Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 03, 2018 1:00 am

Trump thanks Donnelly on right-to-try

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is bound to get good campaign mileage from legislation he helped drive to enactment.

Donnelly was the lead co-sponsor of what has been called the right-to-try bill. It will allow terminally ill patients to use medical treatments that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Ever since President Donald Trump called Donnelly “the least effective Democratic lawmaker in the United States Senate” and “Sleepin' Joe” at a May 10 rally in Elkhart, Donnelly's staff and campaign have been touting his role in crafting bills that have reached Trump's desk for his signature.

And when Trump enacted the right-to-try bill Wednesday at the White House, Donnelly was in attendance.

After praising Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the sponsor of the bill, Trump said to an off-camera Donnelly: “I also want to thank Senator Donnelly. Senator Donnelly, thank you very much. That's really great. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.”

Donnelly said later in a statement, “I was proud to join President Trump at the White House, as he signed my Right to Try bill into law.”

Political Notebook is betting that video from the bill signing will turn up in a Donnelly campaign ad. He is being challenged in the general election by Republican Mike Braun, a Trump loyalist, in a state Trump carried by 19 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election.

Polling company Morning Consult reports that Trump was approved by 51 percent of registered voters in Indiana in April and disapproved by 45 percent. For the year's first quarter, Donnelly was approved by 42 percent of Hoosier voters and disapproved by 32 percent, with 26 percent undecided, according to Morning Consult.

State Republicans set for convention

Indiana Republicans are heading to Evansville for the 2018 Indiana Republican State Convention that starts Friday.

“As a party that nominates and elects skilled, experienced leaders in all parts of our state, we're excited to bring Hoosier Republicans together in Evansville for our biennial convention,” said Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer. “This year's convention will be history-making – going on the road outside the state's capital for just the second time in Hoosier history, and nominating an all-female statewide ticket for the second time as well.”

Well, if it's already happened before, it's not really historic, but we digress.

The convention hit Fort Wayne in 2014, and the delegates were wowed by Parkview Field and a concert by Kenny Loggins.

The 2018 convention Friday and Saturday will feature keynote remarks from Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and speeches from Indiana's top Republican elected officials and candidates.

The event will kick off with the #INDGOP18 Friday Night Party featuring the Hunter Smith Band. Hunter Smith is a former Indianapolis Colts punter.

Convention delegates will formally approve the party's 2018 platform and nominate the party's 2018 statewide candidates, Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and Auditor Tera Klutz.

They will be on the November ballot.

Breakfast event big for Banks

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks said Thursday his re-election campaign breakfast in Fort Wayne that morning featuring House Speaker Paul Ryan was “the most successful fundraiser that we've ever had in the district.”

Banks, R-3rd, said the breakfast at Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Center raised at least $50,000 from about 60 people who attended.

“We're seeing growing support as Republicans in the 3rd District see what's at stake” in the general election, “and this morning was a testament to that,” he said in an interview.

Banks, who was elected to Congress in 2016, is being challenged in the Nov. 6 election by Democrat Courtney Tritch. As of April 18, Banks had nearly $423,000 in campaign cash on hand and Tritch had nearly $204,000, according to campaign finance reports they filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Thursday's fundraiser was closed to news media. Banks said that Ryan, R-Wis., talked about recent legislative accomplishments of the Republican-controlled Congress, including income tax cuts, increased military spending and expanded access to private health care providers for military veterans who are patients of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Libertarian Party names candidates

The Indiana Libertarian Party recently had a state convention to select candidates for the Nov. 6 general election.

The party announced last week it nominated Lucy Brenton of Indianapolis for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly. In 2016, Brenton, a finance professional, received 5.4 percent of the vote in the election for the state's other Senate seat, which was won by Republican Todd Young.

Libertarians nominated just one candidate for Indiana's nine seats in the U.S. House: Tom Ferkinhoff in east-central and southeastern Indiana's 6th District, an open seat being vacated by Rep. Luke Messer, who sought the Republican Senate nomination won by Mike Braun in the May 8 GOP primary election.

Libertarians nominated Mark Rutherford of Carmel for Indiana secretary of state and John Schick of Chesterton for state auditor. Schick ran for auditor in 2014, receiving 4.4 percent of the vote.

The party chose candidates for nine seats in the Indiana House and one seat in the state Senate. None of those seats is in northeast Indiana.

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