The Journal Gazette
Sunday, December 22, 2019 1:00 am

Hill challenger having trouble gaining ground

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Central Indiana attorney John Westercamp hopes to get the nod instead of Attorney General Curtis Hill at the Republican Party's state convention next year. But his campaign has struggled to gain traction.

Westercamp's first finance report filed in July showed he had raised $55,000. But the Zionsville resident hasn't had a single large donation – $1,000 or more – to report since.

That's perhaps why some Republicans are whispering about finding another candidate to challenge Hill, who is saddled with scandal over allegedly groping women at an Indianapolis bar and questions about his spending while in office.

Westercamp says he has visited all 92 counties and received more than 120 public endorsements from Republicans including from state legislators, county party officials and local government officials. The list includes Rex Early, former chairman of the state GOP and President Donald Trump's Indiana campaign. In addition, he has received endorsements from several Steuben County Republicans and state Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting all of Indiana's 92 counties this year and am about a third of the way through visiting all the counties a second time. I am looking forward to visiting them all again on the campaign next year,” Westercamp said. “I am honored to continue to gain the support of conservative grassroots Republicans around the state.”

Council farewells

Twenty-five years ago, City Councilman John Crawford and Joe Bonahoom, the council's attorney, both campaigned for an at-large council position, Bonahoom said in a rare public comment Tuesday.

Bonahoom has been the council's attorney for 24 years, 20 of them while Crawford has been a council member. At a council meeting on Tuesday, Bonahoom described their work together as a learning experience and “one of the highlights of my legal career.”

Crawford, R-at large, and first-term Councilman Michael Barranda, R-at large, will leave office Jan. 1. Crawford did not seek re-election, instead running unsuccessfully for the GOP mayoral nomination, and Barranda lost his seat in the general election.

Bonahoom was joined by council members in thanking Barranda and Crawford for their service.

“You did it right,” Bonahoom told Crawford. “We didn't always agree, but you did it right.” 

Bonahoom said he had seen Crawford and longtime Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, “go toe-to-toe on issues. Yet today you sit here as friends and respected colleagues, and I think maybe in response to something that came out in the campaign, I think that Fort Wayne was fortunate. You've been a shining light for 20 years with your service to this community.”

Crawford described his tenure as “a heck of a party. This is a hard job, but it's very rewarding.”

Crawford has cast some controversial votes in his time: the ban on smoking in public places, funding for Parkview Field and tax increases. He said he's never regretted his work.

“These tough votes, along with the good work done by this council and the previous council, and we've had good mayors, those tough votes are the reason Fort Wayne is a much better and a stronger city than it was 20 years ago,” Crawford said. “For future council members coming in, you will regret it far more if you don't vote for what you think is right and vote in political ways.”

Crawford concluded his remarks with a quote from former President Ronald Reagan: “I think the result has been not bad, not bad at all.”

“I've enjoyed every minute with all of you, and who knows, I might be back,” Crawford said.

In his remarks, Barranda applauded fellow City Council members.

“It's hard, but it's also a privilege to have served, not only to have served constituents but to serve alongside my colleagues here,” Barranda said. “It's been said over and over again, we disagree, but we disagree respectfully, and we respect the work each other does.”

Barranda thanked Crawford for his service.

“He's set a great example, I know, for myself, even though we've disagreed on several issues as well,” he said. “I think that's what we respect out of each other is that even from an intellectual standpoint you can disagree with someone and still respect where they're coming from.”

Trustee reappointed

Gov. Eric Holcomb recently announced several appointments and reappointments to various state boards and commissions.

Fort Wayne resident Matt Momper will return to the Ball State University Board of Trustees. The president of Momper Insulation will serve on the Ball State board until the end of 2023.

Swearing-in set

Auburn's new mayor will be sworn in Dec. 31.

Michael D. Ley, a Republican, defeated Democrat Sarah Payne in the Nov. 5 general election. Ley, 62, and other Auburn city officials will be sworn in at 1 p.m. on the third floor of the DeKalb County Courthouse. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony at Auburn City Steakhouse.

Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily