The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 21, 2018 1:00 am

Democrats start women's effort

Goal is to prepare female candidates

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Democratic women banded together last week to create Hoosier Women Forward – a nonprofit aimed at preparing and propelling women within the party into leadership roles across the state.

Some of the issues driving the founders are the paltry number of women serving in the Indiana legislature, the rise in awareness of sexual harassment and assault and the push for equal pay.

Hoosier Women Forward is a Democratic version of the Lugar Series, a longtime Republican political leadership program designed to fast-track women into elected and appointed positions at local, state and federal government levels.

The new group was unveiled during a news conference at the Statehouse. Representing the board of directors were Cummins Inc. Vice President Marya Rose, State Rep. Terri Austin, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, community activist Elise Shrock and attorney and board chair Liane Hulka.

“We want to harness the energy and talent that's out there, all across Indiana, and create a powerful, diverse network of engaged Democratic women,” Hulka said. “Too often, women feel like their voices aren't valued, whether it's in the workplace or when the male-dominated Indiana General Assembly is deliberating women's issues.

“You can look no further than the #metoo movement to see how powerful our voices can be for change. We want to take that energy and those voices and equip women with the tools they need to excel in leadership positions.”

Hoosier Women Forward will select a group of 20 to 25 outstanding Democratic women each year through a competitive application process to participate in a nine-month leadership program. Applications for the inaugural class will be available in May and participants will be announced in August.

Although women represent more than 50 percent of the voting public in Indiana, only two of the state's 11-member congressional delegation are women. And neither are Democrats. Women comprise just 20 percent of the 150 seats in the Indiana legislature.

“Every level of government needs more women at the top,” Freeman-Wilson said. “From party leaders and campaign managers to school board members and county commissioners, I'm hopeful that this will have an impact on local elections for many years to come.”

Holcomb tops past fundraising

Gov. Eric Holcomb closed 2017 with $1.71 million in cash on hand, according to new campaign finance filings.

The Holcomb for Indiana campaign says the amount sets a record for funds in the bank for a gubernatorial campaign at the end of a governor's first year in office.

“Following an unprecedented 106-day campaign, Gov. Eric Holcomb rolled up his sleeves and got to work for Hoosiers, laying down five big-picture priorities that tackle the biggest challenges facing Indiana now and into the future,” said Indiana Republican Party Chairman and Holcomb for Indiana Treasurer Kyle Hupfer.

In 2005, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels' cash-on-hand was $1.39 million.

Former Gov. Mike Pence's cash-on-hand in 2013 was $1.36 million.

The report was filed Wednesday.

Most of his cash comes from the Team Holcomb PAC – a joint fundraising political action committee for the Indiana Republican State Committee and Holcomb for Indiana. That PAC has filed but it was not yet available online.

Roberson to run for Congress again

John F. Roberson of Fort Wayne is running for Congress for the third time.

Roberson, a former police officer and retired truck driver, filed his candidacy Tuesday for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House seat representing northeast Indiana. He finished last among six candidates in the Democratic primary election in 2012 and last among three candidates in the 2016 primary. He also tried to run for the Democratic nomination for Fort Wayne mayor in 2015 but was disqualified for having voted in the previous year's Republican primary election.

Indiana's 3rd Congressional District is represented by first-term Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Columbia City.

In the 2nd Congressional district, which includes parts of Kosciusko County, Mel Hall and Roland Leech filed for the Democratic nomination for the seat held since 2013 by Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski. 

Also, northwest Indiana lawyer Jim Harper announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Indiana secretary of state last week.

“It is time for a new generation of leadership in state government,” he said. “All too often, our state government has sided with those at the very top at the expense of ordinary Hoosiers. I'm running for Secretary of State because we desperately need a fresh perspective at the state house. Our Secretary of State must set party politics aside and focus on improving the lives of all Hoosiers.”

The secretary of state is Indiana's chief elections officer.

Harper lives in Valparaiso and received his law degree from Georgetown University.

More filings for Statehouse

Several more incumbents filed paperwork last week to seek re-election to their state legislative seats. They include:

• Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, seeks a second term in Senate District 15.

• Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Warsaw, is running for his 16th term in House District 18. In 2016 he said that would be his last term. But he said Friday a number of colleagues came to him and asked him to say.

“They said 'you don't say much but we like what you do' and my wife also has supported me to continue,” he said. “It wasn't a groundswell of support but it was kind of humbling.”

• Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, seeks re-election in House District 79. He is the House Republican Floor Leader.

• Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, is running for his fifth term in House District 84.

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

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required