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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 28, 2017 1:00 am

GOP opens bidding for '18 state confab

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The Indiana Republican Party is seeking requests for proposal from cities wanting to host the June 2018 state party convention.

Fort Wayne hosted the 2014 convention, the first time it took place outside of Indianapolis.

“We are a statewide party and, as such, we are opening the doors to a competitive process by offering interested cities large and small the opportunity to host our convention,” Indiana Republican Party State Chairman Kyle Hupfer said. “As more cities across the state add top-tier convention space, hotels and other amenities in an effort to attract economic development and tourism, we know there is no better time than the present to yet again consider hosting our biennial event outside of Indianapolis. Any host community will greatly benefit from the economic boost that comes from thousands of dedicated, passionate and energized Indiana Republicans coming to town.”

The purpose of the convention is to select the Republican Party's nominees for secretary of state, treasurer and auditor. It is estimated the convention will draw 2,500 attendees including 1,700 delegates as well as guests, vendors and media.

In 2014, local party leaders impressed their guests with Grand Wayne Center, a Kenny Loggins concert at Embassy Theatre and Fort Fun Night, which consisted of live music, food, hospitality suites and fireworks at Parkview Field.

Potential host committees must inform the party of their intent to bid by June 9 and submit final proposals by June 23.

Pence approval rating drops

A new Fox News Poll of registered voters nationwide showed Vice President Mike Pence is losing his luster with voters.

His ratings declined in the last month – from 50 percent of voters approving of his job down to 42 percent. Disapproval is up 10 points to 43 percent.

But it's not just Pence – it's the Trump administration as a whole.

Voters disagree with President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, approve of a special counsel being appointed and oppose the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Forty percent of voters approve of the job Trump is doing, down from 45 percent last month. Disapproval is up 5 points to 53 percent.

A small part of that drop comes from Republicans – 81 percent approve of the president, but that is down from between 84 percent and 87 percent earlier in his presidency.

Senate race picture forming

As they typically do, members of Indiana's congressional delegation greeted military veterans visiting war memorials in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as part of the latest Honor Flight Northeast Indiana, which originates in Fort Wayne.

And as usual, the federal lawmakers released photographs of them meeting with area veterans.

What was unusual this time was that two prospective rivals for a Senate seat appeared in one of the photos.

The office of Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, released a photo showing him in the foreground, chatting with a couple of people from the Honor Flight. In the background, several feet away, is Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., talking to others who made the trip.

Rokita has all but formally announced that will he seek the Republican nomination to challenge Donnelly in next year's Senate election. Asked whether Rokita and Donnelly talked with each other at the Honor Flight gathering, Rokita's office replied in an email, “They said hi.”

Rokita did not appear in any of the seven photos released by Donnelly's office.

Rokita's office, by the way, objected to a sentence in a Wednesday story in The Journal Gazette about reactions to President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget for fiscal 2018. The newspaper reported that Rokita “issued a statement endorsing the budget blueprint” but did not include his statement.

His office said the reporter's interpretation was incorrect – that Rokita had not endorsed the proposal but was saying “we appreciate the leadership from the administration” and that the budget proposal is “still being evaluated.”

Rokita's original statement about the budget said in part: “Our nation needs leadership and President Trump and Vice President Pence are providing it by submitting a budget that makes tough decisions – in other words, they lay out priorities. This Administration is striving to make our nation great, now it's Congress' time to embark on our Article I duties.”

Article I of the U.S. Constitution spells out the authority of Congress, including its powers to raise revenue and collect taxes. 

Crawford's hospital pitch

At Tuesday's Fort Wayne City Council meeting, Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, again made a case for returning the Lutheran Health Network to local control. 

“The quality of care delivered at Lutheran is excellent, as in all of our local hospitals, but $300 million of profits generated by our citizens that spend their dollars on their health care at Lutheran Health Network is sucked out of our community into the CHS system that last year lost $1.7 billion,” Crawford said. “As a city councilman, I think it's a no-brainer that if a group composed of local doctors and other investors buy Lutheran Health Network and invest those dollars here, it is better for Fort Wayne.”

Crawford was joined at a May 19 news conference by several other City Council members in support of a buyout. However, a $2.4 billion offer was recently rejected by Franklin, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which owns the hospital network. 

Council members offer condolences

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, on Tuesday expressed sadness over the death of Terrance Miles, who was shot early May 19 in the 900 block of Francis Street.

“I had an opportunity to work with him at McMillen Park Community Center; he worked there for a number of years. An outstanding young man and another tragic death in our community,” Hines said.

Councilman Tom Didier, R-at large, also offered his condolences to Miles' family, as well as to the family of Parking Control Officer Tony Scatena, who died May 13. 

“It's always a tragic loss when these things happen. My heart goes out to them,” Didier said. “I'll pray for them and I'll pray that their souls will be in heavenly bliss.”

Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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.