Friday, November 30, 2012

"Major" Part of Daniels' Legacy Experiencing Potholes

You remember that deal that leased the Indiana Toll Road to an out-of-the-country company for a cash payment? Yeah, that cash is just about gone.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Indiana is set to return funding levels for highways and bridges back to pre-Major Moves levels or 25 percent less than what its had. Oh yeah, and we still have like 94 years to go on that lease, so don't expect toll revenue in our lifetime.

Daniels clearly timed this so that the funding would run out after he left office leaving Governor-Elect Mike Pence and the Republicans in the Indiana House and Senate to deal with the impact of all the road and bridge do you maintain all these new and glorious roads. The shortfall could mean that Hoosiers will regressively pay more at the pump. That should make a lot of people happy.

While Mitch is riding his motorcycle around West Lafayette as President of Purdue, you’ll likely be paying more to ride yours or drive your car to vacation or to work or to school or to the grocery or to wherever you go. The Courier-Journal reports that one plan would index the tax so that it would rise and fall with the needs of highway repairs. That, of course, could be highway robbery when you think about it.  Higher gas prices mean higher food and goods prices which hits everyone in the wallet.

Daniels allies will likely point out that Major Moves has made a major difference in Indiana’s highway system by upgrading and modernizing quite a bit of it. That’s a good point, but, unfortunately, the money to maintain these nice new and modern roads seems to have exited stage right just behind Mitch’s Harley.

Each day, we read a new way Governor Daniels is sticking it to the state on his way out the door. Democrats tried to warn folks about this one back when it passed, but other lawmakers and supporters of the plan were too blinded with dollar signs to see that what was being built would cost millions more to maintain over time. It would be like re-sodding a 20-acre back yard. It looks great for a while until the drought comes. Then, the sod dies, and you have 20-acres of dust. 

Enjoy your potholes, Indiana.  Governor Daniels sure isn’t making many friends on the way out.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lame Duck Gov. Stuffing Boards, Commissions

Governor Mitch Daniels
Is Mitch Daniels concerned about what Mike Pence might do as Governor, or does he want to just leave a lasting stamp on state government?  One must wonder when you read this November 20 entry on the Deep Fried Politics Blog on the Indy Star's website.

The Star's Mary Beth Schneider reported that the outgoing Governor made 21 appointments to boards and commissions and reappointed 39 other people.  Schneider points out that Daniels essentially tried to fire all previous appointees of Governor Joe Kernan in 2005 so he could shape the boards in his image.  Many refused to do so at that time.

Perhaps Mike Pence will do the same thing when he becomes Governor.  Likely not.  A spokeswoman for Pence told Schneider that they had confidence in the appointments and reappointments made by Daniels.  Still, it's a rather political move for a non-political guy like Daniels is supposed to be now, right?  It makes one wonder what his motives might have been, though.

At minimum, it's a pretty hypocritical move for a lame duck Governor.  Mitch Daniels of 2005 wouldn't approve.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lugar Legacy Falls to Donnelly

Your Blogger, Sen.-Elect Joe Donnelly, and
City-County Councillor Vop Osili
Indiana and Washington are both preparing to write the final lines in a great legislative career over the next month or so just as new lines are about to be written for another Hoosier lawmaker.

As Richard G. Lugar prepares to leave the U.S. Senate in January, he will take with him a legacy of a statesman.  A man who, despite great differences in policy and philosophy, managed to be respected by most for the majority of his six terms in the Upper House.

It was only in recent times that a picture of a different Lugar emerged, and it was something he could never shake.  The image of an out-of-touch politician who would rather live in Virginia than be in Indiana became a big narrative in the Primary.  As a result, the much more conservative Richard Mourdock gained a foothold and elbowed out the statesman.  Maybe the loss was deserved, and maybe it wasn't.  How ever you feel about Richard Lugar and his votes in the Senate or how often you think he came home or where you believe he should have lived, you cannot deny the way he did his job.  Most would agree that he examined issues deeply and voted with more than just a nod to bipartisanship, and that cost him in 2012's political landscape.  I'm not saying that Lugar wasn't partisan.  He most definitely was a proud Republican.  In the end, though, the Republican Party left him.  In my view, he never left the Republican Party.  It's cliche, but to many hardline Republicans in the 2012 version of the party, Lugar became someone they could not support.

Problem was, they failed to vet Richard Mourdock.  Mourdock was a pure ideologue with very little statesman in him.  He was never able to shake the specter of his own words that have become so well known, "The highlight of politics is frankly to inflict my opinion on others."  He was never able to shake that label he put on himself of the uncompromising Tea Party firebrand conservative.  Then, at the last debate, he inserted his foot so far into his mouth that it choked out his campaign.

From that disastrous implosion of a campaign and the remnants of what should have been a close election, Indiana elected a sitting Congressman that's often labeled as a DINO by the far left of his own party named Joe Donnelly.

Donnelly ran the perfect campaign and used that to destroy the train wrecking Mourdock in November.  We could write volumes about the Senate Election in Indiana in 2012, but you cannot deny the similarities between the man the Republicans deposed in May and the man Indiana elected in November, at least politically.

For Donnelly, it's a more left-leaning ideology than the one the Lugar had, but like Senator Lugar, Senator-Elect Donnelly has built a record of looking at issues rather than partisan factors when he votes.  Like Lugar, Donnelly is, of course, a partisan.  Donnelly is a Democrat, and he's going to be swayed at times by his party's leadership, but he's also going to madden that leadership more often than many Senators would.  That's the way that he conducted business in the House, and I would expect that is what he will do in the Senate.

Senator Richard G. Lugar
Both Lugar and Donnelly both excel at hometown politics.  Having looked him in the eye and asked him about issues important to me, I can say that I felt very comfortable trusting Joe Donnelly with my vote much in the same way as I did when I looked Richard Lugar in the eye.

Is Donnelly as accomplished as Lugar?  No. Does he have the political capital Lugar did?  Not at this point, but with moderates so few in the Senate, he will become a key vote on many issues.  Donnelly wouldn't immediately be qualified to be Secretary of State or to stare down a dictator and get that tyrant to stop the process of getting a nuclear weapon.  Maybe someday he will, though.  What Donnelly does have is the ability to relate to Hoosiers.  Despite the way many portrayed Lugar's final years in the Senate, Lugar has that ability, too.  I'll never forget watching Senator Lugar be the last person to leave a room at an event we both attended.  He shook every hand.  He signed every autograph, and he took every picture.  I've seen Joe Donnelly do it, too.  You might not agree with Joe Donnelly all the time, but you feel like he's one of us.

In 2012, Donnelly excelled by being the opposite of Richard Mourdock.  He excelled by being the kind of politician that Richard Lugar wrote about in his now-famous concession letter.  For Donnelly, it wasn't just about adhering to something to get votes.  He has an authenticity that no other candidate for the Senate in 2012 could match here in Indiana.

After hearing Donnelly so often speak eloquently about Richard Lugar on the campaign trail, you know that he wants to embody the best of what made Richard Lugar someone Indiana will celebrate for years to come.

Indiana, you got this one right.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

State GOP Agenda for 2012 Includes Passing HJR-6

The House of Horrors for Equality?
Be afraid Indiana.  Be very afraid.

If you care about marriage equality or, frankly, any relationship that might result in a union other than traditional marriage, you want to pay attention to what happens in the 2013 General Assembly session.

It appears that Indiana lawmakers plan to ram through House Joint Resolution 6 which, once passed by this newly-elected General Assembly, will then go to the voters.  This resolution, of course, would write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution and make it impossible for same-sex marriages to occur.

You might already note that Indiana has a law on the books prohibiting gay marriage and the recognition of same sex marriages from other states.  That doesn't matter to the General Assembly.

HJR-6 was birthed by the Tea Party dominated General Assembly session in 2011.  In order to go to a referendum, it must pass a separately-elected General Assembly.  That's where the 2013 version comes in.

As passed by the last legislature, HJR-6 would do more than just make same sex marriage unconstitutional in Indiana, it would potentially make other forms of legally-recognized relationships not called traditional marriage illegal.  Here's the wording:

Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.
No room for anything but traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

Of course, this would invalidate the domestic partnership ordinance in Indianapolis and in every other city and town that has passed similar ordinances.  It would also not leave any room for compromise.  You see...the new addition to our Constitution would do just that.  It would also affect 614 laws currently on the books here in the state, according to an Indiana University study.

In this post Tea Party political climate, this overbroad proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution could be its own worst enemy.  This doesn't just unfairly affect gay people in Indiana, but its effects could cause same sex couples in domestic partnerships or other forms of recognized relationships to have the recognition of their unions made unconstitutional.

While you would figure that the GOP supermajority would likely vote to pass HJR-6 again, there's always a chance that this thing could be stopped before it reaches the voters.  If you believe that sometimes relationships come in other forms other than marriage, you should be contacting your Indiana House Representative and Senator.  You should also remind Mike Pence that he didn't reach 50 percent in this past election...he was just under that at 49 percent.

The fight is just beginning on this one, and there must be a fight.  Once it's in the Constitution, it's not coming out without federal action.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking Ahead to 2014

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Weekend.  Mine was filled with three of my favorite things: family, fun, and football.  It's back to work and back to reality today, though.  Time to take a look ahead and see what might be in the offing for the next major election cycle in 2014.

We're still just under two years away, but you can bet that Indiana will play a pretty big role in what party controls the U.S. House with two key districts that will likely be targeted by Democrats in the push to win 218 seats and get the gavel back to presumably Nancy Pelosi.  Be sure that the campaign has already begun.

Let's begin in Northern Indiana.  Districts 1 and 3 are safe with Pete Visclosky and Marlin Stutzman serving as long as they want to serve.  District 2 was supposed to be more safe for Republicans, but Congresswoman-elect Jackie Walorski had a tough time defeating Brendan Mullen and Joe Ruiz.  Her one percentage point victory gives Democrats a lot of hope in the 2nd District that a strong run from a Democrat like Mullen or South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg could possibly retake the seat for the Democrats.

None of the Central Indiana Districts really look close.  Districts 4, 5, 6, and 7 should stay solidly within the hands of the party and the representative currently seated in them.  It will be interesting to see what Republicans do in the 7th District against Andre Carson.  Carson keeps proving time and time again that he's not the Democrat they try to make him with above-the-baseline performances at the ballot box.

The 9th District feels safe, but Todd Young was short of 60 percent in his race.  Young's battle against Shelli Yoder this past election season showed that perhaps a more well-funded run by Yoder or another Democrat  like former Rep. Baron Hill could potentially cut into the 56 percent of the vote that Young received.  At this point, I'd still rate the 9th safe.

That leaves the "Bloody 8th".  Congressman Larry Bucshon turned back a strong challenge from former State Rep. Dave Crooks earlier this month.  Bucshon's 55 percent was a strong showing in a tight district.  There are, however, Democrats in the 8th that might make things an even closer shave for Dr. Bucshon.  One of those Democrats is a guy by the name of John Gregg.

Gregg is very popular in the 8th District, and it shows in the Gubernatorial Election results.  He won Warrick, Starke, Vermillion, Vigo, Sullivan, Perry, Pike, Crawford, Greene, and Knox Counties.  With the exception of Dubois County, Gregg was in the 40th percentile of votes everywhere else.  By contrast, Barack Obama won just Vigo County, and it wasn't by much.  Gregg could give Bucshon a run for his seat there.  Former Congressman Brad Ellsworth could make a comeback or Crooks could give it another shot.

At this point, it's all speculation.  Three statewide seats will be open including Treasurer, Auditor, and Secretary of State.  Neither Tim Berry nor Richard Mourdock can pursue another term.  Both are term limited.  Secretary of State Connie Lawson was appointed to her seat, so she will likely lead the GOP ticket in 2012 statewide.  It should be noted that Berry could simply go back and run for Treasurer again.  He's sat out of that seat for eight years after serving in it from 1999 to 2007.  Mourdock needs to just disappear...for a long time...from politics.

I honestly doubt the Indiana Democratic Party will put too much effort into those statewide executive seats.  The Dems MUST hold what they have in the Indiana House and Senate and try to slowly get back in the game there.  I would expect that the IDP will spend a lot of time looking for good candidates and all the numbers in getting together a strong ticket to try to eat into the Republican supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate.

It still seems like a long way off, but 2014 is really just around the corner in politics.  This post has just dealt with the state and federal races.  There will be a slew of local township races as well.  All of it bears watching as it will keep political pundits busy over the next couple of years.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Week Break: Be Safe if Frying Turkeys!

I've decided that unless something major breaks, that I will be taking Thanksgiving Week off as a time to spend with family and friends.  I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, here is this video about turkey frying safety starring William Shatner.  I believe I posted it here last year.  Be safe campers!  See you back here on Monday, November 26.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Looking At Marion County's Unofficial Election Results...

Analyzing election results sometimes can tell an observer of politics quite a bit, and a quick look at the big races in Marion County shows a number of things.

One thing was extremely apparent: Richard Mourdock was keenly unpopular. Mourdock was the worst-performing Republican in all the statewide races in Marion County voting. Mourdock lost Marion County by an unofficial total of 120,867 votes. He was 22,578 votes behind Mike Pence's total. He was 29,584 votes behind Mitt Romney. He was a whopping 49,105 votes behind the best-performing Republican, Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Mourdock was so unpopular that Democrat Joe Donnelly, his opponent in this election, got 11,524 MORE votes than Barack Obama.

While Donnelly’s 227,750 votes set the standards in Marion County for all candidates, it was NOT Barack Obama that came in second. It was actually Glenda Ritz. The Superintendent of Public Instruction-elect unofficially received 216,266 votes in Marion County. President Obama received 216,226 votes in the unofficial tally. I guess a lot of people used some, in Mitch Daniels words, “subterranean” tactics to get 82,083 votes more than Dr. Tony Bennett. Bennett’s 134,183 unofficial vote tally still was 27,300 votes more than Mourdock’s paltry 106,883 votes.

Mike Pence finished behind Bennett as well with unofficially 129,461 votes. He was 80,555 votes behind John Gregg’s unofficial vote tally of 210,016. Gregg was 17,734 votes behind Obama in the Marion County totals.

Obama’s win in Marion County was the third-straight for the Democrats. John Kerry did it in 2004, and Obama followed it up in 2008 with a dominating performance. His 216,226 unofficial votes ticked in at just over 60 percent. Mitt Romney’s 136,467 unofficial vote tally was some 79,759 votes behind the President in the state’s most populous county.

Marion County is a blue oasis in a desert of red.  The doughnut counties surrounding the state's largest population center are where good campaigns go to die.  That's evident in the Scott Schneider vs. Tim Delaney race.  Delaney handily beat Schneider in Marion County, but lost when the votes were tallied in Hamilton County.  Same thing for Michael Adkins in his race against Michael Crider when his race extended outside the eastern boundary of the County.  

Big or small, the Marion County election results had something for politicos to look at and analyze for months to come, and we will!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Daniels Accuses Ritz Supporters of Nefariousness

Mitch Daniels
Mitch Daniels backed off his pledge to shy away from talking politics to defend Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

If you remember, Daniels promised he wouldn't talk campaigns or politics because he had accepted the job of Purdue President after his term as Governor ends.  He did, to be fair, carve out an exception to defend his policy and administration.  He must have felt under attack.

Daniels accused Ritz supporters of using "subterranean" tactics like social media and the spreading of rumors to beat Bennett.  This would be all well and good if Bennett had not had more money and slick television ads to counter these subterranean tactics.

Apparently, Daniels doesn't understand the concept of viral marketing, Twitter, or Facebook.  These are all things the students he's going be dealing with in a few months are well-versed in.

Daniels also blamed conservative voters opposed to the common core curriculum for Bennett's defeat.  I'm sure that everyone out there knew exactly what that is.  Maybe a few hundred?

That doesn't add up to the 1.3 million votes that Glenda Ritz earned.  Fact is that Tony Bennett thought he and Mitch didn't have anything to worry about.  He failed to take the pulse of the education community in the state and realize that his top down strategy of pushing reforms was simply not welcome in most communities.  

Teachers aren't against reform.  They just don't like to be slapped around.  That's what Dr. Bennett did, and that's why he's going home.  The fact that Glenda Ritz used social media to help even the playing field with Dr. Bennett's use of traditional media is irrelevant.  Ritz did reach out to college campuses, and those are the future teachers in this state.  If you think they don't have a stake in what happens in the future of education, then you're just simply not thinking correctly.

Like poor Mitch.  This is his pattern.  When he is challenged, he retreats back into his bunker and starts hurling insults.  The GOP seems to have no intention of working with Ritz on reform.  They are simply going to barrel roll over the voters and the teachers and Ritz this time.

That's good news for Democrats in 2014.  I am assuming those same nefarious tactics that Daniels believes took down his buddy Bennett will still be there to beat Republicans in the General Assembly.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Republicans Underperform in Congressional Races

Jackie Walorski
Republican Jackie Walorski was expected to simply walk away with the election in Indiana's 2nd Congressional District.

Up until Election Day, most political insiders, including me, thought the new way the 2nd was drawn created a safe seat for the GOP.  That held true all day...except when the votes started to be counted.  

It was late into the night before Walorski finally took a big enough lead to get Democratic challenger Brendan Mullen to concede the race, and it leaves one wondering if this seat, instead of the Bloody 8th, is going to become the one to watch into the future.  Walorski's closer-than-expected 49 percent to 48 percent win in the 2nd District will certainly make this a this a district that Democrats look at when they try to retake the Indiana House in 2014. 

Walorski will now be watched by every Democrat...and potentially some Republicans, too, to see what she does as the 2nd District Congresswoman.  Every vote will be analyzed.  Every statement will be dissected.  Every misstep is a potential campaign ad.

Rep. Todd Young
I would think that the new districts show some opportunities for the right Democrat in District 9 as well.  Todd Young got 56 percent of the vote against his underfunded but hardworking Democratic challenger, Shelli Yoder.  Perhaps with more money and the help from some outside groups, Tea Party Todd Young might be headed for home.  Yoder was at 43 percent of the vote.

Also cracking 40 percent was Dave Crooks in the Bloody 8th.  In fact, Crooks was at 45 percent of the vote.  Unfortunately, Larry Bucshon was at 55 percent.  The win was fairly decisive, but you get the feeling that the 8th District still is in play with a Democrat like Crooks or perhaps John Gregg and some major funding.

Nationwide, the Democrats gained seats in the House and the Senate in 2012.  Some even argue that, if many of the House Districts were not heavily gerrymandered, that Democrats would be in charge of the U.S. House.  As it stands now, Republicans will have 233 House seats.  Democrats will need 218 seats to regain control, and the race to do it started on November 7.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Expect Marion County GOP to Soul Search Before 2014

"Where do we go from here?  This isn't where we intended to be."

A line from Madonna's song "You Must Love Me" applies to the Marion County Republican Party as we head into the next election cycle.

Yes, the Marion County GOP has the Mayor's Office, but they don't have much else.  Now, they have two less seats in the Indiana House.  Christina Hale and Karlee Macer made sure that Cindy Noe and Phil Hinkle's old seats would be in Democratic hands.  Even with the new 7th District, Marion County Republicans could not hold Congressman Andre Carson under 60 percent with a good candidate like Carlos May.

On top of all this, Republicans were shut out again for another election cycle in the countywide executive office races.  Debbie Jenkins, Claudia Fuentes, and Frank Lloyd will serve the next years as Surveyor, Treasurer, and Coroner, respectively.

It's not a very good place to be if you're a party chair like Kyle Walker.  While Walker did defend the Mayor's Office from the strong challenge of Melina Kennedy in 2011, his party was unable to hold the City-County Council majority setting up a situation where Greg Ballard's chances for a third term take a hit every time he vetoes a proposal.

It's not really that fun to be a Republican in Marion County right now.  For Democrats, it's a blue oasis in a desert of red.

That desert of red should concern you, too.  The Indiana General Assembly Republicans now need exactly zero Democrats to do business.  69 Republicans will take seats in the Indiana House with 37 Republicans in the Indiana Senate.  Statewide, the landscape is quite different than Marion County.

That's quite easy to see.  I'm interested to see what course the Republicans in Marion County take from here.  The party is certainly weakened but far from gone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Obama Moves Forward

President Obama reenters the White House
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
On Sunday, January 20, 2013 at about noon, President Obama will place his hand on a Bible, raise the other one and take the Oath of Office from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He will then give his second Inaugural Address.  After that, he will no doubt attend some balls and some fun celebratory events.  Then, the heavy lifting begins all over again.

By electing President Obama to a second term, Americans have done something that, over the history of the United States has not been all that common even though five of the last seven Presidents have sought and won second terms (not counting Gerald Ford).

President Obama has been given four years to finish the job he has started. There’s no do-over now. He has to get results, and it appears that the GOP is finally ready to move his direction. While the economy is clearly improving, our country is in a tough situation economically, and we need a President who will hold Congressmen and women accountable for what they do on the job. President Obama’s elections are over. For other candidates, the 2014 campaign season begins now. Obstructionism cannot be tolerated. It’s time for leadership.

For those on the other side of the aisle, this was no fluke. President Obama was reelected because he won every battleground state but North Carolina. There, he only lost by two percentage points. President Obama won because he had a broader and more diverse coalition of supporters, and people in those areas believed that the progress over the four years is worth continuing. The GOP and the opposition to the President simply have to recognize this and realize that these voters aren’t simply going to disappear or go away.

Now begins the business of governing in a second term. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s going to present new and different challenges to Barack Obama. That said, we know that he’s been tested by the Washington pressure cooker and on the world stage.  That's why he got the second term.  FORWARD!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Donnelly Will Make Fine Senator

Senator-Elect Joe Donnelly
In January, Congressman Joe Donnelly will become Senator Joe Donnelly, and I predict that Indiana will not regret sending a Democrat to the Senate again from the Hoosier State.  Donnelly's win signaled a couple of things to me.

First, Indiana still doesn't do crazy very well when it comes to statewide candidates in high profile races.  Mike Pence realized that and backed away from Richard Mourdock when he made his controversial comments at the Indiana Senate Debate on October 23 quicker than you back away from a rattlesnake while looking for your golf ball in the weeds.  While he refused to drop his support for Mourdock completely, his first instinct was to demand an apology.  It was an apology that never came because Richard Mourdock thought he said nothing wrong.

Secondly, the Donnelly win shows that a moderate Democrat, in the mold of Evan Bayh, can still win in this state.  That's positive and negative news for the more liberal Democrats in the state.  Donnelly will certainly continue to vote as a moderate, but he will have to be even more of a moderate given his position as a Senator for the entire state.  He can remain reasonable rather than being pulled one way or the other by the ideological right or left.  That's how Indiana likes its state politicians to act, especially at the national level.

Donnelly ran a disciplined, nearly flawless campaign that started positive, went negative at the right time, and tried to close on a positive note when Mourdock buried his own campaign.  You could tell that Mourdock was in real trouble when Donnelly began to fold in some of the lighter-in-tone ads over the past few days of the campaign.  Mourdock didn't have that luxury.

Let's face it though, Indiana is indeed a red state.  It took a near perfect campaign by a strong candidate to win this thing for the Democrats.  Richard Mourdock was simply one of the worst candidates I've ever seen for a high-profile state office.  The GOP will be kicking itself for years over the debacle that sent Richard Lugar home and Richard Mourdock to the nomination.

However it happened, Indiana gets a Democrat back at the Senate level for the first time since 2011.  That man is Joe Donnelly, and I think Hoosier voters will like what they get for their votes.  You may or may not always agree with him, but he's not going to embarrass this state.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It's Veterans Day

Today, we honor those who have served this country in the cause of freedom, liberty, and the preservation of our rights. Thank you to all that have served and to those that have sacrificed all to make it possible for me to write this blog as a free American citizen.

I know I post this video often here on days like this, but there are men and women that live this song every day. Freedom truly isn't free. So, to all of the men and women that fight and have fought for me...THANK YOU!

Explosion Rocks Southside

Photo by Matt Kryger, Associated Press
Details are still emerging about what happened exactly shortly after 11:00 p.m. Saturday in the Richmond Hill neighborhood immediately north of Smock Golf Course in Perry Township.

What is clear is some sort of explosion rocked the area.  The cause is not yet known.  Two fatalities, so far, are linked to this blast.

This explosion reminds me so much of the one that happened on Indy's Northside 15 years ago in 1997.  A gas line was damaged during construction and the resulting explosion leveled six homes, damaged countless others, and caused major damage.  One lady was killed in that explosion.  

If you wish to help the victims, follow the American Red Cross link at the top left of the blog.

My thoughts are with all the families affected by this tragedy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

In Memoriam: Big John Gillis

Big John Gillis

Legendary Indianapolis radio personality Big John Gillis passed away on Friday night in his home.

Big John started at 1070 WIBC back in 1968 and began doing traffic in the 1980's.  He was famous for his easy-to-listen-to style and warmth.  I spent many a morning and afternoon listening to Big John help me navigate through the roads and streets of Indianapolis.

I never got to meet the big fella, but I know people that did.  Every one of them has always spoken of Big John warmly.  I'm sorry that I never got to tell him thanks for all those times he kept me safe from the WIBC Whirlybird or the WIBC JetCopter.

Rest in Peace, Big John.  The Whirlybird has landed for the last time.

Gregg Closed Gap in Last Month

Gregg's Great Effort May Open Doors
Mike Pence will be Indiana’s Governor for the next four years, and he should be congratulated for a strong campaign, but the ticket of John Gregg and Vi Simpson, in the last month, went from being remembered as the latest Democrats to lose a gubernatorial race to nearly getting pulling off an upset.

This race was closer than any of the polls thought it would be except the Gregg campaign’s own internal polls. Those polls that came out a couple of weeks ago had this at a three point race. They were roundly laughed at and criticized by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz who continued to insist the margin was wider. Turns out that it was but just a little wider.

It was close, just four percentage points, 50-46 percent. It’s the kind of run that keeps John Gregg in the conversation as a statewide candidate in 2016 again. It also allows us to wonder.  With a couple of more weeks in this campaign cycle, who knows?

What if the bulldog that John Gregg became at the end of this race had appeared in a bigger way earlier in the race? What if, instead of taking this race to Sandborn to start with, we had met John Gregg as the former evenly-divided Indiana House Speaker and former Vincennes University President at the start of the campaign instead of at the end? What if John Gregg had gotten Mike Pence off his game early on in this campaign instead of in the last few weeks and days?

We will never know these answers, and it’s easy to have 20/20 hindsight now. Compared to other statewide Republicans on the ballot that won election and even Mitt Romney, Hoosiers showed that they have a healthy concern about Mike Pence, and that came from somewhere. It most certainly was raised by John Gregg.

Vi Simpson
I sure hope Gregg stays involved in the process and doesn’t decide to go back to his quiet farm in Sandborn.  Despite being outspent mightily, Gregg really showed that he could make a dent in the perfectly coiffed Pence's master plan.  Perhaps in 2016, he might take another bite at the apple for Governor or even Senate against Dan Coats. I also think he'd be a perfect foil for a House run in the Bloody 8th.  Perhaps Gregg isn't interested in going to "Warshington", though.  He's much more Warshington, Indiana than Washington, D.C.

We need personalities in politics, and folks like Vi Simpson and John Gregg just don’t come around too often. I know that Indiana politics is more interesting when Mr. Gregg is involved in the game, and I can’t wait to hear what Vi Simpson will do next.

And no, I didn't leave out Rupert.  Rupert Boneham grew during this campaign as a candidate, and I think he's going to stay involved in the process.  He took home four percent of the vote.  It was a very good showing.  Congratulations to Rupert and the Indiana Libertarian Party.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In Case You Missed It...

President Obama's Election Night Victory Speech!

Carson Comfortably Returns to Congress in Indiana's 7th

Congressman Carson
I admit. I was concerned.

Turns out, I didn’t need to be. Congressman AndrĂ© Carson got in the jet stream and blew away his worthy opponent, Carlos May, in Indiana’s 7th District Congressional battle.

Carson garnered an unofficial count of 161,422 votes to defeat May by 66,901 votes. May had 95,521 votes. The 62.3 percent Carson received was the second-highest vote percentage he’s ever had. In 2008, he got 65 percent of the vote in defeating Gabrielle Campo. That, however, was the old 7th District.

This version of the 7th took out much of the far Northern part of the old district and added the Southern tier of Decatur, Perry, and Franklin Townships. Some of my friends on the right had the district somewhere in the neighborhood of 54-55 percent Democratic. Other more recent polling cited by May’s supporters had the political makeup of the district somewhere in that neighborhood as well. Turns out, Carson not only outperformed that perceived baseline, but he’s created his own coalition, likely of moderates, that support his efforts in Congress. 
Carlos May
For once and for all, we can put that "Carson is a do-nothing Congressman" idea to rest.  You don't build a coalition and exceed baselines by doing nothing.  Congressman Carson is doing a great job in Congress, and the results are carrying him forth. His win over May only underlines this more.

May was Carson’s best, most formidable opponent since his first race for the seat in the Special Election of 2008 when he faced Jon Elrod. May and Elrod are similar in that they are serious candidates with good, strong resumes. May, however, was unable to garner any real media support and ran a spaghetti campaign (picked that one up last night) throwing things up on the wall and trying to see what would stick against the Congressman. Of course, it didn’t work, and it was widely repudiated by the voting population.

So, now we go off to 2014. It’s an “off year” election, but Carson has proven time and time again, just like his grandmother before him, that you can never underestimate his popularity and electability amongst his constituents. Like Julia Carson before, the 7th District loves AndrĂ©.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Indiana GOP Leaders Losing Ever-loving Mind??

Last night, teachers and friends of public education sent one of the most powerful Indiana Superintendents of Public Instruction in state history home with a huge upset loss.

Democrat Glenda Ritz was given a mandate in this referendum on outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, and Indiana's education reform.  Unfortunately, it appears that Governor-Elect Mike Pence and Indiana General Assembly leaders have failed to receive the message.

Indy Politics founder Abdul-Hakim Shabazz spent most of the day reporting and spinning on his Facebook page that the new supermajorities in the Indiana General Assembly will soon set their sights on reducing the power of the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction and continuing with the education reforms rammed roughshod through the legislature over the last couple of years.

It's another example of the vindictive nature of the Indiana GOP.  They are already so power drunk that they are completely ignoring the message voters powerfully sent to them by defeating Bennett, the face, voice, and heart of the reform.

Every Hoosier teacher and public education advocate must remain vigilant in this process.  We are in a dangerous situation here.  The Republicans do have a supermajority, and there's no way to stop anything they might wish to do.  That's why Hoosiers need to stand with the person they elected.  Defend Glenda Ritz and allow her to keep the powers that a Superintendent of Public Instruction has been granted over the years.

If Republicans continue down this road, it's important to hold them accountable at the ballot box in 2014 and 2016.  The light of day needs to be shined on this underhanded, vindictive, and vengeful plan by the Indiana Republican leadership.

I think the following quote from the classic, Hoosiers, sums this one up:
"Look, mister, there's... two kinds of dumb, uh... guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don't matter, the second one you're kinda forced to deal with."

To all of you in the General Assembly wishing to pooh pooh what happened last night, teachers still vote, and they have tons of former students and allies.  Just remember that when you're dealing with education policy.  Your Richard Mourdock-like "inflicting your opinion on others" mentality is exactly what voters rejected last night.  Don't forget that.  If you do, just ask Dr. Bennett about November 6, 2012.

Election Night Big for Democrats

The votes aren't all in just yet, but it appears that President Barack Obama has won reelection as President of the United States.  With Associated Press calls in Nevada and Colorado, President Obama has reached 290 votes with both Virginia and Florida still to be decided.  The Democrats will hold the Senate.

Locally, Mitt Romney won Indiana, and Mike Pence will be the Governor of our state beginning in January defeating John Gregg.  Democrat Joe Donnelly is going to the United States Senate as expected defeating GOP Tea Party candidate, Richard Mourdock.

In a stunning upset, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett outspent his challenger Glenda Ritz, but it didn't work as a Democrat took home a statewide office for the first time since Governor Joe Kernan left office in 2004.  Ritz now will face a very hostile GOP-dominated General Assembly and a Governor named Pence.  It will be interesting to see what she's able to accomplish.

In the Congressional races, status quo developed with some different faces.  Pete Visclosky, Marlin Stutzman, Todd Rokita, Luke Messer, and Todd Young all return their parties to Congress.  Brendan Mullen made it close, but Jackie Walorski is headed to Washington.  Susan Brooks prevailed in the 5th District, and, in the Bloody 8th, Larry Buschon was reelected.

In the 7th District race, Congressman Andre Carson broke the 60 percent barrier and exceeded his baseline vote winning over Carlos May.

There are several General Assembly races that were very close.  At press time Senate District 30's race between Scott Schneider and Tim Delaney is simply too close to call.  Unfortunately, it appears Mary Ann Sullivan, John Barnes, and Mark Waterfill were defeated in their Senate bids.

Karlee Macer turned House District 92 blue, and Justin Moed easily dispatched A.J. Feeney-Ruiz holding House 97.  It appears that Cindy Noe has been defeated by a handful of votes by Christina Hale.

Claudia Fuentes, Debbie Jenkins, and Frank Lloyd are all staying in their Marion County Offices.  Congratulations to the Democrats in Perry Township for winning a seat on the Perry Township Advisory Board.

This is getting long.  I'll be reacting the rest of the week on these results all the rest of the week.  Bottom line: Congratulations to the winners!  Thanks for running for those that came up short.  We have, as a party, had a great 2012.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama's Path to 271 Can Be Done Without OH, VA, NC, and FL!

From CNN's Electoral Tracker...I did this map.  This gives Romney one vote from Maine.

It's All Over in Indiana!

The polls are closed and the votes are being counted now all over the State of Indiana.  Off we go into history!

It's Election Day!

GET OUT AND VOTE!  Polls are open from 6:00 a.m. this morning to 6:00 p.m. tonight.

Remember, several polling places have changed.  If you want to make sure you know where you vote, go to  There, you can confirm your voter registration, check out the candidates on your ballot, and see where your polling site is.  Also, don't forget to take your state or federally issued photo ID with an expiration date.

I'll be at the day job all day, so I won't be probably updating the blog much until late this afternoon or early this evening.  Good luck to all candidates!

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Closing Argument: Four More Years!

President Barack Obama
As I sit here on this Election Eve, I am uncertain as to the emotions I will feel tomorrow night.  I'm quite sure that many of my friends will win their races, but I remain very cautious about the big race: the one for President.

Back in 2004, I sat riveted as I watched this young politician from Illinois dazzle everyone with his iconic call for unity at the Democratic National Convention.  He told us that there were no such thing as red states and blue states, but that we were the United States.  I was mesmerized, and I told my significant other at the time that we would be hearing a lot more from this Barack Obama guy.  I followed President Obama's career in the Senate, and I hoped that someday I would be able to cast my vote for him in the race for President of the United States.

In 2008, I found myself gravitating towards Joe Biden a bit in the early going, but I kept my eye on Senator Obama to see what he would do.  On that February day when he stepped into the cold Springfield air and said he was running for President, I was officially on board, and it was a movement.

I remember attending meetings for the President.  We met at small boutique restaurants like the Legend in Irvington.  I went to a meeting at Judge's Bar-B-Q in Haughville.  I attended meetings at people's houses.  It was something I had never done before.  This was in 2007.  When 2008, came around, I still didn't think there was much of a chance that this man I'd followed for so long would be the nominee.  Then, the caucuses and the primaries.  Before long, this man that I had watched was not only neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton, but he was the frontrunner.

I remember attending a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner with Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama as the headliners.  Indiana meant something to Democrats.  You were a Hillary person or a Barack person, and we had our testy moments.  For the most part, we kept it all in the family, though.

I still remember Tim Russert essentially calling the nomination for Obama after he won the North Carolina Primary and narrowly lost in Indiana.  "We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be, and no one is going to dispute it."  In a little over a month, Tim Russert would be gone, but the beat went on until late June when Hillary Clinton finally and with a great deal of class ended her campaign for President.  Suddenly, the Hillary people joined the movement, and this thing was on.  Barack Obama was the nominee, but the fight and the battle had really just begun.

All the Obama people who had been stationed in Indiana for months before the Primary came back, and our state became one of those "battleground states" for the first time since 1968.  It was awesome to go to campaign events and know that our state's 11 electoral votes wouldn't just simply be conceded to the Republicans.  Before John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, realized it, Indiana was turning purple. Then, Indiana turned blue.

November 5, 2008.  I sat on my bed and watched as Barack Obama was declared the 44th President of the United States.  I called my parents, both McCain supporters, and they were disappointed, but they knew the history of the moment.  That's when things started to change.

I am here to tell you that the vote I cast on October 23, 2008 at the satellite voting site in Southport is STILL the best vote I have ever cast in a Presidential Election.  For the first time in my life, I was part of the change, and it felt good.  I still feel good about it today.

Our President has built a remarkable record that won't be appreciated until history writes about it.  From the plunging economic depths, President Obama has rescued the auto industry and reduced unemployment.  Millions of Americans now have health care.  No longer can you be kicked off your insurance because you have a pre-existing condition.  We have real reform of student loans.  It's easier now to go to college and get money for that purpose.  The War in Iraq is ending, and the War in Afghanistan is coming to an end.  Osama bin Laden is at the bottom of the ocean.

Beyond all of that, we have a President that respects that families come in all different types.  A President that has evolved into one of the most LGBT-friendly national politicians in history.  President Barack Obama has time and time again shown that he doesn't look at polls to get the answers.  He looks at what's right.  He's a true leader.

Win, lose, or draw, I cannot be more proud today to be a Barack Obama supporter.  It hasn't always been easy, and the pace of change has frustrated me at times.  I've even been a little critical here at times on this blog, but I'm more convinced now than ever that Barack Obama is one of the most significant Presidents we've ever had.  We can't let the work end now.  So, as the slogan says, let's move forward.  I hope you'll join me in support.

If you still need convincing, here's a wonderful reminder video.  Enjoy.

And Now a Message from Glenda Ritz...

Glenda Ritz
Democratic nominee for Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, just released this on her Facebook page...

‎'Twas the night before election, when all through the state, not a teacher was silent, to decide one's good fate
The yard signs were out by the polling places with care
in hopes that Glenda Ritz will be elected there. 
The supporters of Ritz were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of victory danced in their head.
And Glenda the Good, wearing her Ritz4Ed cap
is about to warm up for her grand victory lap. 
When at the end of they day there arose such a chatter,
she sprang from her chair to see whats the matter.
Away to the tube she flew in a flash
Bennett was out, despite all his cash. 
Vote Glenda Ritz
for State Superintendent for Public Instruction.

Pence Handlers Pull Gubernatorial Candidate from Local TV Reporter

I guess this is how it's going to be for the next four years here in Indiana if Mike Pence is elected.

John Gregg (and Rupert too) wants to be Governor and not President.  Mike Pence wants to put his footprints on all of our faces so that he can step higher.  Let's move out from underneath him and tell him that Hoosiers are no one's doormat.

No amount of cheesy head nodding can hide ambition.

The Magic 8-Ball Almost Knows All...

Presidential elections are inherently political, historical events, so I will spare you the "most important election in history" stuff.  They are all important, and, in that regard, 2012 is not special.  All of that said, it is always an interesting time for politicos.

I have consulted this Magic 8-Ball, and I now know what's going to happen tomorrow when the votes are counted.  Thus, I wanted to share the news.  Here we go.

I asked the Magic 8-Ball the following questions:

Will Mitt Romney win the Presidential Election?  Its Answer:  "My Reply Is No."
I think the Magic 8-Ball is right on target with this one.  I have this election at 299-239 in favor of Obama.  That's my final answer.   I do think Romney has a chance of winning the popular vote with some of the bluest of the blue states having trouble getting votes in due to Superstorm Sandy.  Here's a look at my final map.  Though Alaska and Hawaii don't show up, you can see to the side how I assigned them.

Will the Republicans take control of the Senate?  Its Answer:  "Signs Point To Yes."
I think the Magic 8-Ball is smoking a little crack here.  While it's definitely possible, I think that there will be 50 or 51 Democrats in the Senate when they reconvene.  With Bernie Sanders and Angus King likely winning races in Vermont and Maine, that gives Dems 52 or 53 caucus members.  Watch the races in Wisconsin where Former HHS Secretary, Republican Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin are neck and neck and Montana where Democrat John Tester is battling for his political career with the GOP's Denny Rehberg.  Virginia's battle with former Governor Democrat Tim Kaine and former Senator Republican George Allen is a battle of heavyweights.  Republicans should maintain their majority in the House.

Will Joe Donnelly defeat Richard Mourdock and become our next Senator from Indiana?  Its Answer:  "Yes"
Magic 8-ball obviously has seen this race trending towards Joe Donnelly over the last few days.  I think you'll see Donnelly eclipse 50 percent and Andy Horning will get five or six percent of the vote.

Will Mike Pence win the Gubernatorial Race?  Its Answer:  "It Is Certain."
Definitive answer from the Magic 8-ball, and I agree with it.  I think John Gregg has done a great job to close in, but I think Mike Pence will be the next Governor of Indiana.  Look for Pence to fall short of 50 percent, though.  Rupert gets four or five percent.  I think it will be 49-46-5 or so.

Will Glenda Ritz be our next State School Superintendent?  Its Answer:  "Ask Again Later"
I'm not making that up, either.  The Magic 8-ball refused to answer this question.  Ritz's campaign has gotten some national attention here over the last week as has Justin Oakley's project to help raise awareness about this race.  I think this will be a barn burner.

Will Carlos May lose in the battle for the 7th District Congressional Seat?  Its Answer:  "Without A Doubt"
Magic 8-Ball strikes again with a definitive answer.  I think it's absolutely right.  Congressman Andre Carson returns to Washington with 52 or 53 percent of the vote.

Will Dave Crooks win the Bloody 8th?  Its Answer:  "Don't Count On It"
This is a tight one, but I unfortunately think that the Magic 8-ball got it right.  Crooks was a great candidate, and he's run a fabulous campaign, but I just don't think he's going to pull this one out.  Larry Buschon wins with about 54 or 55 percent of the vote.

Will Democrats pick up seats in the Indiana Senate?  Its Answer "It Is Decidedly So."
The Magic 8-Ball clearly is predicting Tim Delaney to defeat Scott Schneider.  Also, watch for Mary Ann Sullivan to possibly upset Brent Waltz.  John Barnes and Pat Miller and Mike Young and Mark Waterfill will all be excellent races to watch.

Will Justin Moed win House District 97?  Its Answer:  "Cannot Predict Now"
The second cop-out answer in a close, tight race from the Magic 8-ball.  Personally, I think Moed will win one of the most competitive House races.  Republicans will decidedly have the advantage in the Indiana House and may expand their majority thanks to redistricting to 63 or 64 seats.

Other predictions:
I think there will be a sweep in the Marion County races for the Democrats.  Debbie Jenkins, Claudia Fuentes, and Frank Lloyd will be elected and continue to serve the county.

Despite a big push to get him removed, I think Justice Steven David will be retained.  David was the author of that controversial Indiana Supreme Court decision that essentially invalidated the Fourth Amendment here in Indiana.  I just don't think enough people know about this issue.

As I always do, I'm looking forward to the election returns coming in.  It's almost the big day!

Friday, November 2, 2012

One Weekend to Go!

It's hard to believe, but, when we convene back here on the blog on Monday it will be just one day until the 2012 General Election.

As we enter the final weekend, it's a good time to clean up some races we haven't talked too much about.  There's a lot going on, after all.

A couple of "under the radar" races that I'll be watching on Tuesday night as election returns come in include the race for the Indiana House in District 92 and the Indiana Senate race in District 35.

In Indiana House 92, things have gotten nasty between Democrat Karlee Macer and Republican Tim Motsinger.  Motsinger's camp is sending out mailers tying Macer to Pat Bauer and calling the newcomer "politics as usual".  Macer's campaign has some ads up on television calling Motsinger's character into question given his past dealings with Tim Durham.

Thing is, I know both Karlee Macer and Tim Motsinger.  They are good people, and I hope that people will look through the negativity and see that.  Karlee is an involved parent and community member in Wayne Township.  Motsinger, of course, is a police officer and past candidate for public office.  I'm pulling for Macer to pull this one out, and I think it's going to come down to probably a few percentage points.  This is Phil Hinkle's former seat.

In Senate District 35, longtime legislator Mike Young didn't get the Indianapolis Star's endorsement.  Instead, it was Democrat Mark Waterfill that won the Star's recommendation.  When you see the candidates side-by-side, you know why.

I had the chance to attend a forum this past Monday featuring both candidates.  Waterfill was extremely aggressive attacking Young over sweetheart deals and contracts he voted for as well as his ridiculously large pension.  Waterfill highlighed Young's weird votes for otherwise popular legislation.  Waterfill's website details these votes.

Most striking to me was the blase way that Young pushed aside the half billion dollars Indiana "lost" over the past few years.  Young's attitude was that it's not a big deal that nearly $500,000,000 was put into a wrong account.  Forget that money was supposed to have gone somewhere else.  Now, it's part of our "surplus" that's coming back to us.  How convenient, right?  Waterfill has a much more taxpayer-friendly approach.  He says he would push for an outside audit to make sure that the money gets to the right places and is spent appropriately.

Waterfill is a popular Democrat in Hendricks County.  He likely will win the Marion County portion of this district, and it no longer includes Morgan County or Johnson County.  Instead, it goes right into Waterfill's home turf.  It wouldn't surprise me to find this race close.

It's so hard to believe that we are this close to Election Day!  Oh, the smell of yard signs in the morning!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gubernatorial Race Tightening?

John Gregg's campaign reports that Clarity Campaigns has released a poll showing that the race between Mike Pence, John Gregg, and Rupert Boneham is within three points and within the margin of error.

Another poll released by the campaign showed Pence up six and a Pence internal poll has his lead at nine.  One way or another, this race has tightened over the last month as people really have started to pay attention to the Gubernatorial race.  It also was about the same time Gregg changed tactics.

Early in the campaign, Gregg had the folksy ads talking about the guy with two first names running for Governor.  In the last month, Gregg has been much more aggressive in highlighting Pence's extreme views, and it's gotten under Pence's skin at times.  In the third debate, a clearly frustrated Pence tried to go on the attack and failed miserably as Gregg was able to simply and deftly turn every attack back at the launcher.

We are this close to having Indiana become a laboratory for a kind of extreme government we have never seen.  Any thought of bipartisan leadership will be out the window as Mitch Daniels becomes a memory and is replaced by a Tea Party mentality.  A Richard Mourdock-like government will be the norm as the GOP tries to inflict its opinion on all of us.  The only chance to put a fly in this ointment is to elect John Gregg.  He will be a moderate and a centrist, but he will at least serve as a voice of reason.

That's just my opinion, but the fact is that this race is tightening up.  We'll see what the Howey/Battleground poll says tomorrow.