Homestead High School, and with more than a day’s notice.

“I got an earful here today, because I’m getting an earful as I go all over Indiana listening to people, but that’s my job,” Coats told reporters after Thursday’s event.

Earlier, he observed that voters re-elected a Democratic president and Democratic Senate majority in 2012. He said “just about everything Republicans pass in the House is dead on arrival” in the Senate, including the repeal of the federal health care law.

As the caucus turns

So just who will be voting to replace retiring Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven? A group of politically savvy precinct committee men and women who may or may not actually live in House District 85.

But not Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, who lives in and serves another district.

Briefly last week Morris thought he was a caucus member but it was later discovered not to be true.

Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine explained that to run for a four-year precinct committee post a person must reside in the district. But if a vacancy occurs during that term he can appoint any Allen County registered voter who is a Republican.

Shine said there are 76 precincts in the district – of which 67 are filled. He will not fill any vacancies between Pond’s resignation announcement and the caucus as to avoid stacking votes for a specific candidate.

“A lot of good people are seeking this office,” he said. “A caucus is a clear and distinct political animal than a general election.”

Pond is resigning effective Oct. 15 – in the middle of her 18th term.

Ironically, Pond is a precinct committeewoman and can vote in the caucus for her successor. There are a number of other high-profile names on the list, and they are already being lobbied heavily from all sides.

The caucus to fill Pond’s term – which runs through the end of 2014 – is scheduled for Oct. 8 at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters.

The deadline to file to run in the caucus is Oct. 4.

Shine said a ton of people have expressed interest in running in the caucus, and he expects more to materialize.

“Each one has an interesting story on why they want to win the caucus and or the primary that will follow soon after,” he said.

Whoever wins the caucus could have an advantage in the May primary for a new term.

Alone in the house

Gov. Mike Pence and first lady Karen Pence are officially empty-nesters.

They moved their youngest daughter, Audrey, into her college in Boston over Labor Day weekend.

“Did you cry?” a reporter asked.

“That’s classified,” the governor said. “Mrs. Pence and I are now empty-nesters and the people of Indiana have given us a pretty big nest so we’ve got some adjustments.”

The couple’s two other children, son Michael and daughter Charlotte, are also in college.

The Pences live in the 10,500-square-foot governor’s residence that has 23 rooms and 11 bathrooms, along with a separate carriage house for guests.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@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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