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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 27, 2018 1:00 am

Secretary of state candidate signs on

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

Jim Harper and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody conducted the official signing Tuesday that sends Harper on his path toward the Indiana secretary of state's race.

Delegates still have to nominate him at the Democratic Party's state convention this summer. If nominated, he would face Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson in the November general election.

Harper outlined his vision for the role, noting his commitment to ending gerrymandering and voter suppression, being a watchful eye over the Statehouse supermajority and increasing the office's small-business division to give Hoosier entrepreneurs the tools needed to navigate state filings.

“I launched this campaign to stand up for voters all across Indiana, visiting dozens of counties, and speaking to countless voters concerned with how things are being done – or not done – and it's clear that our message is sticking,” Harper said. “Voters want to stop being kicked off the rolls and businesses expect more out of the agency they write their contracts with.”

Harper was born and raised in Valparaiso, and after completing his undergraduate degree at Indiana University, studied law at Georgetown University. Upon graduation, he returned to his home state to serve as a clerk of the federal court. He currently practices law in Porter County.

Donnelly herds bills Trump signs

After referring to U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly as “the least effective Democratic lawmaker in the United States Senate,” President Donald Trump signed two bills last week that Donnelly had a big role in crafting and herding.

One would relax federal regulations on community banks and credit unions. The other would give terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Donnelly, D-Ind., worked with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on the right-to-try medical legislation. At a news conference Tuesday, Johnson called Donnelly “my primary co-sponsor” and said he “was the stalwart. This would not have happened without Joe Donnelly.”

Donnelly's office issued a news release Thursday quoting Trump as saying that day “we got it passed and we had some tremendous help from some tremendously talented Senators and Congress people.”

Donnelly's office said the bank regulatory bill he co-sponsored contained several provisions he authored, including measures protecting the credit ratings of military veterans, urging colleges to help students make financial decisions and easing access to consumer financing for manufactured housing.

The enactment of the two bills brought to 21 pieces of legislation Trump has signed that contain provisions authored by Donnelly, according to his office.

During a May 10 campaign rally in Elkhart for Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun, Trump said, “The Center for Effective Lawmaking named Joe Donnelly the least effective Democrat lawmaker in the United States Senate.” 

The Center for Effective Lawmaking, a joint project of the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, compared members of the 2015-16 Congress as to whether their bills were acted on by committees, approved by the House or the Senate and became laws.

Donnelly's score ranked last among the 44 Democratic senators in the 114th Congress. Republicans with scores lower than Donnelly's included Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana and Jeff Sessions of Alabama – now Trump's national intelligence director and attorney general, respectively.

Tritch gains endorsement

Courtney Tritch's congressional campaign announced Tuesday she has been endorsed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Tritch, a Democrat from Fort Wayne, is challenging first-term Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican from Columbia City, in the Nov. 6 election in northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District.

“Courtney's campaign is one of substance and equality,” Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, said in a statement. “We know that she will be a champion for organized labor and everyday working people, and we look forward to collaborating with her when she's in Congress.”

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