Political Notebook


Pond’s seat attracting hopefuls

Filing doesn’t begin until January, but challengers are lining up for various Statehouse seats.

Next year all 100 Indiana House seats are up for re-election, along with half the Indiana Senate.

The House District 85 seat long held by Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven, is sure to draw many candidates. Pond announced last week she will not run again.

Pond said a handful of people had expressed interest in running for her seat well before she made a decision, so she expects a competitive race.

So far, Republican Casey Cox, a 31-year-old Fort Wayne attorney, has filed an exploratory committee for the seat. And Denny Worman, who has challenged Pond unsuccessfully four times, also plans to run again in the Republican primary.

“I’ve had a long interest in public policy and been involved in other public service opportunities,” Cox said.

He is interested in economic development and higher education issues, noting he was the student trustee at Indiana University several years ago. IPFW would be in his district if elected.

Another local House seat getting attention is House District 84 currently held by GOP Rep. Bob Morris.

Local businessman Mark Hagar, 47, has filed an exploratory committee for the seat and is meeting with people and fundraising for a likely bid.

“State issues are the ones that interest me,” he said. “We are going to have to have some pushback. The federal government is infringing on states’ rights and state government has to have a role in that.”

Fort Wayne attorney Michael Barranda also recently announced he will challenge Morris in next year’s primary election – making it a three-way race.

Morris is best known for his criticism of the Girl Scouts in 2012 that drew national derision.

He has represented the 84th District since Republicans chose him to fill a vacant seat in 2010. He won the 2010 and 2012 general elections and ran unopposed for the 2012 Republican nomination.

A mad, mad world

The debate and discussion went on for months. Numbers were thrown out, counter-proposals offered. Principled stands were taken and campaigns were mounted.

Was it the $13.5 million in new taxes – including a controversial income tax increase – or Mayor Tom Henry’s proposal to spend $75,000 moving the statue of Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne from Freimann Square to the Courthouse Green?

It was both, actually.

One might think that raising taxes nearly $14 million – not to mention $3.5 million in new City Utilities fees – would cause more controversy than moving a statue of a guy on a horse. One would be wrong.

Several city councilmen, spared from having to condemn the proposal to move the statue by a last-second compromise, said they heard more complaints from residents about the statue plan than they did over the tax increase, despite it being four-tenths of 1 percent the cost of the tax and fee increases.

“Now maybe my email will have some room in it,” said Tom Smith, R-1st. “I’m sure glad that’s off the table.”

Now the real question becomes whether those same people who did not want tax dollars used to move the statue will, ahem, pony up the donations needed to keep it where it is?

Donnelly’s director

Jorge Ortiz has been named northeast regional director for U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who plans to open an office in Fort Wayne in September.

Ortiz previously was a case manager for Donnelly, D-Ind., specializing in issues related to employment and military veterans, according to Donnelly’s staff.

The appointment was first reported by Indiana Legislative Insight. The newsletter said that Ortiz, like Donnelly a University of Notre Dame graduate, also had been the first-year senator’s Latino outreach director. He has been working at Donnelly’s Indianapolis office.

Ortiz joined Donnelly’s staff in 2011, when Donnelly was a member of the House representing the South Bend-based 2nd District.

Donnelly’s staff gave no details on plans for a Fort Wayne office other than to say Tuesday that it will open in September and Ortiz will be based there. Political Notebook did learn that Donnelly looked into obtaining space at the E. Ross Adair Federal Building but was told nothing is available.

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, have office suites in the downtown Adair building, which also houses federal courts and agencies. Donnelly’s predecessor, former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, had offices there until 2008, when he moved his local staff to space in Covington Plaza, a retail center along Jefferson Boulevard.

Pence’s ride

Gov. Mike Pence had his first Harley-Davidson motorcycle lesson Friday and plans to continue former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ annual fall charity ride.

“I’ll be heavily helmeted and padded,” Pence said, noting he rode as a kid but it has been a long time and his skills need polishing.

He doesn’t own a Harley and will borrow one for the official ride. He joked it could be on his Christmas list, though.

Daniels led the ride all eight years in office. It is free, although bikers are encouraged to make a donation to the Indiana National Guard Relief Fund. Through the years more than $30,000 has been raised.

The annual event is coordinated by ABATE of Indiana and participation grew to 700 bikers. ABATE promotes motorcycle safety and also trains riders.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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