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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, July 15, 2018 1:00 am

Donnelly trails Braun in latest poll

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly trails Republican challenger Mike Braun in their battle for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana, according to poll results released this week by Axios and SurveyMonkey.

Braun is preferred by 49 percent of registered voters and Donnelly by 47 percent in polling conducted from June 11 to July 2.

Donnelly has gained ground, however. In an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll conducted in February and March, 51 percent of voters favored a generic Republican candidate and 45 percent preferred Donnelly. The GOP nominated Braun in the May primary election.

In the earlier survey, five Democratic senators were running behind. The latest poll has three behind: Donnelly and Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

But four months from the general election, “It's looking nearly impossible for Democrats to take back the Senate,” Axios' Alexi McCammond wrote.

Republicans have a 51-49 edge in the chamber. Democratic incumbents must retain all 10 of their seats in states carried by President Donald Trump in 2016 and pick up two more seats to grab the majority, McCammond wrote.

“That's not happening,” she wrote, even though Democratic candidates are leading in polls for races in Arizona and Nevada.

Meanwhile, Hoosiers are about to see a barrage of TV ads urging Donnelly to support or oppose federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

National news media reported last week that four conservative groups – Americans for Prosperity, Great America PAC, Great America Alliance and Judicial Crisis Network – will combine to spend more than $7 million on advertising to put pressure on certain Democratic senators, including Donnelly, to vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh.

Three progressive groups – Demand Justice, Naral Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Federation of America – reportedly will spend a combined $5 million on ads that urge Donnelly and other select Democrats, plus moderate Republican senators, to vote against Kavanaugh.

Senate Republican leaders have said they expect to hold a vote on Kavanaugh in September.

City rated well-run

Fort Wayne is the 18th best-run city in the United States, according to a new study by finance website WalletHub.

The ranking is from a comparison of 150 of the country's largest cities. To determine the ranking, the website created a “Quality of City Services” score and looked at 35 factors across six categories. That score was then measured against the city's per-capita budget.

Fort Wayne performed better than Indianapolis in WalletHub's analysis; the Indiana capital placed 85th in the overall ranking.

Fort Wayne ranked 13th in per-capita budget, 25th in financial stability, 27th in education, 48th in safety, 53rd in economy, 123rd in health and 139th in infrastructure and pollution.

The top-ranking cities, in order, were Nampa, Idaho; Provo, Utah; and Boise, Idaho. The lowest-ranking cities, in order, were Washington, Detroit and New York.

Democrats' recruits

Indiana Democrats are praising a record number of Hoosier Democratic women, millennials and first-time candidates running for seats in the General Assembly this year.

Nearly half of the Democrats running for the Indiana House of Representatives are women. Almost 90 percent of the 125 legislative races on the ballot are filled, the second highest percentage this decade.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody pointed to the recruitment class as another indication of new energy in the party.

“We're building the bench and expanding the battleground,” he said. “A construction worker. An educator. Working moms. Our candidates reflect the communities they are seeking to represent. Some will win and some will run again, but there's no doubt we're restocking and setting up for future gains. We're witnessing the next generation of Hoosier Democrats stepping up.”

The news comes after a year of efforts by the Indiana Democratic Party to channel grass-roots energy into action.

In 2017, the party held more than two dozen training sessions and events across the state and trained 1,500 new volunteers. More than 300 Hoosier Democrats took part in a pair of candidate sessions in late December and January. Zody confirmed Democrats intend to rely on grass-roots organizing and a commonsense economic message this year.

“The cost of living keeps rising and Hoosiers' incomes just haven't kept up,” Zody said. “The cost of child care can dwarf Hoosiers' monthly mortgage payment. Statehouse Republicans are out-of-touch and unable to grasp the issues that matter to working families. Hoosiers expect more.”

Journal Gazette writer Dave Gong contributed to this report.

To reach Political Notebook, email 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.