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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, February 18, 2018 1:00 am

Henry finds time to joke about parking

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

People say a lot of things about Mayor Tom Henry.

For example, City Clerk Lana Keesling last week called him a bully for what she described as retaliation against her after his city-owned car received a parking ticket.

But what you can't say about Henry is that he doesn't have a sense of humor.

On Thursday, when about two dozen people gathered inside a cold, dilapidated building for the kick off to construction on The Landing, Henry made brief remarks following those by developers Steve Smith and Bobby Maly of the Model Group.

After the developers shared their vision for the project and talked about square footage and other details, Henry said they'd covered the highlights.

“There's really not much left to talk about,” he said, “except, maybe, parking. And I'm not going there!”

The group laughed. Henry grinned. And TV cameras rolled.

Voting with Trump

The re-election campaign for Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is promoting the fact that his vote supported the position of Republican President Donald Trump 62 percent of the time last year, the third-highest rate among Senate Democrats.

Donnelly's campaign issued a news release Tuesday linking to a study published that day by Congressional Quarterly, a Capitol Hill news organization. Among Democrats, only Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, at 71 percent, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, at 67 percent, voted more often with Trump's stated agenda than did Donnelly.

“Joe understands that Hoosier common sense means putting aside partisan differences and working with anyone who has a good idea for Indiana, and today's CQ study is another reminder of that,” Peter Hanscom, Donnelly's campaign manager, said in the release.

The three candidates for the Republican nomination to challenge Donnelly in this year's general election – Mike Braun and U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita – have tried to align themselves with Trump, who carried Indiana by 19 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election.

On Wednesday, Messer's campaign called Donnelly's 62 percent support of Trump positions “a nearly failing grade” and noted that FiveThirtyEight, a data analysis website, reports that Donnelly has voted with Trump positions 54 percent of the time through Feb. 9. Messer's vote has aligned with Trump's position 92.4 percent of the time, according to the website.

Siding with Trump might be a risky tactic for Hoosier candidates from either party. According to Morning Consult polling results released last week, 48 percent of registered voters in Indiana approved of Trump in January, while 47 percent disapproved.

The survey had a margin of error of 1 percent. Trump's net approval rating in Indiana – the difference between his approval and disapproval percentages – has been 2 points or less in five of the past six months in Morning Consult polls.

Sign-up shortfalls

Half of the announced Republican candidates for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana did not appear to come close to gathering enough registered voter signatures to qualify for the Indiana election ballot.

State law required Senate hopefuls to obtain the signatures of at least 500 certified registered voters in each of Indiana's nine congressional districts ahead of the Feb. 9 candidate filing deadline.

Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt, New Albany college administrator Andrew Takami and Owen County resident Andrew Horning, who works for a medical products company, all fell short, according to data from the Indiana secretary of state. Hurt appeared to miss the 500-signature threshold in three congressional districts, Takami in seven districts and Horning in all nine districts.

State election officials cautioned that its data represented a minimum number of signatures and would not have included any county-certified signatures that did not show up in the statewide voter registration system. It's no doubt a moot point as Takami was hundreds of signatures shy of the minimum in some districts, Horning had as few as 10 signatures in one district, and Hurt acknowledged coming up short in one district and missing a signatures delivery deadline in another.

U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita and Jasper business owner Mike Braun, all Republicans, met the threshold to qualify for the Republican Party primary election ballot, and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly qualified for the Democratic Party ballot.

However, the South Bend Tribune reported last week that the St. Joseph County Election Board has asked county and state law enforcement officials to investigate Braun's ballot petitions after the bipartisan board said it found signatures from people who were not registered voters, were registered at addresses other than those listed on petitions and whose signatures did not match those in the statewide voter registration system. The board also reportedly found that multiple entries appeared to have been written by the same person.

Braun's campaign accused Democrats of “launching politically motivated attacks” against Braun, the Tribune reported.

Democrats focus on grass roots

The Indiana House and Senate Democratic campaign committees announced record off-year candidate recruitment numbers after last week's filing deadline. In both Democratic General Assembly legislative caucuses, more total candidates are filed than at this point in 2016 and 2014.

Both caucuses also have more millennial, first-time, and women candidates than the last off-year cycle in 2014.

“A construction worker. A vocational and tech educator. Working moms. Our candidates are real people who live the issues facing Hoosier families every day,” said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody. “It's energizing to see Hoosiers who reflect their communities stepping up to run. They're sick and tired of politics as usual and are ready to roll up their sleeves and make a difference. Hoosier Democrats fight for the future, for working families and for fairness. Our 2018 Statehouse candidate class embodies those principles.”

Both caucuses intend to contest every seat in 2018 and will fill any ballot vacancies via caucuses prior to the June deadline. The Indiana Democratic Party looks forward to re-electing incumbent members.

Banks to host 2 town halls

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks will have town hall meetings Thursday in Bluffton and Montpelier.

Banks, R-3rd, will appear at the public sessions from 1 to 2 p.m. at Montpelier Civic Center, 339 S. Main St., and from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Wells County Arts, Commerce & Visitors Center, 211 Water St., Bluffton.

The House is in recess this week.

Sherry Slater and David Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook, email Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at notebook.