Political Notebook

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Pence ready to ramp up Sagamore honors

Gov. Mike Pence could give more Sagamore of the Wabash awards in one year than former Gov. Mitch Daniels did in his entire eight years in office.

Pence chief of staff Bill Smith sent a memo recently to all legislators saying they are allowed to nominate two people per calendar year for the Sagamore of the Wabash Award.

If the nominations are accepted, that could be 300 Sagamores a year.

In comparison, Daniels gave 245 Sagamore of the Wabash awards during his eight years.

He dramatically reduced giving the award because he believed the number of them had risen so high it had devalued the honor.

The memo from Smith makes the awards seem almost like a tax credit – saying the two annual nominations are non-transferable between legislators. And lawmakers cannot roll unused nominations into future years.

Nominees must also be 18 years of age and residents of Indiana. Thousands of “Sags” have been given over the years, though sometimes the numbers aren’t clear because each governor has kept his own roll, and some Hoosiers have received the honor multiple times.

According to statistics compiled by Daniels’ office in 2005, the fewest given were by Gov. Ralph Gates, who served from 1945 to 1949.

The Sagamore was created by Gates so he could give a similar award alongside the Kentucky Colonel at a tri-state meeting in Louisville.

The term “Sagamore” was used by American Indian tribes of the northeastern United States to describe a lesser chief or a great man among the tribe to whom the true chief would look for wisdom and advice.

Gates awarded just two Sagamores in his four years in office.

Since then, the number has ballooned. The first governor to reach 100 awards was Matthew Welsh, who served from 1961 to 1965.

Former Gov. Robert Orr presented an average of more than 500 a year during his two terms in office and totaled 4,236 awards.

Govs. Evan Bayh and Frank O’Bannon each gave more than 3,000 apiece. And Gov. Joe Kernan awarded 1,147 over his 15 months in office.

Cutting remarks

Fort Wayne City Council President Tom Didier, R-3rd, has a new perspective on the pestilence decimating the region’s ash trees: Tuesday, he appeared at the City Council meeting with his hand bandaged.

“It was a chain saw accident,” Didier explained, holding up the gauze-wrapped hand. “Fifteen stitches later and I’m all fixed up.”

Tom Smith, R-1st, asked if it was an ash tree Didier was cutting – Smith has argued forcefully for more funding to take down the thousands of dead and dying ash trees across the city.

“Yes, it was an ash tree,” Didier replied, then laughed: “So hire a professional.”

Didier has always been a good sport and one of the first to laugh at his own expense. But the real humor came later in the meeting, when Didier tried to move things along by reminding speakers of the warm temperatures and gorgeous weather outside, which prompted someone in the audience to ask loudly, “You got another tree to cut down?”

Akin potential

Six months after his election defeat, Richard Mourdock cannot shake his reputation as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who seemingly grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.

In an editorial published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal, Republican strategist Karl Rove wrote: “Republican success will depend on having quality Senate candidates. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock self-destructed last fall, and other candidates squandered important opportunities.”

State Treasurer Mourdock and former Rep. Akin, R-Mo., obviously hurt their election chances with baffling remarks about rape, pregnancy and abortion.

Akin had said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy. Mourdock had said that pregnancy resulting from rape “is something that God intended to happen.”

The Atlantic Wire’s Elspeth Reeve pointed out Thursday that Akin and Mourdock “had the same position on abortion as the official Republican Party platform.”

Reeve had fun with Rove’s editorial by analyzing possible 2014 Republican Senate candidates according to “their Akin potential,” deciding the highest such potential for self-destructive remarks lies among prospective candidates in Georgia and Alaska.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

Best class photo

And the award goes to – Rep. Martin Carbaugh and students from Canterbury Elementary.

A recent photo retrospective compiled by House Republican interns noted this as the Outstanding Podium Photo of the 2013 session.

The kids were encouraged to be silly in the picture, and Carbaugh led the way.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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