Political Notebook

  • Donnelly stumping for Democratic candidates
    Sen. Joe Donnelly in recent days endorsed David Kolbe in Indiana House District 22, traveled to Iowa to stump for U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley and joined state House District 81 candidate Thad Gerardot for a campaign appearance in downtown
  • Coats, Donnelly donate to campaigns
    Neither of Indiana’s U.S. senators is on the election ballot this year, but that hasn’t stopped them from dipping into their campaign war chests.
  • Boland pledges to donate salary to community
    If elected, Democratic State Treasurer candidate Mike Boland would donate his salary to the community.

Wyss gets repeat challenge for seat

Lifelong Fort Wayne resident Jack Morris is lined up for a second shot at the Senate District 15 seat held by veteran Fort Wayne Republican Sen. Tom Wyss.

Morris, a Democrat, challenged Wyss in 2010 and lost decisively.

Now he is aiming at 2014 but might not be Wyss’ only opponent.

“I am running for state Senate because I want to serve the people of Fort Wayne and Indiana by helping shape policy which will grow Indiana to be a welcoming state where there is quality education and business and workers all succeed,” said Morris.

He is especially concerned that there has been no movement to expand early childhood education and will make that a key priority if elected.

Morris also will focus on the middle-class worker and improving public education.

“I wish him well but not success,” said Wyss.

He told Political Notebook he will run again even though it had been rumored that his current term might be his last.

Morris won’t likely be Wyss’ top opponent, as Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries is considering a primary challenge.

Fries said in 2012 he planned to run – but that was before an ethics flap involving County Councilman Paul Moss and a drunken-driving stop.

Now Fries said he is probably going to run.

“It’s still on the radar,” he said. “My wife and I have had many discussions.”

Fries expects a firm decision will come fairly soon, though he is waiting until he can chat with Wyss.

“I have known him for many, many years. If he decides he’s still going to run or not, I don’t want to blindside him,” Fries said.

Term limits prevent Fries from serving a third term as sheriff, and his tenure ends in 2014.

Wyss has represented Fort Wayne in the Senate since he was appointed in 1985. He is a moderate Republican voice in the chamber, which has become much more conservative.

Double duty continues

Tim Berry is two weeks into dual duty – serving both as state auditor and chairman of the Indiana Republican Party.

But he’s getting paid for only one of the jobs.

Berry sent out a GOP email last week saying he will be traveling around Indiana in the coming weeks and months to meet fellow Republicans and discuss ideas for the future.

“Feel free to contact us with any ideas you have on how Indiana’s only Party of Purpose can expand our footprint in Indiana not just to win elections, but to make life better for you and our fellow Hoosiers. Because really that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

But Berry’s work for the state party so far is in a volunteer capacity, according to spokesman Pete Seat.

In the meantime, he remains a statewide elected officeholder with a salary of almost $75,000.

Once Gov. Mike Pence selects a replacement for Berry, he will officially resign and shift over fully to the Indiana Republican Party.

That process is taking longer than many expected. It has been about a month since Pence first tapped Berry and knew he would have a vacancy to fill.

Phasing in discussions

Last year, members of the Fort Wayne City Council and the Allen County Council and several other officials got together and over several months hammered out a laundry list of changes to the city and county’s respective tax abatement policies. The most noticeable change was that they’re no longer called tax abatements: Since the change, they’re now called “tax phase-ins.”

Whatever you call them, the tax breaks freeze the tax on a property where a big investment is made and then phase in the increased taxes gradually.

Now that the new policies are in place – they tighten the rules and assign points for things such as whether jobs created pay high wages – officials are ready to see how they’re working and whether more changes need to be made.

City Council members Geoff Paddock, D-5th, Mitch Harper, R-4th and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, will meet informally at 2 p.m. Monday in one of the meeting rooms on the garden level of Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St.

Paddock said the meeting is just an informal, organizational one, but is open to anyone who wants to sit in, and that if it’s decided more meetings are needed, their county council counterparts will be formally invited, as well.

Youthful indiscretion

Before his election to the U.S. House in 2010, Marlin Stutzman had sought the Republican nomination for an open Senate seat. He lost to Dan Coats, who would go on to win the general election.

Where would Stutzman, R-3rd, have fit in the Senate had he won? A photograph and news release distributed last week by his office offers a good clue.

Stutzman joined conservative Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah outside the Capitol on Thursday to call for Congress to strip funding from the federal health care law. The Washington Post called the three senators leaders of a “junior Republican crop” willing to shut down the government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded.

Appearing on “The Sean Hannity Show” on radio a day earlier, Stutzman said, “There are ways to do this where we can pass funding of the government but don’t fund Obamacare.”

Pence sets pace

Gov. Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, participated Wednesday in a mile-long fitness walk near Foster Park organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.

Just before about 200 people began their trek, Pence talked to them about the health benefits of taking brisk walks a few times each week. But a Journal Gazette writer who stopped his car so the procession could cross Mill Road estimated the crowd was moving at the speed of a supermarket checkout line – an observation that Political Notebook’s walker couldn’t argue with.

Pence later made up the slow pace, according to Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine. Not long before he was scheduled to appear at a town-hall meeting at the Allen County Public Library, the governor arrived at Shine’s law office on Broadway, changed from his business suit to workout clothes and earphones, and took off running through nearby neighborhoods, leaving his Indiana State Police security detail at Shine’s office.

Pence returned a half-hour later, showered, put on his suit and departed for the library.

“I would venture to say that never in their history did a governor run through their respective neighborhoods as part of his daily exercise routine,” Shine told Political Notebook.

Journal Gazette writer Dan Stockman contributed to this story.

To reach Political Notebook by email, 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.