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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, March 25, 2018 1:00 am

Racing to the political rescue

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

So what was behind the last-ditch effort to extend the 2018 session by one hour?

Gov. Eric Holcomb gave a play-by-play last week.

With four minutes to midnight, Senate leaders asked him to come up and sign an order they believed could legally put more time on the clock.

“I think there are ... nine steps from the second floor to the third floor. I think I touched four of them,” the governor said of his late-night Statehouse sprint.

When asked whether he thought the attempted maneuver was legal, he deferred by saying, “they did” and “in short, I was trying to help.”

Ultimately, Republican legislative leaders decided against the move.

If only there were video of that daring dash.

Ethics rule waived

The new head of the Indiana Department of Child Services, and six other staffers, recently enjoyed a $1,000 dinner and entertainment under a gift waiver filed by that agency's ethics officer.

Rachel Russell found that Director Terry Stigdon and key staffers could accept a free table to the Hoosier Idol event – an annual fundraiser for Mental Health America of Indiana.

The group is a subcontractor with the state.

But Russell found the mission of Mental Health America of Indiana is “to work for the mental health of all citizens and for victory over mental illness and addictive disorders through public education, advocacy and public health reform. Mental illness affects the population we work with in our agency.”

Gifts from contractors are generally forbidden unless a waiver is filed with the State Ethics Commission.

DCS has been under public scrutiny after its former director resigned and alleged that administration policies pushed by Gov. Eric Holcomb are endangering children. An external review is underway but won't be ready until June.

Banks kicking off

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks will have a campaign kickoff Monday at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne.

Banks seeks a second straight term as the representative for northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District. The resident of Columbia City is unopposed for the Republican nomination in the May 8 primary election. Three residents of Fort Wayne seek the Democratic nomination to challenge him in the Nov. 6 general election.

Banks' campaign event will begin at 5 p.m.

Democrats to dine

The 3rd District Democratic Party will have its 32nd annual dinner April 28 at Eagle Glen in Columbia City.

The party said the dinner will feature congressional candidate Courtney Tritch of Fort Wayne, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Granger, secretary of state candidate Jim Harper of Valparaiso and state Sen. Eddie Melton of Merrillville.

The dinner will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $35 a person. Sponsorships are available. The contact is 3rd District Democratic Chairman Robert Holbrook at 260-350-0026 and

Tritch is among three people seeking the Democratic nomination in northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District.

The district party organization endorsed her candidacy last August.

Donnelly is unopposed in the primary election. Harper is the only announced Democratic candidate for secretary of state; the nominee will be chosen at the Indiana Democratic Party's state convention in June.

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