Monday, March 1, 2010

McKenna vs. Osili: The Democratic Secretary of State Race

While the nominees for Auditor of State (Sam Locke) and Treasurer of State (Peter Buttigieg) seem to be decided on the Democratic side, the Secretary of State race is wide open.

The seat is open as the term limited Todd Rokita moves on and enters a crowded Republican primary in Indiana's 4th Congressional District. Some have said that Rokita has done everything he could while in office to disenfranchise voters while keeping his name in the papers. There is no doubt that the man supported and defended the Voter ID bill and has spent lots of taxpayer cash to keep his name in the public eye. I think he sees the 4th District Congressional seat as a stepping stone to his next attempted conquest, the Governor's Office, in 2012.

That's the last time you'll see Rokita's name in this blog post.

Democrats Vop Osili and Tom McKenna are both extremely good, qualified, connected, and well-financed candidates, and it's a shame that they cannot come together and one get behind the other. Delegates to the Indiana State Democratic Convention will decide the nominee so there is no primary race. This one will go all the way to June, and I have no idea what will happen. The resumes look very impressive.

Osili has an excellent resume as a business executive and has some political experience. Vop is a founder of an architecture firm that, as his website says, has grown from a very small business to an international company. Osili was appointed by Frank O'Bannon to the Indiana’s Fire and Building Services Commission. He also served as the chair of Marion County's Board of Zoning Appeals. Other resume bullet points include a stint as chair of Julia Carson's Federal PAC and spots on several charitable boards. When I've heard him speak, Osili talks about making the Secretary of State's Office more user-friendly to small businesses and to voters as well.

McKenna's resume is also impressive. An attorney and former LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor, McKenna has been a Vice President of two companies, a proprietor of one, and a partner and managing partner in two law firms. He has served as a labor leader and was Chief of Staff for Lt. Governor Joe Kernan. When Kernan became Governor, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff. From 1998 to 2003, McKenna was the Executive Director of the Indiana Department of Commerce. He was appointed by Governor Evan Bayh to serve on the Indiana Parole Board. McKenna has even been a high school teacher serving as a coach, athletic director, and teacher at Shawe Memorial High School. McKenna tends to focus his stump speech on the election side of the Secretary of State's responsibilities.

It will be interesting how the Indiana Democratic Party plays this one. I don't know who the clear favorite is here because both gentlemen have deep roots and important friends. Chairman Dan Parker certainly cannot take a public side in this although it is rumored that he has a favorite in the race.

County Party Chairs may end up having a big say. County Chairs may appoint any delegates to fill empty delegate seats that no one filed for in the May Primary. The easy thing to do would be to simply fill the delegate seats with candidates that filed but that were beaten in the primary. It's my understanding, though, that if the delegate seats were not filed for in the primary that the chair can appoint anyone they wish from anywhere in the county to fill them. Thus, if a county chair has a favorite in the Secretary of State race, then he or she can appoint someone loyal to his or her own candidate from anywhere in the county. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this assessment.

The Indiana Democratic Party is also planning on charging a $50 seating fee for delegates. This may further remove some folks that did not know about the seating fee or who cannot swing the money. I don't believe people elected to fill the delegate seats should have to pay this fee (Full disclosure: I am a filed candidate for state delegate). No one asked me though.

As for the Republicans, as far as I know, it's all decided. Hamilton County GOP Chair Charlie White is the lone GOP candidate seeking the office. His website is scant on details about his resume, but it appears to be that he thinks his major qualification is serving on the Fishers Town Council. Whoop dee doo! Looks like the prevailing Democrat will be much more qualified for such a critical office than a political wonk like White is.

Folks, get ready for the white flag lap because the race between McKenna and Osili may go down to the wire!

1 comment:

Jerame said...

I've never met Vop, but I've heard he's a nice guy. A number of my political friends speak highly of him. I hope to meet him before the primary.

I did get the chance to meet Tom McKenna this weekend - and he's a really likable guy. He's very affable and comfortable talking with a wide range of folks.

It's nice to know we have two qualified, well-liked and even LGBT friendly candidates for Secretary of State.