Jim Shella

Democrats attack Mike Pence

October 23rd, 2014 at 3:52 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Democrats are searching for potent issues in the effort to win statewide races in the November election and that has them attacking Governor Mike Pence. It’s an unusual strategy.

That’s because Mike Pence is popular with Indiana voters and he’s not on the ballot. He’s not a good target.

The only thing that makes sense is that Democrats don’t like him and party leaders need to energize their own voters in this low interest election.

That’s why state Democratic Chairman John Zody joined with State Auditor candidate Mike Claytor to question actions taken by the governor. They pointed out that Mike Pence will campaign in other states, including New Hampshire, over the next two weekends.

“We’ve asked what are the costs to the state of Inidana of the governor’s travel both nationally and internationally,” said Claytor, “and that has gone unanswered.”

“When is he going to be transparent with Hoosiers about these plans to either run for President,” asked Zody, “or stay focused on being governor of Indiana as he was elected to do?”

When asked who pays for his travel when Pence goes to New Hampshire and other states, State GOP Chairman Tim Berry said, “I have no idea, but that’s not a state expenditure.”

He suggested that the Democrats are desperate. “And they’re throwing things at a wall trying to get something to stick,” said Berry, “in an effort to try and be successful on November the 4th.”

Claytor, meantime, is challenging State Auditor Suzanne Crouch and, in the most unusual of the charges, Zody demanded answers for last year’s resignation of Dwayne Sawyer, her predecessor.

“Taxpayers never found out,” he said, “why the person charged with managing over $30 billion in taxpayer money suddenly left office.”

And, in case you wonder if the Republicans are confident about their chances in the election, the Democrats supplied that answer.  Mike Pence will be campaigning, not for candidates in Indiana, but for candidates in other states over the last two weekends of the 2014 campaign.

Beth White attacks Connie Lawson, admits error

October 22nd, 2014 at 4:13 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Secretary of State is the chief elections officer in Indiana, and both of the major party candidates in that race are now accused of violating Indiana election laws.

Democrat Beth White launched the first attack in what has been, until now, a lackluster campaign.  Republicans deflected it and responded with an attack of their own.

White came to the Statehouse to accuse Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson of taking part in a scheme to intimidate voters. It has to do with the state records for voter registration.

White said that in two southern Indiana counties voters on an inactive list have been informed that their votes on mail-in absentee ballots are being challenged.

“This is an outrageous violation,” she said, “and a failed leadership on the part of our Secretary of State.”

“There has not been a single challenge to any vote at this point in time,” said State GOP Chairman Tim Berry, who responded on Lawson’s behalf.

He produced a copy of a letter by the state Democratic chairman requesting the same information that triggered the White attack and insisted that everything is on the up and up.

“When you have an individual that is questioning these types of ballots,” he said of White, “it calls into question whether she would uphold election laws of the state of Indiana if she was elected as Secretary of State.”

And Republicans pointed out that postcards distributed by the White campaign don’t bear the required disclaimer that tells voters who paid for them.

It’s a charge White couldn’t duck. “When we sent the information to the printer it had the disclaimer,” she said. “They were printed without the disclaimer.  I take responsibility for that.”

The postcards are no longer being distributed.

Beth White is Democrat in a Republican state who is trying to energize her base by questioning the integrity of both her opponent and the GOP.  This effort may have backfired but you can be sure that it won’t be the only one.

Democrat worries about voter apathy

October 21st, 2014 at 4:16 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Election day is just two weeks away and it’s looking like the voter turnout could reach a record low.

Low voter turnout translates into unpredictability and candidates don’t like that. State Representative Christina Hale says she believes her biggest opponent is apathy.

Hale is a Democrat who represents a Republican leaning district on the northeast side. She says she goes door to door on a daily basis and doesn’t like what she hears from voters. “I am afraid people aren’t gonna turn out to vote when the day comes,” she said.

After a low turnout in the May primary she worries about both a lack of interest and the weather. “You know, we had a beautiful sunny day on Election day in the Spring and, you know, our fall hasn’t been going so well,” she said. “If we have a rainy, lousy day I think people might choose to stay at home.”

Mike Friedman is a first time Republican candidate seeking to unseat Hale. “All politics is local,” he said, “so I think it’s going to come down to the issues in my district and whether they fee like I can do a better job.”

But while Hale is also talking about the issues she is less worried about the challenge posed by Friedman than she is about voter apathy.

“A lot of people don’t seem to be aware that there’s an election at all,” she said.

And time is running out.

Susan Brooks questions the Obama Administration Ebola response

October 17th, 2014 at 2:35 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The President is under growing pressure from Republicans in Congress who want to see an increased response to the Ebola crisis.  One of those Republicans is Indiana Representative Susan Brooks (R-5th District.)

Rep. Brooks is the chairman of the Emergency Preparedness subcommittee of the Homeland Security committee in Congress.  In that role she sent two letters to the Obama Administration this week urging that new travel restrictions be created.

A letter to the director of Homeland Security and Secretary of State John Kerry recommends the suspension of over 13,000 visas held by individuals in West Africa until the outbreak is under control.

A second letter is prompted by news that Ebola victim Amber Vinson traveled by plane from Dallas to Cleveland after being exposed to the virus.  Brooks calls on the Director of the Centers for Disease Control to place healthcare workers who, like Vinson, treated an Ebola patient on a Do Not Board list for a minimum of 21 days.

“So that individuals who are coming into contact with any of these victims should not be allowed to board our airplanes right now,” she said.

Brooks says she is pleased by the selection of Hoosier Ron Klain to be Ebola Czar even though he has no expertise in the battle against infectious disease.

But she is also critical of the Obama Administration for eliminating the position called Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense Policy that existed in the Bush Administration.

“How is it,” she asked, “that there isn’t someone in the White House who wakes up each and every day concerned about biodefense?”

Brooks has requested that the CDC respond to her questions by next Tuesday.

In the meantime, Representative Brooks will meet with leaders from the State Board of Health and the Marion County Health Department on Monday.  The goal is to help create better coordination with the federal government as the battle against Ebola continues.


October 17th, 2014 at 12:58 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars will be on hand today as the Indiana Week in Review panel considers these subjects:

  • House Speaker Bosma calls for more education funding, Democrats call him a hypocrite
  • Bosma promises bi-partisan ethics reform
  • A to F school grades delayed
  • Big name campaign help for Mike Delph’s opponent
  • Bosma opens the door to Sunday liquor sales
  • Jim Irsay returns from suspension

Adults are targeted in juvenile expungement fair

October 16th, 2014 at 3:38 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Youthful indiscretions. Maybe you committed one or two and, just maybe, the cops were involved.

If that’s true, you have a record, and that record follows you unless you do something about it.

The legal term is expungement. A judge can, in some cases, wipe your record clean.

But you have to request it.

Trouble is, many people who have made a trip to the Juvenile Justice Center believe that juvenile records are private and, in some cases, they are public.

“And they also tend to think that if they turn 18 that it magically goes away,” said Juvenile Defender Jill Johnson, “and that’s not the case.”

But that trip to the juvenile center can be erased from your record if you file a petition to a judge seeking expungement.

JauNae Hanger of the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative is one of the organizers of a first-of-its-kind expungement fair that will be conducted Saturday to increase awareness.

It will take place at four locations around town, including Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, where lawyers will show people how to seek expungement of their juvenile records.

“It could be somebody who just has an arrest on their record,” said Hanger. “That doesn’t go away unless you expunge it.”  And that’s even without a conviction.

The Edna Martin Christian Center will also host the fair. “You can make a mistake as long as you recover from it,” said Altina Truss of the Martin Center. “So, this is an opportunity for some people to recover from that one mistake.”

And if it’s successful there will be more fairs to follow.

Expungement, meantime, is not guaranteed.  It may require a hearing and a judge must make a ruling.  It can take 6 to 8 weeks to accomplish.

Federal grant will fight housing discriminatiion in Indianapolis

October 15th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Housing discrimination is a big problem in Central Indiana and the federal government is now spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat it.

A recent study found that more than 80% of African Americans in this area have experienced housing discrimination.  The same is true for 70% of Latinos.

It comes in various forms, for example, banks have been found guilty of a failure to maintain foreclosed homes in diverse neighborhoods.

Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo have agreed to settlements in the last two years for their actions in neighborhoods like the one on the south side where Crystal Kostal lives.

“The one house, the weeds grow up past it,” she told 24 Hour News 8 last year, “and coons live in it.”

Those settlements were reached with the help of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.  Amy Nelson is the executive director, who says, “We’ve also filed some cases against some mobile home parks, one of which was refusing families with children.”

Wednesday Nelson’s organization was awarded a $325,000 grant to continue its efforts to eliminate housing discrimination.

Congressman André Carson helped secure the grant.  “It’s necessary because the government can’t do it all,” he said.

“This is life and death, yeah,” said Nelson. “We couldn’t survive without this particular grant.”

The money will be used to investigate claims of discrimination like the ones that were uncovered on the south side.  It will be renewed for three years, meaning the Fair Housing Center will receive almost a million dollars.

“We need to dismantle a mentality,” said Rep. Carson, “that says minorities should not be a part of the greater society and they shouldn’t be great contributors as it relates to paying rent and being upstanding citizens.”

The Fair Housing Center receives about 125 complaints of housing discrimination in Central Indiana each year.  It won the grant in a national competition and this is the first time it has ever received a multi-year grant.

Speaker Bosma opens the door to Sunday liquor sales

October 14th, 2014 at 5:22 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

House Speaker Brian Bosma opened the door Tuesday to renewed debate in the General Assembly over Sunday liquor sales.

“I really don’t have a problem with Sunday sales,” said the Speaker.  “We have them already.”

Bosma is referring to the Sunday sales that are permitted for craft brewers and farm wineries.

State lawmakers avoided the issue of Sunday sales for retailers earlier this year but big box stores and grocery chains continue to push for the opportunity to sell alcoholic beverages seven days a week.

In a news conference called to spell out his 2015 priorities Bosma said a House committee will take up the matter.

“It’s a market share issue and it impacts individual businesses and they’ll have to do what’s best,” he said of committee members.

Turner scandal leads House Speaker to call for ethics reform

October 14th, 2014 at 4:31 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

House Speaker Brian Bosma announced his priorities for the 2015 General Assembly Tuesday and ethics reform is one of them.  It’s part of the fallout from the scandal involving State Representative Eric Turner.

Turner, a Cicero Republican, has announced that he will resign his seat before the General Assembly returns but he will still cast a shadow over the 2015 session.

The Speaker has scheduled an unprecedented meeting of the Ethics Committee on October 20th to consider changes.

When Turner lobbied in private for passage of a bill that benefitted his family’s nursing home business earlier this year, it prompted an ethics investigation.  That investigation found that he violated no laws.

“Our pledge is to strengthen those disclosure laws,” said Bosma, “increase transparency, and to seek to safeguard the public trust.”

It’s because Turner had over a million dollars at stake in a deal that was announced just a few months after lawmakers went home.

“I learned that there are some areas with the statement of economic interest that we can do better,” said Ethics Committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald. “We can make them more transparent and I think that’s one of the things we’re gonna deal with.”

Turner may also spark changes in the election laws because he will stay on the ballot even though he’s announced plans to resign following the election.

“Hopefully there’ll be some change in that, some leeway for people who have announced that they are not going to serve after the election to be replaced on the ballot,” said Bosma.  “It would seem to be the fairest to voters.”

The Republican House Speaker pledged that the ethics reform effort will be bi-partisan and Democratic Leader Scott Pelath is on board.  He released a statement applauding the ethic reform elements of the GOP proposal.

Big name Democrats join the effort to unseat Mike Delph

October 13th, 2014 at 4:50 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

GOP State Senator Mike Delph of Carmel is a target in the November Election.  Democrats believe that Delph’s vocal battle against same sex marriage will have a negative effect on his performance at the polls.

So, Delph’s Democratic opponent, JD Ford, is getting some big name help.  It started Monday with an assist from U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly.

Ford has been knocking on doors since March and Donnelly joined him in the effort to drum up votes in Carmel in a Republican leaning district.

“Actually 54%, Senator Donnelly won this district,” said Ford, “so that tells me people are independent thinking.”

“I know how hard he’s worked,” said Donnelly of Ford, “and I know because he’s worked so hard he’s right in the hunt.  He’s got a great chance to win.”

On the other side is Mike Delph who declared during the General Assembly that, “I don’t accept the lifestyle of homosexuality.  I think it’s wrong.”

As the most vocal opponent of gay marriage he engaged in a twitter tirade criticizing GOP leaders for their strategy regarding a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.

He was stripped of a leadership post and forced to sit with Democrats as a result.

And so, with the gay marriage battle over, Ford and Donnelly are suggesting that Delph is out of touch.

“Who’s focused on making sure that kitchen table issues are being discussed?” asked Donnelly. “That we don’t worry about this social issue or that social issue.”

“A vote for my opponent,” said Ford, “is to vote for no voice because the Republicans threw him out of their own caucus.”

It’s a case that JD Ford has made at the door of 15,000 homes so far.  Tuesday John Gregg, the 2012 Democratic nominee for governor, will go door-to-door with him.

Mike Delph, meantime, declined to be interviewed for this story and didn’t respond to a text message when asked him how it feels to be a target of the Democrats.