Political Notebook


State 1st in contested races for Congress

Indiana ranks first nationally in giving voters a choice of major-party candidates for U.S. House seats, according to a study by the University of Minnesota.

Indiana has seen Democratic and Republican candidates in every House election since 1978 – a total of 180 contested races.

“Interestingly, Democrats have won 90 of these and the GOP has won 90,” Eric Ostermeier said Thursday in an email.

Ostermeier is a research associate at the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the university’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He writes Smart Politics, a nonpartisan political news site that conducted the study.

“The last time voters in Indiana did not have two major party candidates in a congressional race was in 1976 when Democrat Lee Hamilton ran unopposed in the state’s 9th CD contest en route to his seventh of 17 terms,” Ostermeier wrote in the study.

New Hampshire is second to Indiana with 175 consecutive contested House elections, although its string goes all the way back in 1856. But New Hampshire has only two congressional districts, compared with Indiana’s nine (and as many as 11 in 1978).

Other less-populous states have long streaks of contested congressional elections in every district. Delaware’s began in 1888, Wyoming’s in 1890, Montana’s in 1898 and Idaho’s in 1902. The Smart Politics study found that 16 states, including Ohio, had uncontested congressional elections in 2012.

Can he do better?

City Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, who declared his candidacy for the 2015 Fort Wayne mayor’s race in August 2012, was already campaigning on the city’s proposed income tax hike while the City Council was still considering it.

His efforts to derail the proposal didn’t go well: Only he and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, voted against the income tax increase, and it passed 6-2.

So it was a bit curious when Harper’s political campaign sent out another email on the issue after it passed with the subject line “We can do better.”

The contents were an op-ed Harper wrote decrying the income tax hike, headlined, “We can do better to protect taxpayers.”

The “We can do better” slogan has been used before in Fort Wayne politics, and to similar effect – it was the slogan for Linda Buskirk’s failed mayoral campaign against Graham Richard in 2003. In both the Buskirk campaign and Harper’s income tax fight, it is probably true they could have done better. But they didn’t.

He needs an auditor

Gov. Mike Pence has met with four Hoosiers interested in becoming the next Indiana auditor, including one lawmaker.

He told reporters Thursday he is not looking for an interim but someone who will stand for election in 2014.

State Auditor Tim Berry is resigning to take over as chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, which gives Pence a vacancy to fill.

Pence named only one person he has met with, Rep. Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville, who has already filed an exploratory committee to consider running for the office next year.

The governor also said definitively he has not met with Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Some have theorized that Pence chose Berry for the chairman post partly so he could tap a strong auditor candidate and deter Mourdock from running for that office. Mourdock lost a U.S. Senate race last year after drawing rebukes for comments made about God intending pregnancies that result from rape.

Berry was term-limited and could not seek the office again. Likewise, Mourdock can’t run for treasurer again.

The four people Pence has met with had expressed interest in the office before Berry’s appointment.

Young Republicans

About 20 people are trying to rejuvenate Allen County Young Republicans, according to an organizer.

Attorney Dan Kensinger, 30, said the group will have a convention of sorts at 10:30 a.m. July 20 at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne. The meeting is for Republicans ages 18 to 40.

They will establish membership requirements, discuss goals and activities and provide information to anyone seeking to run for elected office or work on political campaigns. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, who is 36, is scheduled to speak to the gathering.

Kensinger said the local Young Republicans chapter has been largely dormant in recent years.

“We’re an age where people are just starting their careers,” he said. “They’re focusing a lot on spending time at work and not necessarily devoting the time they want to political matters. They’re also getting their families started. So it can be difficult to get a core group of people committed to a wide range of activities."

Kensinger works for the Shine & Hardin law firm. One of its partners, Steve Shine, is chairman of the county Republican Party.

Kensinger said he and about 20 other people have been meeting weekly at a downtown restaurant to talk about ways to become more politically active.

“We’re looking to be an organization that demonstrates the wide appeal of the Republican Party today,” Kensinger said.

An upcoming event for Allen County Young Republicans will be a trip to a firing range to promote gun ownership rights and firearm safety.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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