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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 13, 2018 1:00 am

Holcomb's office defends travel with EPA chief Pruitt

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Gov. Eric Holcomb got dragged into the ongoing investigation into the lavish travel habits of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

The New Republic reported last week that in August the Indiana National Guard flew Pruitt, Holcomb and several aides in a Black Hawk helicopter from Indianapolis to the Liberty coal mine in southern Indiana.

Holcomb's office didn't respond to requests for details from the New Republic.

But Holcomb spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson told The Journal Gazette several meetings in different parts of the state were planned for Aug. 2 with Pruitt. Using the Black Hawk, she said, “was the most efficient way to transport the nine total EPA and state officials within the confines of the day's schedule.”

The cost for using the Black Hawk is $3,664 per flight hour, and the trip amounted to about 3.9 hours of total flight time. That means a cost of $14,290 to the state.

Indiana state agencies own several aircraft but none that can hold nine people. Two small planes carry four, and a helicopter seats seven.

Pruitt's Indiana trip was one of several he took last summer, although the trips were kept quiet. The New Republic said this lack of transparency led reporters to uncover expensive first-class flights and pricey hotel stays.

Area voting matches state

Allen County and northeast Indiana pretty much followed statewide voting patterns in the Republican primary election for a U.S. Senate seat.

Jasper businessman Mike Braun won the GOP nomination Tuesday with 41.2 percent of the Indiana vote, according to the secretary of state's office. Braun received 41.1 percent of the Allen County vote and 40.5 percent across nine counties in northeast Indiana.

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita of Brownsburg finished second in the three-way race with 30 percent of the vote. He was more popular in northeast Indiana, receiving 34.5 percent of Republican ballots cast, including 35.7 percent in Allen County.

U.S. Rep. Luke Messer of Greensburg received 28.8 percent statewide, 25 percent in northeast Indiana and 23.2 percent in Allen County.

Braun carried 60 counties, including all of northeast Indiana. Messer won 21 counties, most of them in his east-central and southeast 6th Congressional District. Rokita won 11 counties, most of them in his west-central and northwest 4th District.

Braun received 84 percent of the vote in his home DuBois County, and Messer got 65.8 percent in his home Decatur County. But Braun received 11 more votes than Rokita in Rokita's home Hendricks County.

Braun will challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Nov. 6 general election. Donnelly was unopposed in his party's primary election.

Trump antagonist to speak locally

Retired labor leader Chuck Jones will speak Friday at the Allen County Democratic Party's “Pasta & Politics” program.

Jones is former president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, which represented workers at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis. He has accused President Donald Trump of betraying workers by failing to keep his 2016 pledge to protect jobs at the plant from being sent to Mexico by parent company United Technologies Corp.

Friday's event will be at Bergstaff Place, 2020 E. Washington Blvd. Cocktails will be at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 each or $250 for a table of eight, with sponsorships available. For information, call 478-8239 or go to www.allencountydemocrats.org.

Another Stutzman to Statehouse?

The wife of former northeast Indiana congressman and state lawmaker Marlin Stutzman won the Republican nomination for an Indiana House seat in Tuesday's primary election.

Christy Stutzman received 56 percent of the vote to defeat Kevin Gipson in a race between Middlebury residents in House District 49. Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, did not seek re-election in the Elkhart County district he has represented since 2008. There were no candidates for the Democratic nomination.

School lauded

Fort Wayne City Councilman Glynn Hines on Tuesday congratulated East Allen University on receiving a four-star rating for academic performance.

The school had a 100 percent graduation rate in 2017, and 95 percent of the students passed ISTEP testing, Hines said during Tuesday's City Council meeting. Additionally, Hines said 16 to 18 of this year's seniors will receive an associate degree from Vincennes University and three who graduated two years ago are now graduating with degrees from Indiana Tech.

One of those students was hired by East Allen County Schools in the Information Technology Department.

“It goes to show that East Allen University is working, and it's the most diverse audience I've spoken to in a long time of students,” Hines said. “You look out there and you see the world. I mean, brown, black, white, red, orange, everything. It was just exciting to be a part of that.”

Dave Gong 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 be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.