Friday, May 29, 2015

Pelath Passes on Governor Run in 2016

Pelath at work in the Indiana House
Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said he’s going to pass on running for Governor in 2016 leaving Democrats with two confirmed candidates and one possible choice for the Indiana’s highest executive office.

The Michigan City Democrat said essentially that getting into the race would further divide the party at a time when that would not be helpful to its hopes of beating Mike Pence in 2016.

Seven years ago, the party did experience a bitter primary. Millionaire architect Jim Schellinger was the choice of many of the party’s insiders, but he lost to former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson. A poor campaign and a lack of funding sent Long Thompson to a crushing defeat at the hands of incumbent Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Schellinger did publicly come out in lukewarm support of Long Thompson, but the camps of each candidate never seemed to come together.

In 2012, neither Mike Pence nor John Gregg had much in the way of challengers in the primary. Libertarian Rupert Boneham joined the race, and it was seen pretty much as Pence’s race to lose from there on out. He had an 18-point lead in some polls just weeks before Election Day.

A strong close from Gregg and strong performances in the debates by the former House Speaker left the margin just a little bit over three percentage points when the votes were finally counted.

Pelath said he’d like to see Karen Tallian, John Gregg, and Glenda Ritz, if she runs, come together and get behind one nominee heading into 2016. Pence may or may not have the luxury of an unchallenged primary. Former Angie’s List CEO Bill Osterle is said to be thinking about a run, and Bob Thomas, a Fort Wayne car dealer, says he might give it a go. Contested primaries mean using resources that some candidates would rather see used in November. Of course, some voters like choices.

I'm disappointed Pelath isn't running, frankly.  I am glad he's staying in the Indiana House.  He's done a tremendous job as minority leader.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ritz To Announce Governor Ambitions in June

Glenda Ritz
Glenda Ritz is considering a run for Governor. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction will allegedly announce sometime in June her future plans. Indy Democrat is hearing that it's going to be We already know she is running for reelection for Superintendent of Public Instruction. She announced that at Ben Davis High School back in November. If she does seek the state’s highest office, she has one person and one group to thank for it: Mike Pence and Indiana’s GOP.

Because they have stripped away so much of Ritz’s power, the only Democrat in state executive elective office can play the victim as she considers a run for the state's highest office.  It's a strategy that just might play out as effective if she does things right.  In 2012, she did almost everything perfectly during the campaign.

To begin with, Tony Bennett was not a popular candidate.  Ritz knew that.  While he wasn't popular, he was extremely well-connected and well-funded within the school reform world.  Knowing that she couldn't compete head-to-head in a traditional campaign, Ritz utilized social media and the strength of teachers loyalty to propel herself ahead of Bennett.

If she ends up against Mike Pence, Ritz could certainly use these tactics to her advantage again.  It's getting to the general election that's going to be her big step.

In the primary, Ritz has to convince statewide Democrats that she can do the job of Governor and do it better than Karen Tallian and John Gregg.  Both Tallian and Gregg have legislative governmental experience, but Ritz's entry adds a new wrinkle to the entire race.

Personally, I'd like to see Ritz run again for Superintendent of Public Instruction, but there's no question that the Governor has become the most important office when it comes to education in Indiana since Mike Pence has been in the office.  That means maybe an educator can do a lot more good in the Governor's seat than a politician.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lame Duck Ballard: Lamest of Lame Ducks

Mayor Greg Ballard
It’s almost June, and my friend Amos Brown brings up a good point in his Indianapolis Recorder weekly column: When is Mayor Greg Ballard planning to do his State of the City address for 2015?

Usually, the SOTC would have happened early in the year…typically in late January or February. The fact is that the Mayor doesn’t have much to celebrate, and, while the city is not on fire, it has not been a good run for the Chief Executive of Indianapolis and Marion County.

As Brown points out, the Mayor keeps trying to regenerate his Justice Center plans over the bipartisan concerns of the Council. At this point, the Justice Center, as planned by the Ballard Administration, is a zombie at best roaming aimlessly around the City-County Building just looking for support. It’s gotten so desperate that Mike McQuillen, the Republican leader on the Council, begged union workers to contact the Councillors.

Brown mentions the failings of the development that wiped out one of the two big parking lots adjacent to the City-County Building, 360 Market Square. Brown points out an Indy Star article detailing the failings of this project so far and the concerns that cost overruns could end up costing taxpayers more than they were told or bargained for.

Then, there’s the mess over the Freedom Fleet agreement, the Mayor’s pet project to replace gas-powered cars with electric ones. Admitted “sloppy legal work” by the Mayor’s Office could mean that the entire deal is illegal and detoured proper public process. Brown again points out the bi-partisan concerns over this issue.

Brown criticized the Mayor’s “Your Life Matters” program for its slow start saying the Mayor isn’t personally invested enough in the project to make it work. In fact, it sounds like Joe Hogsett may be more invested in the plan than Ballard is announcing a teen jobs program a couple of weeks ago that fits right in with the goals of this program.
On Ballard’s reputation, Brown writes:

It’s amazing. Outside Indianapolis, Ballard has created this aura and image of a Republican big city mayor who gets things done.
But, of America’s 20 largest cities, only San Diego, Indianapolis and Ft. Worth are headed by Republicans. 
Ballard’s been the beneficiary of municipal affirmative action. Because there are so few Republican big city mayors, national media and civic groups tend to provide them outsized publicity. The sort given to endangered species.

Go and read Brown’s full piece. It’s deserving of your attention.

Ballard is losing what little grasp he had on city government, and you wonder if he even cares at this point. His flippant answers to reporters asking legitimate questions make you wonder if his heart even remains in the job. He’s becoming the lamest of the lame ducks having even lost control of his own Council caucus.

He seems to be thinking, like all of us are, January can’t get here soon enough.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fighting Same Sex Marriage Cost Hoosier Taxpayers

Indiana's crusade to keep same-sex couples from the right to marry cost its taxpayers $1.4 million.

That's what the Indianapolis Star says the state has paid out in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs in a handful of cases.  That total doesn't include the amount the state paid to its own attorneys and to construct its own unsuccessful case.

Greg Zoeller insists it was his duty to defend the state in court, but other attorneys general in other states have decided not to fight what has become clear in light of the Supreme Court decision to federally recognize same-sex marriages.

The largest settlement, according to the Star, went to Amy Sandler and the late Niki Quasney whose fight for recognition of their marriage in Indiana became a race against time.  For the last few months of her life, Quasney finally saw her relationship recognized as a marriage in Indiana before she succumbed to cancer in February.

Mark this down with the growing amount of money wasted by the Republican regime in Indiana fighting against LGBT Hoosiers.  At least those $1.4 million went back to the community and those that defended it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

It's Memorial Day

Thanks to all who serve and who have served and have sacrificed. We honor all of you today.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hogsett Lapping Brewer in Mayor's Race

Hogsett Making Phone Calls
Photo from Joe Hogsett for Mayor on Facebook
Not much of a race of Mayor so far, is there?

This “race” is starting to resemble the 1984 Indianapolis 500 where Rick Mears lapped the entire field and won by two laps.

In the “Yellow Submarine” Pennzoil Z-7 Penske March is Joe Hogsett. He’s driving a great race so far just like Mears did that year. He’s barely put a wheel in the wrong spot.

Struggling to keep up is Chuck Brewer. It was going to be a long haul for the businessman and restaurant owner anyway, but Hogsett has already announced two major policy initiatives.

Brewer is stuck in neutral. Hogsett could have his car in neutral, too, but he knows that won’t win an election going away. He wants to put some margin between himself and Brewer.

He’s doing it. His jobs initiative for teens represents a public/private partnership that promises to really make a difference in crime in this city. Now he’s introduced a package of government ethics reforms that will prevent the kind of corruption he prosecuted when he was U.S. Attorney. Hogsett’s rolling things out and showing that he’s ready to lead Indianapolis. Brewer is…stuck in the garage.

There’s a long way to go and many laps to run in this Mayor’s Race before it can be called, but it’s clear that Joe Hogsett is running away with this one and is well on his way to crossing the yard of bricks before Chuck Brewer even gets off Gasoline Alley.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hogsett Proposes Sweeping Changes in Operation of Mayor's Office

Joe Hogsett
Joe Hogsett, coming off his overwhelming Primary victory, announced sweeping changes that would change the way the Mayor of Indianapolis does business.

Here is the news release from his campaign.

INDIANAPOLIS – Former federal prosecutor Joe Hogsett announced today a comprehensive plan that would toughen the Indianapolis city ethics code and provide for an unprecedented level of transparency in local government. The plan focuses on promoting honesty and integrity among all local government officials, and echoes guiding principles that Hogsett focused on during his four years as the United States Attorney. 
“As federal prosecutor, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent a message to those in government that it doesn’t matter who you are, or what party you belong to – if you betray the public trust, you deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Hogsett. “As mayor, I would apply that same attitude to every level of city government, from the top to the bottom.” 
Today’s announcement comes three months after the conviction of two former city officials as a result of the Indy Land Bank prosecution that was launched by Hogsett’s office in July 2013. During his four years in office, Hogsett also oversaw the investigation and prosecution of two Indianapolis City-County Councilors – one a Democrat, and one a Republican – as well as more than a dozen other public officials across the state. These efforts led to Hogsett being awarded the “Mr. Clean” award by the local watchdog group Common Cause. 
The Hogsett ethics plan includes: renouncing mayoral perks and complimentary club memberships; complete transparency in out-of-state and overseas travel; restoring the two-term limit for Indianapolis Mayor; a top-to-bottom review of city spending and operations; tightening loopholes in the current City-County ethics code; regulating lobbyist influence; as well as the introduction of increased competition among professional service providers. 
Joe Hogsett served for four years as United States Attorney, where he accumulated a notable crime-fighting record. Under Hogsett, the U.S. Attorney’s Office broke all-time records for the number of defendants charged, the number of criminal convictions obtained, and led the nation in the average length of sentences imposed. The office also reduced total spending every year of Hogsett’s tenure.
It's a pretty impressive proposal, and it should make those that have been calling for transparency happy.  Now that he's proposed the rules, he has to get them passed and has to live by them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Indy 500 Brings Out the Kid in Me

I Had One Just Like It...Only Smaller
As a child, I was bitten by the bug of auto racing.

Blame my grandmother.  She worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gift shop, and she would always bring me the coolest t-shirts and toys.  My entire room was decorated in auto racing.  I had curtains with race cars on them.  I had crossed checkered flags on my wall, and I had a ceramic Bobby Unser and Rick Mears cars racing for the win on the wall.

One of my earliest toys that I can remember was a van with a trailer and on that trailer was A.J. Foyt, Jr.'s number 14 Gilmore-Copenhagen Coyote.  It came with a figure of A.J. himself along with his father, A.J. senior.  I played with that car until the wheels fell off.  I also had a big plastic yellow Pennzoil car with Johnny Rutherford's name on it.  I remember when Rick Mears started driving the Pennzoil car, so I marked out Rutherford's name and added Mears' name.

This was always the month.

The month of May in Indy was my favorite time of year.  For some kids, it was Christmas they pined for.  For me, it was sitting in front of my radio and listening to the Indianapolis 500.

I could identify all the cars.  I could identify all the sponsors.  I would voraciously read anything that had to do with the Indy 500.  In short, the Indianapolis 500 is a big part of my life and has always been like another family member to me.

As sure as I'm sitting here, I believe IMS is a living, breathing animal. You have to treat it with the utmost respect.  As we've seen this week alone, it has no favorites.  It will crush a driver's dreams as quickly as it will reward them.  How else can you explain that Rick Mears led 429 laps at Indy and won four 500's, but Michael Andretti led 431 and never won one?  Fairness means nothing to the racing gods at Indianapolis.  It's one of the only races where you can become immortal for how you LOST the race.

I even had the chance to work there for a few years and be a part of the events.  You really appreciate what it takes to put on that big event every year when you work for the Hulman-George Family.  It was a 2:30 a.m. wakeup call on Race Day that found me at my post by 4:00 a.m. slinging hot dogs and working with our team.  My mom was the concessions stand manager and I was her assistant.  We had to be a team.  Each person had his or her role, and if one broke down then the line would get out of hand.  "Just don't look up," my mom would say.  "We have to serve them all."

I anxiously await this upcoming Sunday each year.  With a kid-like glee, I'll turn on my radio on Race Day and get ready to listen once again to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  Later in the day, I'll watch the rebroadcast knowing full and well who won the race earlier in the day.  The Indy 500 is one of the big reasons I got into radio.  I still dream one day of being a turn announcer.

I dream someday of getting rich and buying an IndyCar team.  Well, get to ad clicking.  I'm going to need a lot of help.

Maybe it will happen...maybe it won't.  At 39, you still have to have dreams.

So many things have changed in my life.  My mom and dad are now both gone.  My grandma has long since passed.  I have no idea what happened to that plastic Pennzoil car, and A.J. Foyt is now 80 years old.  One constant...on Sunday (weather permitting) the green flag will drop on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

It will be race day yet again in Indianapolis, and it will continue each year long after I'm gone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pence to Announce Reelection Bid on June 18

From badly kept secret department, Governor Mike Pence will announce he's running for reelection on June 18 at the annual Indiana Republican Party Dinner.

It  doesn't look like the good Governor is going to have it his way and his way only.  It sounds like he might have a primary opponent on his hands in Fort Wayne businessman Bob Thomas.  Angie's List CEO Bill Osterle also is rumored to perhaps be thinking of running.

Two opponents is probably good news for Pence.  That would have to favor the incumbent.  It's certainly good for the Democrats in the far Karen Tallian and John Gregg.

We'll see who else decides to jump in the race in the next few weeks.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hill Appears Ready to Announce US Senate Bid for 2016

Expect an announcement by Baron Hill that he's running for Senate in 2016.  

Former Congressman Baron Hill
The former U.S. Representative has been making phone calls to key constituency groups and has also tipped off enough people in the know that he's running to go ahead and put him in the race.  Hill is not a bad candidate by any stretch of the imagination, but he has his negatives.

For one, voters in Indiana's 9th Congressional District defeated him in 2010.  He lost by a tick under 10 percentage points to Republican Todd Young.  The 2010 election cycle was not kind to Democrats, so it's easy for Hill to pivot away from that one.

Hill has also been largely away from the political scene since he left office in early 2011.  He may have to work on his name recognition.  This move will lift his profile right back into the center of the ring.  

Hill's conservative leanings won't endear him to the liberal wing of the Indiana Democratic Party, either.  That, however, makes him strangely electable.

In many ways, Hill fits right in with the stereotypical statewide Democratic candidate that we've seen over the past few election cycles.  He's conservative for a Democrat, but he's not as far right as some.  For example, he has some pro-life positions but also some pro-choice positions.  He could be described as pro-LGBT in some ways and anti-LGBT in others if you examine his voting record.  In essence, he's in the middle.

One of his strongest aspects is how he runs a campaign.  He is a great and tireless campaigner.  Famously, when he ran for Senate against Dan Coats in 1990 and famously walked the entire state.  He lost by eight points in that midterm.  

For Hill to maximize his support, he will have to be clear about his views and modernize them where necessary.  Politics has changed in the last four plus years that he's been out of the game, and he would be wise to see it.  

Hill could also be helped by a messy Republican Primary, and it looks like he will get it with Eric Holcomb playing more to the center of the R's and Congressman Marlin Stutzman will play to the far right.

Democrats could also get competition if Christina Hale steps in.  The State Representative has not ruled out a run and neither has former Senator Evan Bayh.