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Sunday, July 16, 2017 1:00 am

GOP Senate hopefuls sued over not filing

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The American Democracy Legal Fund wants Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer to stop waffling and decide already.

The group filed complaints this week against the two Indiana U.S. House representatives for campaigning for U.S. Senate in Indiana without filing as candidates for the office.

“They've made it clear that they're running for Senate and they should register as candidates immediately so that Indiana voters get the transparency in this election that they deserve,” said Brad Woodhouse of the legal fund.

Both Messer and Rokita have said they are considering running for the U.S. Senate post in 2018 but haven't made a decision.

Rokita campaign spokesman Tim Edson called the complaint a “baseless attack from a sleazy liberal Washington group ordered by Joe Donnelly.”

Donnelly is the sitting U.S. Senator whom Rokita and Messer would take on in the fall if they make it through a primary.

Messer's campaign didn't respond to several messages seeking comment.

A news release from the American Democracy Legal Fund said federal election rules require individuals running for federal office to register and file financial reports when campaign activities go beyond testing the waters or when they raise or spend more than $5,000 in contributions or expenditures.

The group provided examples of what each candidate is doing:

• Rokita has publicly talked about his candidacy: He referred to himself as a candidate for Senate in an article, stating “I'm definitely the best candidate against [U.S. Senator from Indiana] Joe Donnelly.”

• Rokita hired a well-known Republican fundraiser as chairman of his statewide finance committee but hasn't registered as a candidate for any statewide office.

• Messer announced a 50-member statewide finance committee but is not registered as a candidate for any statewide office.

• In the same announcement, Messer included a list of “Individuals Supporting Messer for United States Senate,” and his deputy campaign manager said, “We look forward to welcoming additional members to the team who are committed to supporting Congressman Messer's continued service to Hoosiers.”

Both Messer and Rokita are up for re-election in the House next year as well.

Slow and steady

Amid the frivolity and excitement of INDOT's initial five-year roads plan released this week was a mindful warning.

Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness warned of all the orange barrels and road construction signs Hoosiers will be seeing.

And he asked motorists to slow down and be patient and careful around the hundreds of workers statewide who will be alongside traffic while improving the roads and bridges.

“It is my fault,” he said.

Seventy-four INDOT employees have lost their lives on the job since 1969. The most recent was Steven Overbay out of the Crawfordsville district in 2012.

Councilman gives colleagues thanks

Following a lengthy discussion about whether to raise Allen County's income tax rate, City Councilman Tom Freistroffer, R-at large, commended his colleagues on the Fort Wayne City Council for their hard work and diligence. 

Council voted 6-3 to increase Allen County's income tax rate by 0.13 percent. Residents can expect to pay $5 more per month in income taxes starting Oct. 1.

“I want to congratulate Councilman (John) Crawford for all the work that he did and the timing he did it with, it was very explicit, and to Councilman (Michael) Barranda for what he did tonight, I know there was a lot of time put into that even though it didn't come out quite the way he wanted it,” Freistroffer said Tuesday. “I know it's a tough decision, either way, the way we voted tonight.” 

Crawford, R-at large, who sponsored the tax increase proposal, also thanked his fellow councilmen for participating in the long and sometimes contentious process. 

“Thanks, all the council for your indulgence and putting you through all this,” Crawford said with a smile. “And I promise to be quiet for a while.”

Journal Gazette staff writer Dave Gong contributed to this report.

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.