Jim Shella

Democrats focus on school funding

October 31st, 2014 at 4:51 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

School funding is a big issue in races for the Indiana General Assembly. In fact, it’s the biggest issue in key battles that could determine if the GOP maintains a super majority in the Indiana House.

Democrats had success two years ago when teachers and other educators mobilized to support state School Superintendent Glenda Ritz when she upset Republican Tony Bennett.

That led the Democrats to recruit more educators to become candidates this year.

Rep. Matt Ubelhor, a second term Republican lawmaker from Bloomfield, is one of the Democratic targets and the top issue in his race is school funding.

“All the school districts in his legislative district have seen a decrease,” said State Democratic Chairman John Zody, “save one.”

“Matt Ubelhor.  Not for our public schools,” blares a negative TV ad on Indianapolis television, even though it reaches only a fraction of Ubelhor’s southern Indiana district.

Ubelhor has responded with personal attacks on his opponent, school administrator Jeff Sparks. “Jeff Sparks.  Plain dishonest,” says the announcer in a Ubelhor commercial.

But just over two weeks ago, GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma indicated that Republicans are vulnerable on school funding,”It impacts every legislator, every legislator’s home schools,” he said.

Bosma announced that education increases will be a Republican priority in 2015. “The first is to invest significantly,” he said, “and, from my perspective, more than we have in the last session in public school funding.”

The pre-election announcement was a direct response to what the Democrats are doing.

“We’ve got over a dozen public educators running for the General Assembly all over the state,” said Zody. “We’re seeing where either schools have been closed or funding’s been decreased and, so, people identify with school districts.”

And they pay attention to negative ads.

The Democrats need to gain 3 seats to take away the super majority.


October 31st, 2014 at 2:18 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Eric Holcomb is the Republican today for the pre-election episode of  Indiana Week in Review.  The panel will make extensive predictions and discuss the following issues:

  • Candidate arrested for stalking his opponent becomes the target of a confusing campaign mailer
  • Treasurer candidate Mike Boland promises to donate his salary to charity
  • A federal grant for a humor class at Butler U. is challenged by Sen. Tom Coburn
  • The Year of the Farmer

GOP accuses Democrats of creating confusion over jailed candidate

October 30th, 2014 at 3:01 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Republicans are crying foul over a campaign mailer sent out in the state legislative race where one of the candidates is in jail.

Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis) has two opponents. Independent candidate John Couch was arrested October 9th, accused of stalking Macer.

Republican Bradford Moulton is a serious challenger.

A new mailer sent out by the Marion County Democratic Party makes reference to just one opponent and his criminal record with Couch’s name in small letters.

Moulton says voters think it’s him. “I’ve heard from several voters not only in the district,” he said, “but I started getting phone calls yesterday evening about this (from people) who were concerned.”

“This is clearly intended to try to put her Republican opponent in a bad light,” said Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker, who also says the mailer is deceptive.

“I think it’s one of the, you know, sort of the best examples of dirty politics,” he said.

“This is an issue that voters need to know about,” said Marion County Democratic Chairman, “that Karlee Macer’s opponent is incarcerated.”

Miller paid for the mailer and says he doesn’t care if voters are confused.

“Doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Her Republican opponent doesn’t identify himself as a Republican, I believe, in his own yard signs and literature.  It’s not my job to identify the Republican opponent as a Republican opponent.”

Macer was reluctant to talk about the whole matter on Monday. “You know it’s been a terrible time,” shel said.  And she sent a text message Thursday saying she didn’t see, authorize or pay for the mailer.

In her text message Macer also said she has nothing further to say about any of this.

The mailer, meantime, is legal and it is still being distributed.

Candidate pledges to donate salary

October 29th, 2014 at 4:05 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Boland is a Democrat running for state Treasurer and, if elected, Boland plans to donate his salary to charity. The money would go to college scholarships and other causes.

Boland has campaigned with state School Superintendent Glenda Ritz and says that education is one of his priorities. That’s why, he says, he would give up the take home portion of the State Treasurer’s over $76,000 salary to help others get an education.

“That’s probably over 50,000 a year and probably over 400,000 over a 4 year period,” he said.

It’s a gimmick similar to the one used by Democrat Tim Jeffers 20 years ago when he promised to do away with the office he was seeking. “To be the best Secretary of State and the last,” said Jeffers in 1994.

This time Republican Kelly Mitchell is a strong favorite in the race for State Treasurer.  Her TV ads can’t be matched by the underfunded Boland, who nevertheless insists that his salary pledge is something he’s thought about for a long time.

“If it was a gimmick,” he said, “it’s a pretty costly gimmick to us.”

He said, “Some people get their highs off of booze and drugs.  I get my high off of helping somebody get through college.”

Boland says he would establish a committee to determine who would receive the money and he promises to make his tax returns public.

Boland says he first got this idea when he heard that John Kennedy donated his salary as President. He is a former Illinois state legislator and, when he was in office there, he donated the money he received in pay raises.

Why the 2014 campaign is different

October 28th, 2014 at 4:31 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

We are now one week away from an election that will be remembered for a lack of interest by the voters.

When you think about campaigns, you generally think about the TV commercials.  This year, in central Indiana, most of the political ads are forgettable and there haven’t been many of them.

Bill Perkins, a local media buyer with 40 years of experience, calls this “the most nothing year” he’s ever seen.

At Marion County Democratic headquarters you can feel the effects of a race with no marquee matchup.

“So naturally with the reduction in resources that are spent on the elections,” says Chairman Joel Miller, “the turnout will be down.”

There are still yard signs and t-shirts to be distributed at state GOP headquarters but the message there is much the same.

“It certainly is an election that I would anticipate will have less participation than traditionally,” says Chairman Tim Berry.

Early and absentee voting in Marion County is just over half of what it was in the last off year election in 2010.

When asked if there is reason to be concerned about democracy, Miller answers, “Absolutely.”

Berry answers the same question by saying, “You worry about what happens when you have an election and people don’t show up because they thought an election was safe for an individual candidate they were supporting.”

That’s right. There will still be winners and losers. That doesn’t change.

But here’s another big difference this year.  In Central Indiana there have been no negative TV ads.  At least not yet.

That hasn’t happened in almost a generation.

Candidate jailed for stalking opponent

October 27th, 2014 at 4:57 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Karlee Macer is a freshman Democrat in the Indiana House of Representatives. She’s facing a tough re-election campaign on the west side of Indianapolis but never expected it would be this tough.

Independent candidate John Couch, who is still on the ballot, is accused of stalking Karlee Macer on at least 7 occasions.  He also called her private cell phone.

Most of those confrontations took place after he became a candidate in April.

Rep. Macer was campaigning along with help from U. Senator Joe Donnelly Monday talking about economic development and just last week she was addressing crime issues in a radio interview.

“I can tell you crime is certainly still a very serious issue for us,” she said on WTLC.

It was at a time when Couch was already in jail charged with 4 felonies that include stalking.  Couch is accused of threatening Macer. He was arrested October 9th and is being held on $60,000 bond.

She is reluctant to talk about it. “You know it’s been a terrible time,” she said. “That’s all I can really say to that.  It’s been a terrible time.”

Republican Bradford Moulton is also in the race and learned about the charges against Couch from WISH-TV.

“Defintely came as a surprise,” he said. “It’s not something I would have expected against myself or against Karlee and I feel like we should expect more from people who are running for office.”

Macer says she’s afraid to go anywhere alone now.  She calls the experience “paralyzing.”

“It has been a long several months and I’m, ah, I’m just, ah, I’m moving forward,” she said, “and looking forward to just thinking about other things.”

She says it feels like she’s been living in a move.

John Couch denied stalking Macer.  According to court documents he has a history of mental illness that goes back to 1992.

Meantime, one of the charges against him is for forgery. That’s because he was passing out business card that identified him as the state representative from Karlee Macer’s district.

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.